Monday, November 21, 2005

Torture, again

On my thread about torture and the issue of "keeping our hands clean" while fighting wars, "anonymous" writes:

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.

But getting our hands dirty in terms of torturing people has not paid off. The intel that is gained that way is not reliable.

Now, Matt Welch addresses this issue at Hit & Run:

[W]ater boarding elicited the "vital" information from Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi that "Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons." As a CIA-sourced ABC News investigation reports, "al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment."

The administration's position is now crystal clear. "We do not torture," we water board; we do not use Soviet-style imprisonment/interrogation tactics, we just secretly use former Soviet facilities and Red Army false-confession techniques. And if some detainees die in the process, well, bad apples and all that.

It's easy to get distracted by the semantics and immorality of it all, but the ABC News story suggests a very pragmatic rebuttal to the administration: By whatever name or euphemism, water boarding seems like one of the worst methods possible of obtaining quality information. And treating water-boarded data either as a strong basis for policy, or as a prop to make a political argument, seems unwise at best.

The argument against torture (and, pace The Wall Street Journal, any interrogation techniques that rely on physical suffering are torture) seems devastating, on both moral and pragmatic grounds. One can argue that when fighting a war for survival, we should not be afraid to "get our hands dirty" if that's the only way we can win. But in this case, it looks like we've got a lot of dirt on our hands, and we're none the safer for it.


20 comments:

Rainsborough said...

I wouldn't contend that torture NEVER "works," produces useful information of what the bad guys are up to. (Which isn't to say it shouldn't be forbidden.)
But I would contend that the value of whatever useful information has been obtained since we began engaging in torture is massively outweighed by the harm it does our effectiveness in the region.
And I would contend that the unbounded incompetence of this administration extends to its practice of torture, so that it may well be the information obtained is negligible.

protein wisdom said...

I was told by a Navy SEAL that waterboarding is extremely effective.

I trust someone who's been there and done it, I guess.

But then, I also don't equate physical discomfort with torture, or else I'd have grounds to accuse one of my old schools of torture for making me sit in a very uncomfortable chairs during lit theory seminars.

mabman said...

There's no doubt that waterboarding is extremely effective in getting someone to talk - it's whether what they tell you is worth anything that's the problem, one that I doubt a Navy SEAL who's implicated in using this technique would be likely to cotton to.

Your "physical discomfort" analogy for waterboarding is interesting - stupid, but interesting.

Cathy Young said...

I hope we can keep this discussion polite, but --

Jeff, are you really suggesting that sitting in an uncomfortable chair is in any way comparable to inducing a physical sensation of drowning/suffocation, or being immersed in freezing water, or being stripped naked and placed next to an air conditioner going at full blast?

peter hoh said...

Al-Qaida "grew up" amid repressive regimes that employed torture at whim. Somehow, they survived. I suspect that they know the best way to keep captured operatives from telling their plans -- share few details, and even give operatives false information up until deployment, and even then, give them the least amount of info necessary.

vbspurs said...

Al-Qaida "grew up" amid repressive regimes that employed torture at whim. Somehow, they survived.

This is an excellent point, and one, in the non-ethical realm but rather of the more Realpolitik variety, which would suade me against torture.

Because the sad fact is that, I am not in favour of flat-out Iron Maiden, 1970's Latin American junta variety of torture -- but I am in the guise we have employed so far, of the variety at least shown publicly.

I understand that anyone who states what I did, is making a pact with the devil internally, in authorising or condoning my government to employ vicious tactics, ranging from humiliation to sleep deprivation, etc. -- but I am pragmatic and not idealistic, as perhaps Cathy is...to her credit.

But you just can't be the world's policemen, if you are just "good cop" all the time.

I suspect that they know the best way to keep captured operatives from telling their plans -- share few details, and even give operatives false information up until deployment, and even then, give them the least amount of info necessary.

But then this begs the following -- the US, via its military, is never going to be as brutal as anything approaching what Saddam and other torturers have done.

It is therefore quite clear to me that whatever we have been dishing out, is no where near as violent or excessive, as what they are used to.

Look, I don't know if these hardened men, who have chosen a life so far removed from the niceties of ethical questions themselves, would crumble if really put to the torture by the US military.

But I think it's not incredible to assume that we might have gotten "our men" and information in general quicker, if we had.

Cheers,
Victoria

Revenant said...

Al-Qaida "grew up" amid repressive regimes that employed torture at whim. Somehow, they survived.

Don't you think it might have helped that a lot of the people "torturing at whim" were on their side?

The Taliban's primary backer, for example, was the Pakistani secret police. Al Qaeda has numerous sympathizers among the Saudi princes and within the religious police. Egypt and Syria actively fund and train terrorist groups. Etc, etc.

A person who goes around saying "we must have peace between Islam and Christianity, and learn to accept and tolerate each others' differences" is a hell of a lot more likely to get arrested and tortured by a Middle Eastern government than a person who goes around saying "all infidels must be killed". Hell, the latter is pretty much a qualification for some government jobs over there.

Cathy Young said...

Victoria, I don't really know if I'd class myself as an "idealist." I would say, though, that IMO, "waterboarding" and such practices as exposure to extreme heat and extreme cold go far beyond humiliation and discomfort.

And let's not forget that some of these prisoners are not hardened terrorists or any kind of terrorists; they are people who've been rounded up by mistake.

protein wisdom said...

Jeff, are you really suggesting that sitting in an uncomfortable chair is in any way comparable to inducing a physical sensation of drowning/suffocation, or being immersed in freezing water, or being stripped naked and placed next to an air conditioner going at full blast?

No, I was being flip.

But what I was suggesting is that physical discomfort doesn't always rise to the level of torture; submersion in freezing water and waterboarding, for instance, are both part of the training for some of our own.

I'm up for a serious discussion of what torture is and how we can narrow down the definition so that we can interrogate effectively and still keep our souls.

However, too many times these discussions wind up with the participants trying to out-virtue one another. Which is, I suspect, the impetus behind Mabman's calling my analogy "stupid" -- he needed to set up right away that he was more serious than someone who would make such an analogy. Torture, after all, is serious business.

But that missed the point; which is that as it is currently defined, you can extrapolate out from many definitions of torture the very kinds of discomforts I'm talking about, provided you're able to argue that they are not so minor at all in certain contexts.

Cathy Young said...

Jeff -- I see your point; but isn't some of this training for U.S. forces precisely for the purpose of toughening the soldiers up to be able to resist torture by the enemy?

Btw, I've never heard of "waterboarding" being a part of training for U.S. forces, but I may be wrong of course.

I would add that just because certain kinds of pain/discomfort are sometimes inflicted for benign purposes does not make them "not torture." Not to be gross here, but every year tend of thousands of Americans have a plastic tube pushed up their rectums for a colon exam (and until recent improvements in medical technology, the tubes used in these procedures were rigid and the procedure was quite unpleasant). Likewise, every year millions of American women have their breasts painfully jammed between two metal plates (it's called a mammogram). Does anyone have any doubt that such acts would and should be regarded as completely out of bounds if inflicted upon a prisoner?

peter hoh said...

Revenant, No, the people torturing were not always on "their" side. Al-Qaida's roots include the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has been trying to stamp for the past 40 years or so.

peter hoh said...

As for US military personnel being subjected to waterboarding and being dropped into icy water as part of their training -- how many of them died as a result?

But let's adopt the idea that torture is okay. Then I still have a problem with the deaths of detainees. And not because I like the terrorists.

If we had a top al-Qaida lieutenant and he died during torture, then we screwed up because we lost a potential source of intel. If a mid-level operative died, same deal but to a lesser extent. Are either acceptable? No.

Even if you accept the idea that killing the bad guys during (or as a result of) torture is okay, what do you do about the folks who were just rounded up and really had nothing to tell? All through the torture, they are acting just like the really tough al-Qaida types who have been trained to resist torture.

Hell, if torture is such a good idea, then advocate that we start using it at home. There's always the chance that using it might save an abducted child. That we might start using it to work over burglary suspects, well, that's just an incidental consequence, and besides, who really likes these criminals, anyway? It's not like torture would be used in cases of white collar crime.

Revenant said...

Revenant, No, the people torturing were not always on "their" side.

I said "a lot", not "all".

If we had a top al-Qaida lieutenant and he died during torture

How many detainees have died as a result of torture? The only statistics I've seen are for number of detainees who've died as a result of injuries. I've never seen that broken down by source of injuries. It would be useful to see what percentage of the injuries were sustained during their apprehension, versus afterwards. Also, how the breakdown looks before and after they were transported to a detention facility.

If, for example, Army personnel catch a guy who was, moments before, shooting at them, and proceed to beat the bejesus out of him to such an extent that he later dies, he would be recorded as a detainee who died due to injuries. But calling him "a prisoner who died due to torture" would be deceptive.

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

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

Friday said...

The christian louboutin outlet heels can help you become sexy and elegant. Cheap christian louboutin sandals are regarded since the symbolic representation of attractive and elegant.Christian Louboutin Ankle BootsIt is especially suitable for the women who wear theChristian Louboutin Collection 2011 shoes at the first time.These Christian Louboutin Heels 2011 combine top quality, reasonable price and fashional design, which is your best choice Artist who promoted his collection of luxury women's Christian Louboutin Peep Toes in earlier 90s. No 1 can disregard the existence in the style world, World-famous red-colored soles and Christian Louboutin Pumps Sale are shaped features. However, you can by no means overlook the beautiful. You do not even need to go inside environment, as well as your slim, gorgeous and graceful legs may be effortlessly discovered in people's eyes! Welcome to our louboutin mall to buy discount louboutins heels.

Friday said...

All the cheap christian louboutin heels and louboutin heels for retailing inside our store can be to offer solutions of first-class quality. The christian louboutin evening complete great deal could possibly be the fine and fashionable one.They take place in fascinating design and layout and fashionable appearnce.The colourway also is quite popular. These christian louboutin pumps are luxury and noble.The christian louboutin peep toe show formal, a complete great deal extra show its gorgeous gloss and honour. hold into some mysterious alluring taste! This pairs of christian louboutin 2011 sandals attributes a quite considerable component for women's fabulous whole system figure, show their fabulous figure and fashionable gesture. Louboutin heels is a good choice for you, welcome to our Christian louboutin store!

No one said...

Hey you have a very nice blog
Download gta iv