Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Defining torture

Over at ProteinWisdom, Jeff disagrees with me and Matt Welch on the subject of torture.

Jeff writes:

For my part, I have no trouble whatsoever with techniques like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, disorientation, extreme temperature change, etc—primarily because I don’t think promoting discomfort or fear constitute “torture.” But then this is precisely the point: when the definition of torture hinges on abstractions like “anguish” and “distress,” and on qualifications to those abstractions like “severe,” then the problem of defining torture effectively—and distinguishing it from other
techniques of active interrogation—becomes context and ethos-specific.

...

Cathy states her claim clearly: she is opposed to interrogation techniques that cause physical suffering. But as I’ve argued before, “suffering” is going to prove specific to the individual undergoing the interrogation, and if that is the benchmark for torture, then just about anything can come to count as torture, given the proper circumstances, and depending on the prevailing cultural attitudes ...

It seems to me that Jeff and some of his commenters are blurring the line between "physical discomfort" and "physical suffering" (the term I used). The use of the term "discomfort" to refer to such techniques as immersion in freezing water, exposure to extreme heat or extreme cold, or even being keept in stress positions for prolonged periods of time -- let alone inducing a sensation of drowning (waterboarding).

One of Jeff's commenters, Chris, may be on to something when he says that the definition of torutre is a bit like "the old, 'I can’t tell you what obscenity is, but I know it when I see it' kinda thing." Chris himself defines torture as "the attempt to extract information through the direct infliction of physical pain to break down barriers of resistance."

But here's a question: is there a clear line between "pain" and "discomfort"? I have memories of several occasions when a doctor or nurse told me just before a medical test, "You're not really going to feel any pain, just some discomfort," and a few moments later I found myself mentally assessing the accuracy of that statement in language that I generally prefer to avoid using on my blog.

Several of Jeff's commenters suggest this standard, with which I understand Jeff agrees as well:

Any form of physical or mental stress or abuse we routinely use on our own people going through boot camp, SEAL BUDS training, pilot S/E/R/E training, etc. shall be heretofore known as “not torture.”

First of all: do we know that these techniques (i.e. immersion in cold water) are used on prisoners in degrees no more extreme than they are used on our own trainees?

Second: if we use these techniques on our own trainees with the specific purpose of training them to withstand torture, does that mean it's not torture if we do it to prisoners?

Third: If the standard is "anything to which some people in our society are subjected with their consent is not torture," then why draw the line at military training? Not to be crude, but tens if not hundreds of thousands of Americans every year are subjected to a medical procedure that involves having a plastic tube inserted in their rectum. Would that be an acceptable thing to do to a prisoner?

Another poster writes:

I believe that the treshold of torture would be the threat or follow-thru of PERMENANT (sic) PHYSICAL HARM or the threat or follow-thru of DEATH. Any use of electricity is off the table.

Well, waterboarding does, in my opinion, involve the threat of death. Furthermore, "permanent physical harm" as a standard leaves room for a lot of things that would be considered torture even by most advocates of "coercive interrogation." If you apply a piece of red-hot metal to someone's skin, the burn will heal -- no permanent physical harm done. If you beat a man on the testicles with a rubber hose, no permanent physical harm there either. I'm sure one could think of many other examples.

A few more points:

As I said in my first post on the topic, legitimizing torture "creates the very real danger that at least some of the torturers will enjoy it, particularly if they have been primed to see the one being tortured as an evil person getting his just deserts." It seems to me that at least a couple of Jeff's posters clearly enjoy the prospect of terrorists being made to suffer. Call it "moral preening" or whatever you like, but I believe that this is a sentiment we simply can't condone. What are the chances that a U.S. soldier or special agent authorized to engage in "coercive interrogation" will take pleasure in the prisoner's suffering, and perhaps amp the "coercion" up a little beyond what is (supposedly) needed to extract the information? And when does this degrade us to a level most of us would find unacceptable?

Also: let's not forget that not all the prisoners are "terrorists." We could be inflicting this "discomfort" on an innocent person.

And finally, one of Jeff's posters asks:

Why take prisoners? If they cannot be squeezed for information they are not worth the effort to keep them. Just humanely shoot them at the front and save all the trouble.

I think it's a misconception that information can be extracted from prisoners only through interrogation techniques that include the infliction of physical suffering. Psychological manipulation can be quite effective in this regard.

31 comments:

protein wisdom said...

Thanks for the reply, Cathy. I've responded in an update.

Revenant said...

It seems to me that at least a couple of Jeff's posters clearly enjoy the prospect of terrorists being made to suffer. Call it "moral preening" or whatever you like, but I believe that this is a sentiment we simply can't condone.

I don't see what distinguishes "enjoying the prospect of terrorists suffering" from "enjoying the prospect of a serial killer spending his life in prison". They're both the same thing -- enjoyment at the prospect of a drastic and dehumanizing (but entirely appropriate) punishment being applied to the richly-deserving. There is nothing morally wrong about feeling joy when justice is fairly and deservingly administered.

And when does this degrade us to a level most of us would find unacceptable?

I would say that it doesn't degrade us at all if an individual soldier gets overzealous. What matters to us as a group is what we as a group decide to condone, not what individuals decide to do on their own. For example, I support drug legalization, but I draw the line at legalizing DUI. Should drugs be legalized, should I then feel shame when some pothead plows into a schoolbus full of kids? I would say "no", because I never approved of driving while high.

Anonymous said...

Re: Subjecting people to what we subject certain military trainees

Not only is something like SEAL training voluntary, but people undergoing that training can quit at any time.

On one side we have people who train themselves for the experience, ask for the experience, know that their trainers won't push them past a certain line, can quit at any time, and fully believe that the experience will make them a better person.

On the other side we have people that, well, may have trained themselves for the experience if that is possible, but probably don't ask for it, don't know how far their interrogators will go (part of the point), can't exactly walk away at will, and probably don't think that being treated this way is, golly gee, going to make them a better person.

Apples. Oranges.

Dean Esmay said...

I suspect that this is one of those meta-discussions that can never go anywhere becuase people are discussing abstractions rather than concrete things.

Be more concrete is my suggestion:

Waterboarding--never use it, rarely use it, use it often. Where do you stand?

Beating someone with a rubber hose: never, sometimes (be specific) or liberal use of same?

Anyone who's read my blog from the early days knows I've always been adamantly against what I call "capital-T torture," but am not necessarily against "small-t torture" if the circumstances are right.

The truth is that solitary confinement is one of the most cruel forms of torture, especially if it goes on long enough. Many who've gone through it would rather be beaten. So does that make it better or worse?

We have seen "anti-torture" advocates define letting dogs bark at people as torture. Is that reasonable?

Some people pick extreme examples to make their point: there's a nuclear bomb due to go off in Chicago in 3 hours. You have a known terrorist who probably knows where it is. What do you do? My answer: give me the blowtorch and the pliers and I'll do what I have to do BUT, how often does that actually come up, and couldn't I explain my actions to a judge and jury afterward?

Distinctions matter. The more nebulous we are, the more we disagree.

Anonymous said...

Revenent: I don't see what distinguishes "enjoying the prospect of terrorists suffering" from "enjoying the prospect of a serial killer spending his life in prison". They're both the same thing -- enjoyment at the prospect of a drastic and dehumanizing (but entirely appropriate) punishment being applied to the richly-deserving. There is nothing morally wrong about feeling joy when justice is fairly and deservingly administered.

What distinguishes the two is the different between
(a) a person who has been found guilty of a specific crime via a criminal justice system being appropriately punished, and
(b) a person who has not been shown to have done anything wrong being inappropriately punished.

There are actually four boxes here, formed by
- found guilty through the rule of law, or not
- appropriately vs. not appropriately punished

(Actually, actually, there are nine: the third dimension is punishment vs. coercion for informational gain. But Revenant didn't seem to feel that was relevent, so I'll ignore that complication.)

Dean Esmay: Distinctions matter. The more nebulous we are, the more we disagree.

I do agree with this notion. And I agree that the best way to deal with the unlikely ("This one goes to 11") ticking-bomb game is to illegalize the act, and allow pardons in extreme cases.

As a nation that strives to be moral, we should draw a bright line. I know where I would put it (which I don't think, for the purposes of this post, is useful to relate); the important thing at this (early) point in the debate is that we should have a bright line. In order to advance that goal, I suggest one component must be oversight. How best should that happen? There are inherent problems with the concept of oversight in a civilian military. The consequences of the existence of digital cameras caught the military estabilishment by surprise with Abu Ghraib, but I'm sure there's policy about that now. What sort of better oversight can we use for whatever bright line we develop?

maryatexitzero said...

Does anyone wonder why our use of torture so important in this particular war?

If the use of torture in our so-called "war against terrorism" is necessary, maybe the problem isn't a simple torture yes/no. Maybe the problem is coming from the halfhearted tactics and poor alliances that we're using to fight this war.

For instance, an earlier post contained this quote:

Let me clarify: getting our hands dirty in terms of forming alliances with brutal tyrants or fanatical kooks has indeed paid off. In WWII, in Korea, in Afghanistan, and so on.

In the past, forming alliances with brutal tyrants worked, but only when the brutal tyrants were opposed to our enemy. We used the communists to fight the fascists during WWII, and that worked, but if we'd allied with Hitler in an attempt to fight the fascists, we probably would have lost.

Our alliances with and tolerance of terror-supporting nations like Saudi Arabia and Iran are not helping the war on terrorism. Tolerating the existence of terrorist paramilitary armies in the cities of Europe, like the armies who are currently threatening Dutch artists and legislators is not helping either.

The use of torture is a part of our lame, half-hearted effort in this 'war'. We're treating terrorist paramilitaries like civil criminals as we hold the hands of the states that support them. We don't acknowledge that the members of these paramilitary armies are enemy combatants, and we only believe that they're guilty of something after they've committed or planned a crime. Isn't membership in the enemy's army proof enough of guilt?

We can solve the torture issue by deciding to actually fight this war. Victory is usually won by attacking the enemy until he surrenders. We know who our enemy is, and, for the most part, we know where they live. A straight fight is always preferable to all this sneaking around.

Mark B. said...

Here's a real simple definition, one that I've alluded to in previous threads -

If the practice in question would cause intense indignation and outrage in the US if it was applied by an enemy to American prisoners, it's torture, period.

Waterboarding would be considered an absolutely unacceptable technique if used on Americans, as would induced hypothermia, psychological abuse, etc., etc. Endless attempts to rationalize away these techniques, simply because it's Americans administering them, are profoundly noxious to anyone who's examined the widespread use of the same techniques by the Chinese, North Koreans, North Vietnamese, etc. throughout the last half of the 20th Century.

There is nothing morally wrong about feeling joy when justice is fairly and deservingly administered.

The problem with applying this view to torture is that you have no idea if justice is "fairly and deservingly administered," or for that matter administered at all. As Dean Esmay points out, serial killers are tried in public court, with defence, open testimony, and evidence - torturers work in secrecy, on the basis of murky charges and with no right to appeal. There's plenty of evidence that the vast majority of prisoners held at Abu Guarib could not be proven to be terrorists or even as harboring terrorist sympathies, but they all got lumped into the same mass accusation. What's been happening with the Army Intelligence Service and the CIA are not instances of "an individual soldier getting overzealous" - these were systemic abuses, rationalized and authorized right up the chain of command.

thecobrasnose said...

mark b. said:

Waterboarding would be considered an absolutely unacceptable technique if used on Americans, as would induced hypothermia, psychological abuse, etc., etc. Endless attempts to rationalize away these techniques, simply because it's Americans administering them, are profoundly noxious to anyone who's examined the widespread use of the same techniques by the Chinese, North Koreans, North Vietnamese, etc. throughout the last half of the 20th Century.

If our enemy in this fight would agree to take beheading off the table and put waterboarding at the far end of their torture of captives, I think Americans would be rather pleased.

protein wisdom said...

Just so people don't have to click over to my site if they don't wish, I'll post my update here:

Cathy Young replies:

It seems to me that Jeff and some of his commenters are blurring the line between “physical discomfort” and “physical suffering” (the term I used).

Perhaps. But I think more to my point was that such distinctions, insofar as they are arbitrary, are determined ultimately by context or ethos -- which means we’ve effectively relativised torture, and so are able to make arguments like Kos made yesterday, wherein he refused to distinguish between subjecting prisoners to extreme heart or cold and dropping them from rooftops of beating them with pipes.

Cathy concludes:

I think it’s a misconception that information can be extracted from prisoners only through interrogation techniques that include the infliction of physical suffering. Psychological manipulation can be quite effective in this regard.

This may well be the case, but once physical coercion is off the table, how long before “psychological manipulation” is deemed torture? Why, mental health experts will argue, do we not treat mental pain with the same respect we accord physical pain? (in fact, has this not been the cry of the mental health industry for years?) How is mental “suffering” different from physical suffering?

Even now, we hear that “humiliation” is torture -- or at the very least, “mistreatment.” Is wrapping an Israeli flag around an Islamist “torture”? Why or why not?

The point of all this being, that until we can more clearly define “suffering” or “anguish” -- or distinguish between “suffering” and “discomfort” -- we are forced to take positions that we might not otherwise take.

Cathy is comfortable in saying that any interrogation technique that causes physical suffering is “torture.” I am not -- and from a pragmatic standpoint, I certainly don’t think we should codify such an opinion as Cathy's, if only to keep our enemies from becoming too sanguine.

Which means that for this argument to proceed, we’re back to defining torture more carefully.

Cathy Young said...

Jeff, thanks for the post (I'm goign to repost this on your site, as well).

Obviously, there are different degrees of torture. I don't think that exposure to extreme heat or extreme cold are the same as dropping people off rooftops, cutting off their tongues or breaking their kneecaps. But that doesn't make it "not torture."

That's a bit like saying that chronic bronchitis shouldn't be called an illness because to call it an illness would be to equate it with lung cancer.

In response to revenant:

I don't see what distinguishes "enjoying the prospect of terrorists suffering" from "enjoying the prospect of a serial killer spending his life in prison". They're both the same thing -- enjoyment at the prospect of a drastic and dehumanizing (but entirely appropriate) punishment being applied to the richly-deserving.

I agree that one of the purposes of criminal punishment is retribution. But there is a good reason we put serial killers in prison (or even execute them) rather than slowly torture them to death. For one thing, in the post-Enlightenment culture, we have come (laudably, I think) to place a very high priority on bodily integrity. I'm sure that quite a few criminals, if given a choice between (a) spending 25 years in prison, (b) a few hours of torture that leaves no permanent injuries, or (c) having a finger hacked off, would probably choose (b) or even (c). Yet we would consider (b) and (c) far more abhorrent than (a). Also, I think that punishment through loss of liberty penalizes the wrongdoer as a human being -- a moral agent who loses certain things that human beings value greatly (above all, autonomy). Punishment through physical pain reduces a human being to an animalistic level. Finally, I think there is a very slippery slope from enjoying someone's physical suffering because it's "justice," and enjoying it in a sadistic manner. Imprisonment or even execution, I think, offers no such sadistic temptation.

protein wisdom said...

Obviously, there are different degrees of torture. I don't think that exposure to extreme heat or extreme cold are the same as dropping people off rooftops, cutting off their tongues or breaking their kneecaps. But that doesn't make it "not torture."

That's a bit like saying that chronic bronchitis shouldn't be called an illness because to call it an illness would be to equate it with lung cancer.


I agree. But to follow the analogy, I have to accept that exposure to extreme heat or extreme cold are more than a muscle cramp or a hangover if I'm going to call them an illness to begin with.

Again, we get back to where we each believe "torture" begins. And I think current definitions leave too much room to define torture expansively.

This has been very interesting, though. I'm going to continue thinking through all this -- but probably not until after I've stuffed myself on bird and cranberry sauce.

chthus said...

Torture, pain, nociception, suffering, discomfort, physiological, psychological, tissue damage.

The first uncomfortable thing about this subject is that the above terms all need to be defined, perhaps quantified, or they become rather useless. If we are to have a discussion of 'what is torture?', and we both must and are, we have to have clear boundries. 'I know it when I see it' doesn't quite cut it.

Torture - Unnecessary infliction of psychological or physiological pain

Pain - The result of unpleasant or noxious stimuli, can vary in degree and be both physiological or psychological

Nociception - Sensory mechanism in the body for carrying signals of noxious stimuli

Discomfort - Low level pain

Physiological - Having its source in the periphery (not central nervous system)

Psychological - Having its source in the CNS, specifically rooted in memory, emotion and perception

Tissue damage - Damage, um, to tissue

First off, I think any significant tissue damage should be off the table.

Physiological pain is the easier category in that it has already been somewhat quatified. Pain/nociceptive nerve fibers can be largely simplified down into two categories, fast and slow fibers. Fast fibers transmit the ouch pain of a cut or burn, slow fibers the dull pain/discomfort of a sore muscle or an untouched bruise. I think purposeful stimulation of fast fibers should be off the table, and as long as it isn't due to/causing tissue damage, slow fiber stimulation should be allowed (ex. stress position, but not to the point of joint/muscle damage).

With temperatures, there's direct skin contact and environment. With skin contact, anything above 45C is carried by pain rather than temp fibers and should be off the table (though exploitation of 'paradoxical cold', right at 45C, should be allowed for it's ability to disorient). For cold, anything touching the skin below 1C has about the same effect, but simply causes tissue damage faster the colder you get. As long as there's no tissue damage, it's all fair game (popsicle presented on the back as a heat source, again exploiting paradoxical temp effects, should be allowed).

Environment heat/cold is well defined in med literature as to what is uncomfortable v. harmful. Obviously time and humidity/wind chill play are variables, but the rule should simply be not to cause systemic damage (heat stroke, hypothermia).

Before getting to psychological, I believe waterboarding deserves a special mention because of it's combinatory effect of both psychological pain (fear of drowning) while also exploiting a physiological (low 02, high CO2) pathway. The physiological effect can be simulated by using an air mask and modifying the CO2 levels. This is how a 'panic attack' can be triggered in certain prone individuals, and here we begin to cross the line between physiological and psychological. I don't have a problem triggering panic attacks as long as O2 deprivation is not done to dangerous/physically harmful levels. As for doing it with the added psychological effect of water boarding or similar techniques, I don't wholey object, but urge caution due to the fairly high risk of accidental death.

Now we get to psychological and things get messier. First, I'm not sure that anything should necessarily be off the table here as long as it is done for a purpose and not simply for sport. That said, it is hard to apply psycholgical techniques when you have telegraphed your limits before hand. You can't threaten death if you are unable to make a person believe that you are not allowed/capable of killing them.
Herein lies the catch 22. In a free and open society, we want to define and allow to be seen, the limits of what can be done by our fellow countrymen. But once we do, we have given our enemy knowledge that further limits what can be done. I don't know how to get around this, but I suspect that there are more than a few interrogators who can convince a subject that what they know is wrong, and their life might very well be in danger. If they can pull this of within the rules I stated above, I don't have a problem with it.

Revenant said...

What distinguishes the two is the different between
(a) a person who has been found guilty of a specific crime via a criminal justice system being appropriately punished, and
(b) a person who has not been shown to have done anything wrong being inappropriately punished.


First of all, that's a legal argument, not a moral one. Secondly, you don't need a trial to know that someone has done something wrong -- you need a trial to satisfy the COURT that someone has done something wrong. At the risk of Godwinizing this thread, Adolf Hitler was never convicted of anything. Anyone here prepared to agree with the sentence "it has never been shown that Adolf Hitler did anything wrong"?

I didn't think so.

Thirdly, the implication of your argument is that torture is fine and dandy so long as it takes place after a trial and gets OK'd by a court. I'm not sure that's really the argument you meant to make.

Finally, whether or not torture is legal is irrelevant to my point; I was responding to Cathy's assertion that there's something wrong with wanting terrorists to suffer. The question of innocence of guilt is a separate one -- the issue at hand is, once you're satisfied they are, in fact, terrorists, is wanting them to suffer ok?

Mark Buehner said...

Locking someone in a cell indefinately with no communication with the outside world- torture or not? Why or why not?

OCSteve said...

No takers over at Jeff's place so I'll cross comment here:

Cathy concludes:
I think it’s a misconception that information can be extracted from prisoners only through interrogation techniques that include the infliction of physical suffering. Psychological manipulation can be quite effective in this regard.


Psychological manipulation is really only effective when the subject is tired, disoriented, etc. i.e. after the subject has been “softened up” – exposed to physical discomfort in the form of keeping them awake for extended periods of time, stress positions, extremes of heat/cold, etc.

Psychological manipulation is useless on a subject who is comfortably warm and rested, with a full belly, and with full knowledge of the limits his interrogators can go to.

Let’s take the question of guilt or innocence off the table. Assume there is no question about guilt. Then let’s make it even more interesting by using a real life example and make the subject a woman to really liven things up.

Saijida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi – the woman who failed to blow herself up in Jordan. Should she have been tortured to get information about the rest of her cell? (I have little doubt that she was.) She was: A) absolutely guilty of being a terrorist; B) certainly may have had worthwhile information like the identity of the bomb maker, others in the cell that did not participate that day, future plans.

So where do you stand? I say that in her case, methods beyond physical discomfort would be perfectly acceptable.

Revenant said...

Cathy,

Also, I think that punishment through loss of liberty penalizes the wrongdoer as a human being -- a moral agent who loses certain things that human beings value greatly (above all, autonomy). Punishment through physical pain reduces a human being to an animalistic level.

That's actually the best argument I've seen so far, in this forum, for why torture is wrong and jailing people isn't. I don't think I agree with it, though.

With all due respect to the Founders, our rights aren't really inalienable and never have been; we can lose our liberty, and even our lives, if we commit egregious violations of our unspoken contract with humanity. If we determine, for example, that a man has been raping, killing, and eating children, we put him down in the same manner we would a rabid dog. I have a very difficult time with the idea that a person who delights in the killing of innocents deserves to be treated like a human being. He has already forfeited his rights to life and liberty; I have no problem with stripping him of his dignity, too. There are some crimes for which no punishment we are physically capable of administering could come close to matching the original act.

I think that the real reason for the Constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment isn't the recognition that torture is immoral, but the recognition that while in some cases it IS moral it is best that the government not get involved in it. It serves the same purpose as the second and third amendments -- placing limits on government action that CAN be undertaken for good reasons, but which are frequently used by tyrants.

A final note -- I'm not really arguing that we ought to be torturing people. There are pragmatic reasons for not doing so (not the least of which is that it is illegal to torture foreigners and unconstitutional to torture Americans). I am just unconvinced that torture is morally wrong in the current context, and particularly unconvinced that extremely unpleasant non-torture (such as waterboarding) is morally wrong. My concern is with what provides the greatest net benefit to America with the least risk to American rights. If waterboarding doesn't work and enrages the Arab world, it is a dumb idea; if it gets us valid information on terrorists and only makes the Arab world somewhat more cynical, maybe it's not a bad idea at all. As to which of those two scenarios is true, I have no idea. I've yet to see an unbiased information source that dealt with the matter.

Rainsborough said...

"If we determine, for example, that a man has been raping, killing, and eating children, we put him down in the same manner we would a rabid dog. I have a very difficult time with the idea that a person who delights in the killing of innocents deserves to be treated like a human being?"
The presumption of innocence implies that we must treat the Delighter like a human being until it's been ascertained he's been correctly classified.
Then what? Actually, we've gone rather soft of late: we used to (unwittingly, I believe) inflict an agonizing death by gas or electrocution on a subset of killers. Now we dispatch them painlessly. We take those deemed to be the worst of the worst and kill them as humanely as we can.
We're more scrupulous in making sure they're guilty than we are with dogs. And in the case of neither dog nor man do we inflict as we say gratuitous pain and suffering upon them.
Why is this? I think in the case of due process to ascertain guilt it's in large part about us--protecting us the innocent from unjustified deprivations. But for the guilty, including those guilty of the most heinous crimes, I think maybe it's still about us--only this time not protection against deprivation of our liberty but instead against deprivation of our sense of ourselves as decent people who don't delight in the sufferings of others, even the evil.
As I recall, Jonathan Edwards imagines a sort of place for spectators at an inner circle of hell, where they take exquisite delight at witnessing the sufferings of the damned. I've often thought it a kindness to Edwards to hold that he wouldn't in fact have found his spot in the stands very comfortable to remain in for long. I must admit I regard wanting to remain there as evidence of tendencies lurking in the pysches of the righteous such that I'd have my fears about them were we to meet after their session enjoying the screams of pain and the reduction of the very guiltiest to blubbering servility. That is, I take such enjoyment to indicate a deficency in the humanity of the righteous that might indicate behaviorial tendencies I fear. But then I'm a very timid sort; maybe my fears are exaggerated.

Revenant said...

The presumption of innocence implies that we must treat the Delighter like a human being until it's been ascertained he's been correctly classified.

That's a separate issue. The question here is what's to be done with him after he's been so classified.

Also, the presumption of innocence only applies in court settings. If I catch someone in the act of attempting to rape and kill a child, I have the legal and moral right to kill him. In a battlefield setting, I have the legal and moral right to shoot at the enemy, even though individual enemy soldiers might be entirely innocent of any wrongdoing. Presumption of innocence is not a universal standard. Actually, even in courts it is by no means universal -- much of the EU doesn't use it, for instance.

And the reason we execute prisoners painlessly is to get around the Constitutional ban on cruel punishment. The polls I've seen suggest that most Americans have no real problem with people being executed painfully (e.g. by electrocution). Look at how many jokes there are about prison rape; the well-being of criminals isn't a high priority for us. The reason we stopped frying people is that the courts took a dim view of it.

Rainsborough said...

So we are to live in a society where those who think they've caught me in the act are authorized to punish me as they see fit?

JP said...

Those that assert that techniques such as "waterboarding" are merely creating "discomfort" are either naive or dishonest when they try to distinguish these techniques from torture. As George Orwell so presciently pointed out in his seminal novel 1984, the worst forms of torture may involve the infliction of psychic pain. Physical pain pales, compared to what can be inflicted by exploiting a victims uniquely personal fears. We cannot allow ourselves to be a nation of hypocrites by, on one hand, abusing those who are in our custody and, on the other hand, professing democracy and fair treatment for all.

Revenant said...

So we are to live in a society where those who think they've caught me in the act are authorized to punish me as they see fit?

No, we live in a society where the use of lethal force in self-defense, or in the defense of another's life, is allowed. And we always have; the legal principle is older than America is.

Mark Buehner said...

"So we are to live in a society where those who think they've caught me in the act are authorized to punish me as they see fit?"

In the context of war, due agents of the American government are authorized to treat you in accordance with American military law.

Lets apply your question to war in general: just because an insurgent 'appears' to be shooting at a soldier, the soldier is simply authorized to blow the guys head off without due process?

Anonymous said...

If red ink, having dogs bark at prisoners from on a leash, and draping of the Israeli flag over shoulders of detainees are torture, then "torture" certainly should be allowed.

When the "anti-torture" movement disassociates itself from those who have such a broad definition of torture and present legislation worded such that the above acts would not get called torture, then we can ban it.

In the meantime, I am opposed to any legislation that could get American soldiers imprisoned for offending Andrew Sullivan's squeamishness over simulated women's bodily fluids.

Cathy Young said...

anonymous: like you, I have doubts about some of the definitions of torture that have been used in this debate, but why must Andrew Sullivan's sexual orientation be dragged into this discussion as the supposed reason for his revulsion at the idea of a detainee being smeared with fake menstrual blood? (Which, in his eyes, rendered him "unclean" and unfit to pray.) Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, a heterosexual conservative who supports the war in Iraq, has also expressed revulsion at the practice. Now, Sullivan and Jacoby may both be wrong, but why turn this into a "gay" issue? You're not doing your argument any favor that way.

peter hoh said...

I like the definition proposed by mark b. -- it's torture if we'd consider it torture when done to our personnel.

The problem is that we're dealing with an enemy who is working among people who look just like him. And those are the people whose hearts and minds we are trying to win.

Makes it tough on our troops. But that's the way it is, unless we abandon the idea of winning the hearts and minds of those in the middle.

Look, if we catch a guy transporting IEDs, I'm not all that upset if he's worked over. But if we're doing random sweeps for potential suspects, that's different. Our standards have to be very high for handling that group.

There's a thin line between "I don't care what happens to the people who are trying to kill us" and "I don't care about those people who look like the people who are trying to kill us."

I think once we allow torture for those who are clearly enemy combatants, we set the stage for torturing those who just look suspicious.

Call it moral preening if you will.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe I said anything about Andrew Sullivan's orientation, or even suggested it's the case of his squeamishness.

[reads back]

Nope, didn't think so. And, frankly, I don't think that's a fair inference.

Look at, say, the Dr. Pepper ads where the boyfriend is buying tampons for his girlfriend as an examle of doing "anything for love". Men tend to be squeamish about menstruation, regardless of orientation.

(Er, it isn't improper for me to suggest Sullivan has the foibles of a typical American man, is it?)

Andrew Sullivan was named because he's both one of the prominent "anti-torture" people and he has repeatedly treated a mere prop-backed lie as if it were the rack and thumbscrews. I don't see what his being gay has to do with anything I said unless one starts from the premise that any slighting reference to Mr. Sullivan contains a disguised reference to his orientation.

nike said...

Rubber. Rubber is widly used in the outsole of the athletic shoes.
cheap puma shoes
discount puma shoes
It has the advantages of durable, skipproof, flexible, elastic, extensive, stable and proper hardness.
nike shox torch
nike tn dollar
cheap nike shox
PU is a kind of macromolecule polyurethane materials which is offten used in the midsole
cheap nike shox shoes
nike shox r4
puma mens shoes
Sometimes, it is also used in the outsole of casual shoes.
PU is durable, strong hardness, upstanding flexbility and more important, it is environmentally
cheap nike max
discount nike shox
cheap puma ferrari shoes
The disadvantage is also outstanding. Strong hydroscopic property, break apart and EVA.
nike mens shoes
nike shox nz
discount nike running shoes
which is usually used in the midsole of the running shoes and casual shoes.
EVA is quite lightweight, elastic, flexible and suitable to a variety of climates.
discount nike shoes
nike shox shoes
cheap nike shoes
PHYLON. Phylon is the product of the EVA after the second processing. Just as the rubber
nike sports shoes
puma running shoes
puma sneakers
The midsole of running shoes, tennis shoes and basketball shoes in the world is made PHYLON.
nike air max tn
puma cat
puma shoes
The upstanding hardness, density, traction and extension make it favorite by the manufacture.
nike running shoes
wholesale nike shoes
nike shoes
Just as a coin has two sides, Phylon is nonrecoverable and easily shrink under high PHYLON.
nike shoes kids
nike women shoes

nike said...

You will never find swimsuit more excellent than in Ed Hardy!
ed hardy ugg boots
ed hardy love kills slowly boots
ed hardy love kills slowly
We provide you with the sexiest swimwear at present. Wanting to be bright on beach in this
ed hardy polo shirts
ed hardy love kills slowly shoes
ed hardy wear
Abandoning traditional concepts on sexy swimwear, Ed Hardy adds tattoo upon, which is meaning
ed hardy love kills slowly shirts
ed hardy trousers
ed hardy jackets
It seems that ed hardy mens shoes was difficult to be able to let you exist out in swimwear, the
ed hardy t shirts sale
ed hardy womens t shirts
ed hardy boots
In the trunks term, the Panerai candy-flush has mainly took the Louis Vuitton Speedy purpose
ed hardy womens clothes
ed hardy womens shirts
ed hardy clothes
swimwear in an austere tone proposal combines the exclusive tailoring, Cool down, sunshine fair,
ed hardy outerwear
ed hardy womens
ed hardy womens jeans
green MOISTURE, attractive red no other elements, together with the unique thwart-buckle create
ed hardy bags
ed hardy winter boots
ed hardy t shirts
Whether it is sexy bikini, or cross-quantity g-star trunks intended to reach new heights with this
ed hardy bags
ed hardy winter boots
ed hardy t shirts
The desired redden of this type of bag, but once again the label that ed hardy and the Christian Audigier Brand Manage Louboutin at MAGIC in August 2009.
ed hardy t shirts for men
ed hardy mens jeans
ed hardy mens shoes
The total spectrum of Audigier Brand Management lifestyle brands and crop will be including ed hardy shirts,
ed hardy mens shoes
ed hardy womens hoodies
ed hardy mens tees
food ranging from ment and woment garb, accessories, footwear. Christian Audigier, SMET, Crystal Rock

hanly said...

Blu Ray Converter
Convert Blu Ray to AVI
Convert Blu Ray to MKV
Convert Blu Ray to MOV
Convert Blu Ray to MP4

dfadf said...

Microsoft Office
Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010
Office 2010 key
Office 2010 download
Office 2010 Professional
Microsoft outlook
Outlook 2010
Windows 7
Microsoft outlook 2010

Peter said...

nice share thanks a lot :)

download free pc games
affiliate review