Patterico's Pontifications

11/9/2007

Thinking Out Loud About Waterboarding

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:15 pm

Let’s pretend that we weren’t having a big political debate about waterboarding. Wipe that clear from your mind.

Now, visualize the process.

Imagine it being done to a U.S. soldier, as part of a systematic pattern of coercive interrogation by an enemy seeking information. Imagine that the waterboarding is not the worst or the best thing done to the soldier during this interrogation.

Let’s imagine that the soldier survives the interrogation and comes back home to talk about it. He says:

It was awful. They beat me. They put metal shards under my fingernails. They threatened to kill me. They held a gun to my head and pulled the trigger, but hadn’t loaded the gun. They tied me to a chair for hours. They blasted music into my room. They strapped me to a board and put a wet cloth in my mouth and poured water over my face. It felt like I was drowning. They whipped me. They burned my body with an open flame. They stripped me naked and flooded the room with cold air. They kept me in isolation for weeks at a time.

It was torture.

Again, wipe clear from your mind the current debate . . . and tell me if you can seriously imagine yourself saying this:

Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on there, pardner! I know most of that sounds like torture — except for the part where they made you feel like you were drowning. That doesn’t sound like torture at all!

I think if you seriously say that you could say that, you haven’t cleared your mind of the current political debate like I asked you to.

Now, imagine a different scenario. This time, one of our soldiers is being waterboarded in the same exact fashion as described above — just waterboarded, not burned or beaten, but just strapped to a board with the wet cloth in the mouth and the water poured over his face.

But it’s done in a controlled environment, with doctors standing by — as part of a training exercise to teach the soldier how he could be treated by the enemy if he is captured.

Has our country “tortured” this soldier?

What if the waterboarded person is a journalist or a government official who voluntarily agrees to be waterboarded — to further a debate about waterboarding, whether in the public square, or in the halls of Washington?

Did the people who waterboarded this volunteer “torture” this person?

Let me ask another question: should these volunteers be prevented from voluntarily experiencing waterboarding? Should a SWAT team swoop in and arrest the people who are being paid to waterboard the volunteer?

I think it’s pretty tough to answer that “yes.” If your answer is yes, then at the very least, you need to understand that your definition of the word “torture” necessarily embraces actions that most Americans would find perfectly acceptable.

Now, if your answer to the first hypothetical is “that sounds like torture to me,” that doesn’t necessarily answer the legal questions that are currently being debated regarding whether waterboarding is torture. I’m not venturing a legal opinion when I say that waterboarding of a soldier by an enemy personally sounds like torture to me. But I have to say that, on a common sense level, it does sound like torture. And that common sense view may well have considerable relevance to the legal question.

If your answer to the second hypothetical is “that doesn’t sound like torture to me,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that what we have done to some suspected terrorists isn’t “torture.” It just means that whether you consider waterboarding “torture” depends on the context.

I think that what we have done to detainees sounds more like the first hypothetical than the second. The only difference is that we are doing it instead of the enemy. Therefore (argue supporters of waterboarding) it must be good to do what we have done — because we did it for a good purpose. When the enemy does it, then it is of course for a bad purpose.

Except that, of course, that’s how the enemy thinks when they do it to our guys. (I’m talking about a hypothetical enemy here, and not Al Qaeda, which actually tortures the daylights out of our guys before beheading them. Don’t think for a second that I am positing a moral equivalence between waterboarding and actions like that.)

And yet, I’m not sure that I am willing to subscribe to a theory of moral equivalence on all levels, because the reason you are doing something matters. It matters a lot. If you shoot me for my money, you are a murderer. If you shoot me because I am pointing a gun at your wife, you are defending her and acting legally. If you shoot an American soldier because you are fighting for Hitler’s right to exterminate the Jews, you are behaving wrongly. If you shoot a German soldier to help prevent the extermination of the Jews, you are behaving correctly.

In all these cases, we are talking about the same act: shooting someone. But we’re doing it for very different reasons.

Xrlq asks:

To both sides of the debate: would it kill you to consider the possibility that waterboarding is torture, but we need it anyway? We shouldn’t be debating whether Khalid Sheik Mohammed was or wasn’t tortured. Instead, let’s debate whether it was better that (1) Khalid Sheik Mohammed be tortured or (2) Library Tower go the way of the World Trade Center. Those are the choices.

Now, that analysis assumes the truth of stories that the Library Tower was saved by waterboarding KSM. Do we know that, for sure? Nah.

But assume it for the sake of argument. And recognize that waterboarding is a fairly mild torture compared to many other forms of torture. It ain’t burning at the stake. And it ain’t what Al Qaeda does.

Do waterboarding opponents really say that they would still oppose it even if it meant losing the Library Tower and thousands of lives?

Try asking them. They will never, ever answer the question. They will instead find a million ways to dodge it. And that’s how you know they are not being serious — even as they tell you that you are not. Because it’s not impossible that it could come to that — and it’s not even impossible that it already has.

I am hesitant to argue for the position that, because we are right, the end justifies any means.

Indeed, I am hesitant to argue any absolutes in this area. I think those who do, often substitute self-righteousness for logic and dispassionate reasoning.

And I’m talking about both sides here.

This has been rather rambling, but I hope it causes both sides to step back and think about their positions.

Being hopeful is not the same as being optimistic. By far the more likely outcome is that we will have a series of comments that disagree, in classic knee-jerk fashion, with whichever parts of this post buck the party line — on either side.

But hey, a guy can hope.

My main point is this: there is nothing simple about this issue. Anyone who claims it is simple is refusing to open their mind.

158 Responses to “Thinking Out Loud About Waterboarding”

  1. “Do waterboarding opponents really say that they would still oppose it even if it meant losing the Library Tower and thousands of lives?”

    We’ve already seen their response to this argument is the red herring of the “reliability” of information obtained under duress.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  2. It is important to me that it is not done by our soldiers in uniform to other soldiers in uniform. It is done by our spies to unlawful combatants out of uniform — one could say terrorists or saboteurs. Spies, terrorists and saboteurs, historically, have never been treated gently when caught, whether in peacetime or wartime. Certainly nowhere near as kindly as soldiers in uniform.

    nk (597e8b)

  3. its a no brainer, waterboarding is torture. its done to some troops just for the reason patterico stated, to prepare them in case of being captured. but us waterboarding some terrorist to get info and other terrorist’s name from him is justified. it would take much more than some waterboarding for us to “be no better than they are”. its an arguement that sounds so sophisticated and intellectual but its bunk. and no slippery slope BS. do you really think the people of this country, even those who think its okay to waterboard terrorists, would allow us to descend to the level of something like iraq pre-invasion or the gaza strip presently? nope, we wouldnt.

    chas (98fe7b)

  4. well put nk, most spies, etc have historically been executed on the spot when caught during wartime.

    chas (98fe7b)

  5. Moral equivalency aside…
    oh wait…

    I am a little eichmann, so what do I know?

    (sounds like the first line to a liberal nursery rhyme)

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  6. This is one area where just removing some of the liability protections on the waterboard_er_ should give the results one should want. Permissible, but flipping rare and well documented. It should only proceed when you know he already that he has information on your ticking time bomb.

    (Frankly, the same criteria should apply to the entire swat-team hot-no-knock warrant insanities.)

    Al (b624ac)

  7. SPQR,

    Reliability of information is a legitimate issue.

    Ask them to assume for the sake of argument that the information obtained will be reliable.

    Admit that it may be a counterfactual assumption. Ask them to make it anyway, to advance the moral debate.

    You will inevitably encounter some other dodge.

    Admitting any ambiguity kills the sweet, sweet high of self-righteousness.

    Patterico (379e36)

  8. Actually, Pat, I don’t think that reliability is a legitimate argument. It is usually coupled with an argument about false confessions, and illustrates a confusion between law enforcement and intelligence. Intelligence work always involves sources of varying reliability – its part of the process.

    But I strongly agree that self-righteousness is a fundamental part of the responses.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  9. On the Virtures of killing Children

    It’s pretty much the same point you’re making. You’re a man, willing to make the hard choices. It doesn’t matter what the experts say. You know better.

    blah (fb88b3)

  10. The “Reliability” insanity works best if the hypothetical has a short, simple, testable answer.

    Like: “What is your password on this laptop?”

    Not: “So, is Larry the mole you’ve got in the State Department?”

    Personally, I think the “Reliability” question is one where there’s a lot of projecting going on – “I’m so skilled at complete weasel answers, you’d never pin me down!”

    Al (b624ac)

  11. It is my thinking that Ends do not justify Means …. but results sometimes do.

    C. S. P. Schofield (fa850f)

  12. We are either serious about stopping mass casualty attacks or we are not. If we are serious we will take every possible means that does not revolt us (like cutting off genitals, say, a fave of AQ). If we are not serious we will stage moral debates about waterboarding and communications intercepts and privacy and all the rest.

    Then we will have mass casualty attacks, lose lots of lives, and have an angry populace making war on the elites who allied themselves with the terrorists to make the attacks happen.

    Let’s be at least honest. No one in the elites has a problem with Castro, Chavez, Kim, or Ahmadinejad cutting off limbs, genitals, heads, and so on. Because those men are their allies against the people. The elites have a problem with the agents of the people (government) acting against their allies. That’s what it’s all about.

    Jim Rockford (e09923)

  13. Here’s a link for you, blah. Be sure to click on the video, loony jackass. (Although I have grave doubts that you are anything more than a spammer profficient in English posting from Saudi Arabia.)

    nk (597e8b)

  14. Here’s a a link for you you uneducated, bitter little fuck.

    blah (fb88b3)

  15. I don’t read Arabic, blah. So I was right. You’re some little faggot* in Saudi Arabia hoping to be one of Osama bin Laden’s seventy-two virgins.

    *To all PC people: I used “faggot” in its strictly derogatory sense and not as a crude term for “gay”.

    nk (597e8b)

  16. It’s farsi you shithead and there’s english on the page. Click on “Stop Stoning.” And Saudi Arabia is where the Bush’s make their money.
    Bandar Bush:

    “Speaking to the Arabic satellite network Al-Arabiya on Thursday, Bandar — now Abdullah’s national security adviser — said Saudi intelligence was “actively following” most of the September 11, 2001, plotters “with precision.”

    “If U.S. security authorities had engaged their Saudi counterparts in a serious and credible manner, in my opinion, we would have avoided what happened,” he said.

    What’s “a serious and credible manner” mean? Pretty please?
    You voted for a putz, and you blame everyone else but yourself when he fucks up. You’re like a man in a street fight who bangs himself in the heaad with a hammer, and when his opponent doesn’t fall down says “now I’m gonna get my gun!”

    blah (fb88b3)

  17. blah,

    All I get from distilling your nonsense is that you’re an enemy of America and the yearning butt-boy of Osama bin Laden. Give it up. You are not winning friends and influencing people here.

    nk (597e8b)

  18. Torture is like obscenity; you know it when you see it. We already have coerced testimony being inadmissable. Torture should be (is?) illegal, anyone engaging in it should be risking their career and their liberty. Combine this with prosecutorial discretion and jury nullification and you have a reasonable framework in my opinion.

    If waterboarding is torture then Congress should stop hassling nominees and pass a bill outlawing it tomorrow.

    David (24f84e)

  19. As more than one person has pointed out if you ourlaw waterboarding they’ll use orange juice.

    Torture is illegal.
    Waterboarding is torture.
    Waterboarding is illegal.

    blah (fb88b3)

  20. Haven’t you offered the wrong context?

    Shouldn’t it have been;

    “It was awful. They blasted music into my room. They strapped me to a board and put a wet cloth in my mouth and poured water over my face. It felt like I was drowning. They stripped me naked and flooded the room with cold air. They kept me in isolation for weeks at a time.”

    Oh, I almost forgot…”They held me down and gave me a red-belly”

    Isn’t that really all “we” do? Is it “torture” now?

    Hell no it isn’t!…

    mjn99999 (6e1275)

  21. blah – How do you feel about female genital mutilation? Is that a necessary procedure for the faithful, torture, a misinterpretation of doctrine, just a way to subjugate women, or some other thing infidels don’t understand?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  22. It’s pretty simple, Patterico. If waterboarding — or torturing — someone will in fact save the Library Tower and thousands of lives, you do it.

    Another question. A close family member (think very close) has been abducted, is in an airless room, and you have the person who abducted her captured in a corner mocking you and pointing out how little air there is left. Do you turn him over to the police or do you break out the pliers?

    And that’s only one person. How is waterboarding in an exigent circumstance as above not “simple”?

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  23. Have a Nice Doomsday

    In Have a Nice Doomsday, Nicholas Guyatt searches for the truth behind a startling statistic: 50 million Americans have come to believe that the apocalypse will take place in their lifetime. They’re convinced that, any day now, Jesus will snatch up his followers and spirit them to heaven. The rest of us will be left behind to endure massive earthquakes, devastating wars, and the terrifying rise of the Antichrist. But true believers aren’t sitting around waiting for the Rapture. They’re getting involved in debates over abortion, gay rights, and even foreign policy. Are they devout or deranged? Does their influence stretch beyond America’s religious heartland–perhaps even to the White House?

    I posted a link to an Iranian feminist organization. Send them some money. Did you know there are feminist organizations in the US too?
    Where does the Constitution say anything about birth control? You agree with Robert Bork, right Pat? Griswold was a mistake?
    Don’t even talk to me about this shit

    blah (fb88b3)

  24. I wish that we could trust the people in our government not to leak every single thing to the New York Times. I believe that our leaders should be able to use any means necessary to protect the American people. And you know what? We don’t all need to know about it.

    So what if we have CIA prisons in foreign countries? I say, good…squeeze all the info out of the bad guys you can and the average American doesn’t need to know.

    I wish the Bush administration would aggressively pursue all of the leakers in the CIA and State Department that put their stupid politics above the security of our country.

    If it is going to stop the next terror attack I could care less if our guys use garden shears to clip off Muhammed’s toes one at a time till they get what they need…and I don’t need to know about it…although I confess I’d like to hear that we were doing that to our enemies…heh…

    :)

    Stacy In Tucson (b99466)

  25. I have had the sensation of drowning several times. It was always due to some recreational activity.
    In the course of my recreational activities I have never taken vise grips and a blow torch to my balls but obviously I speak only for myself and have no interest in arguing what constitutes recreation.
    I do know that the sensation of a pair of vise grips and a blowtorch on my balls would likely be accompanied by an actual pair of [huge] vise grips and a real blow torch causing real damage but if someone can find a way to make terrorists embrace the illusion that their balls are being crushed and burned when in fact their balls remain (perhaps unsatisfyingly) unscathed….

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  26. They threatened to kill me. They held a gun to my head and pulled the trigger, but hadn’t loaded the gun. They tied me to a chair for hours. They blasted music into my room….They kept me in isolation for weeks at a time.

    Whoa, there partner! I’m not so sure we can be calling that torture either. These things cause stress, perhaps extreme stress. But not severe pain. And if you change “tied to a chair” to “handcuffed to a bench”, that, along with “They kept me in isolation for weeks at a time” are things we do to people within out criminal justice system every day.

    They beat me. They put metal shards under my fingernails…They whipped me. They burned my body with an open flame. They stripped me naked and flooded the room with cold air.

    Now that’s more like it.

    Pablo (99243e)

  27. Blah – Divert, Divert, Divert

    daleyrocks (906622)

  28. My problem with NOT calling “mild” coercive interrogation techniques like waterboarding “torture” is that if we let a government get away with defining away those forms of torture, without restriction of any kind, then I can imagine (admittedly it is a remote possibility) that same government using those “interrogation” methods on me and mine. I think that is what a lot of people don’t like about not calling waterboarding torture.

    Because unfettered governments don’t have a great track record for restraint maybe it’s better that these acts were defined as torture and then allowed under very restrictive circumstances, and maybe only for this war. This implicitly allows other countries to use the same techniques on our men. I am not certain that that is such a moot point as others seem to think.

    Context for waterboarding has come up before. It seems to me that waterboarding enemies captured on the battlefield or in country(after trying other, apparently better, methods first), where we know they are enemies coz they were recently trying to kill our guys, may be acceptable whereas waterboarding “suspects” rounded up in our own country, or some guy sold to the CIA for money (ie. some Guantanamo detainees)is not. In the one case the interrogator can be almost certain that there is actual intellegence to be gathered, and thus they are extracting intellegence, while in the other they can’t even be sure if the person they have knows anything, and so they are trying to get a confession.

    EdWood (8f8323)

  29. On the whole, good post, P. Very thoughtful.

    I am a little confused by the voluntary standard, though.

    It seems to me there are plenty of things out there people do willingly that would be torture if done on someone without their consent, especially these days.

    Dark parts of the internet aside, couldn’t you take plain ol’ sex as an example? If I’m a good husband and my wife consents to marital relations it’s a very different thing than picking someone at random who isn’t interested, and rape doesn’t make sex rape and sex doesn’t make rape sex.

    It is hard, though, to say random Jihadi’s human rights are worth more than thousands of Americans. I do think there is a point at which that is true, though, presumably the point at which we were being cruel enough to lose the claim of being the freer and more moral society.

    David N. Scott (5986fc)

  30. Actually Stacy from Tucson, I was wondering if the point you brought up isn’t exactly why the government is having this debate right now. Are we having to define waterboarding coz CIA interrogators are getting demoralized at the thought of maybe being prosecuted later as part of some ongoing political “gotcha”?

    EdWood (8f8323)

  31. My problem with NOT calling “mild” coercive interrogation techniques like waterboarding “torture” is that if we let a government get away with defining away those forms of torture, without restriction of any kind, then I can imagine (admittedly it is a remote possibility) that same government using those “interrogation” methods on me and mine.

    We’ve already got Constitutional protections against such interrogations via the Fifth Amendment. We have the right to remain silent.

    Pablo (99243e)

  32. Yes, Ed…

    We use to not hear about everything that went on with the ‘black ops’…and I think we need to go back to that. I think it is bizarre to make laws regarding this. Once again, our president is sworn to protect and defend our country…let him do it any way he can.

    Sometimes we over-intellectualize….for example, the silly debate over whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual because it hurts….you know what? Either kill him or don’t…it’s insane to debate issues like that…we are too high on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…

    If the president needs to waterboard, let him.

    :)

    Stacy In Tucson (b99466)

  33. I use to have the mistaken belief that water-boarding meant that the prisoner was strapped to a plank and lowered into a tub of water…

    Now THAT would be some scary sh*t!!!

    :)

    Stacy In Tucson (b99466)

  34. Patterico, in that list, I saw several things that I wouldn’t call torture –including waterboarding, cold air and loud music. It’s rather implausible that anyone who is willing to do the more serious things in the list would bother with the minor things.

    The argument about waterboarding is just simple semantics. There a lots of violent things that one can do to another human being, but there is a special category that includes shoving shards under a prisoner’s fingernails, crushing his genitals, drilling holes in his knees, smashing his toes with a hammer, and burning out his eyes with a cigarette that deserve a special term to describe them because of the extreme nature of the violence. That is what the word “torture” is used for. Even rape and forced sodomy aren’t called torture in normal usage; there is a big difference between raping someone and raping and torturing someone. So, does waterboarding really belong in that list? Does being kept in a cold room for an hour? I certainly don’t think so.

    Waterboarding and torture are both forms of violence. And as such, they should be avoided for moral reasons, just like killing and –for that matter- punching. But sometimes you have to punch, waterboard, kill, or even torture in defense of yourself or others. It is the aggressor who choses the level of violence; the defender must meet that violence with sufficient violence to counter it. When one is responsible for defending others then refusal to use the level of violence necessary to stop the aggressor is itself immoral. If a man is about to shoot your children and you have a gun but cannot bring yourself to shoot that man, then you have failed morally in your duty to protect your children. Similary, if you capture a terrorist and you can use waterboarding to get information to stop other terrorists before they kill but refuse to do so, then you have failed in your moral duties.

    I don’t believe all of the hysterical moralists on the left really fail to understand this point. They only pretend to be horrified at waterboarding because waterboarding is an effective tool in defense of the US. They have historically had no problems with any level of violence at all, even the mass murder of millions, as long as it was being used in a cause that they approved of. The same is true of government snooping, government censorship, and other things that they pretend to be horrified about. They don’t care about those things when they approve of the government that is doing the snooping and the censoring.

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  35. loony jackass

    nk, please. You’re not normally an offender here, so I’m not going to give you an official warning. But please, watch the tone.

    And please don’t use “faggot” in any sense. I don’t like it.

    uneducated, bitter little fuck.

    you shithead

    You, blah, are a repeat offender, and I am officially giving you a warning. Watch the tone or take a vacation from commenting — one week minimum.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  36. By the way, I have gone back and approved all Christoph’s comments and reinstated his privileges.

    He is on probation — meaning no warning is necessary for another one-week minimum suspension.

    TCO and alphie? Mmmm . . . don’t really feel like doing it for them. They continue to make comments that show no recognition of why they got a one-week ban. Christoph, by contrast, seems to have acknowledged the problem he was having in a very sincere comment.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  37. This thread is shaping up about the way I expected, rather than the way I hoped.

    So it goes . . .

    Patterico (bad89b)

  38. I want the conservatives here to make the waterboarding opponents say whether they would allow waterboarding to save the Library Tower. It’s a hypo. Press it.

    I want the liberals here to make the waterboarding supporters say whether they would consider it torture if done by the enemy to our soldiers in a time of war. It’s a simple question. Don’t let them evade it.

    Now go have fun, kids. If you can’t reconsider your positions, you can at least hassle the other side for my amusement and yours.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  39. i already answered its torture regardless of who uses it back in comment #3. but i have no problems w/ our guys using it on the enemy to get intel. before any terrorist had been sleep deprived or waterboarded or anything they had displayed they would treat any American they captured in the most brutal way so regardless of how well we treat prisoners they will not change their treatment.

    chas (98fe7b)

  40. You want to talk legalities in wartime? Cool.

    How about, instead of distressing a suspected spy, we let the spy keep his secret. Then, the suspected Mall terror occurs in Chicago and L.A. We later gather excellent intel that this plot was developed in Basra, and that the planner is going to be sitting in a restaurant in the middle of a crowded area of Basra in two hours. But! There will be no way of confirming his presence at that time.

    Anyone care to argue that we don’t have the absolute legal (haha) right to wipe out that restaurant and all who may happen to be there two hours hence?

    Was Dresden illegal? The Tokyo firebombs? Haha.

    In my example, the practical approach is to sacrifice the humanity of an individual, in the hopes that scores of others may not have to sacrifice. The legal approach? Spare the individual distress, but kill many.

    Bottom line: War reduces all humanity to something less than desired. By definition, even the right to life itself is not guaranteed. The goal is to bring about victory as swiftly as possible, with the least pain to ourselves, and secondarily, others.

    Ed (495e2f)

  41. Waterboarding – just waterboarding is pretty horrid, and I’m sure I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I don’t think that on it’s own it is torture. When added into the mix of beatings, burning, and the other stuff in Pat’s first example, it’s probably the one you would HOPE for out of the others (it induces no actual pain).

    You wouldn’t be sitting in your cell going “Boy, I sure hope they don’t waterbaord me. I’d rather have cigarettes put out on my skin over and over and over again, and then get beaten savagely. Anything but waterboarding…”

    We could put our prisoners in the Ritz and let them wander around our cities freely and it wouldn’t change how our people were treated. “It will change how they treat our guys” is of the table, because they have shown they don’t care how we treat them.

    I’ve seen people complain that these aren’t “soldiers” we are “torturing”, and so we should be ashamed of how we treat them.

    Let me remind you that THEY have a history of videotaping the prisoner while they slowly cut of their head.

    Forgive me, I can’t quite get worked up over how we treat our prisoners (who recieve food, shelter, and medical care) while you possess not apparent outrage over how they treat their prisoners.

    Is waterboarding as done by the US torture?

    I honestly don’t give a damn. In the game of “Moral Highground”, we’re sure as hell a lot higher up than the people we waterboard.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  42. I want the liberals here to make the waterboarding supporters say whether they would consider it torture if done by the enemy to our soldiers in a time of war. It’s a simple question. Don’t let them evade it.

    In the manner we’ve done it? No. It would be illegal, but not torture. If it were done to one of our spooks, then it wouldn’t even be illegal.

    Pablo (99243e)

  43. I think Ed in comment #40 said it right:

    War reduces all humanity to something less than desired. By definition, even the right to life itself is not guaranteed. The goal is to bring about victory as swiftly as possible, with the least pain to ourselves, and secondarily, others.

    A better way of saying what I was trying to say before…is who cares if water-boarding is legal? It’s war and not everything in the world should be intellectually reduced to lawyers and law. Our enemies laugh at us for this reduction.

    I think we have become too humane to fight on the level we need to be at to take on the current bunch of crazies of the world. Once again, let our guys do what needs to be done to protect our people and get the bad guys…yes, there are good guys and bad guys…

    Stacy In Tucson (b99466)

  44. “This thread is shaping up about the way I expected, rather than the way I hoped.”

    That’s how a lot of my dates go.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  45. Patterico #35,

    I apologize, both to you and to blah. I promise, if I can’t tease the lefties good-naturedly I’ll just keep my finger off the submit button.

    nk (597e8b)

  46. I think we have become too humane to fight on the level we need to be at to take on the current bunch of crazies of the world. Once again, let our guys do what needs to be done to protect our people and get the bad guys…yes, there are good guys and bad guys…

    The US needs generals like Grant or Sherman – nasty folks they were, but they got the job done.

    Today’s “sensitive” generals are hampered by JAG and politics. Insanity.

    Horatio (55069c)

  47. 1. NK-Don’t feel too bad about letting Blah push your buttons, it happens to the best of us. As long as we don’t slide down that rabbit hole, we’ll be OK.
    2. I suspect Blah and Silicondoc are the same person, just my opinion.
    3. This discussion points up the fundimental weakness of our combat operations. We cannot conduct something as chaotic as War under the supervision of Lawyers. By doing so, we are giving our opponents someplace to hide behind. Yes, we will debase ourselves by taking part in certain behaviors (In this case torture). However, the entire notion of War is debasing. It is abhorrent to a rational persons sensiblities. Thats why we don’t want to partake in it very long. However, if we are to fight, then let us fight with all the vigor, strength and speed we can muster. A swift (al beit messy) end to any conflict is much more desirable than a “Well played” never-ending War.
    When confronting an intruder in my home I promise I will not be using Marquis de Queensbury Rules and a referee to defend myself. It will be (With regret) a Mossberg 12ga to my intruders mid section. Why should I defend this Great country that I love any differently?

    paul from fl (47918a)

  48. I guess I may have strayed off-topic with the above post. My answer: No blood no foul. No permanent physical damage? Not torture. Yup sure does provide a wide array of tactics. Now re-read the above post. Yeesh I need to write in order of topic then opinion. sorry.

    paul from fl (47918a)

  49. “You, blah, are a repeat offender, and I am officially giving you a warning”
    People who have disagree with your peanut gallery have been called traitors and pedophiles, among other things. It gets tiressome, but it gets no rebuke from you.

    “I want the conservatives here to make the waterboarding opponents say whether they would allow waterboarding to save the Library Tower. It’s a hypo. Press it.”

    As you would say Pat, we’re talking law, not morality. And law is policy. We’ve gone through two world wars without legalizing torture and each time I imagine people saying “but this time things are different.” So are the few thousand members of Al Qaeda really as dangerous to us as a dictator with the most advanced military and will armed military on the planet and a population of millions primed for conquest? Is it? Make the case. Please, just try.

    And here’s the obvious comeback to your badly thought out hypo:
    The question is not whether or not in the most extreme examples of the ticking bomb scenario, torture would be applied. There’s not doubt it would happen. There wouldn’t even be a question. And that’s what Presidential pardons are for. But that’s not what you’ve talking about, you’re talking about torture as policy, and a policy we refused to apply against Nazi Germany. So this is not about our safety it’s about the same moralizing marchismo in the disgusting post at Blackfive: your own willingness to face the blackness and forgive yourselves. This isn’t about real war this is about comic books. “Batman the Dark Night?” It’s all silly, and frankly preadolescent.

    So here’s my response Pat to your warning above. The only reason you don’t respond as a lawyer to the nutjobs around here, your most respectful audience, is that if you began to criticize their postiion they’d turn on you in a minute. You understand prinicples even if allow arguements to rage against thei importancce. And then you swoop down to calm the waters.
    What can I say that I haven’t said before? Feel free to ban me whenever it suits you. It’s your house.

    blah (fb88b3)

  50. Typical liberal…no apology…just play the victim card…lol…poor Blah…

    Stacy In Tucson (b99466)

  51. blah…fu…lly…rawks.

    TCO (3b23ad)

  52. One of the main problems we have is that most of the hoi polloi are icapable of disaggregating issues and incapable of yielding a subpoint (even if they know it true) if they see it as hurting a higher level position. This is a form of sophistry. a form of lying.

    TCO (3b23ad)

  53. I hope we can get past the “is it torture” dilemma. I’d have thought that part should be easy, and then we can just stick to whether torture can ever be a part of US policy or practice (and what the difference might be between making it policy or practice).

    I’ve seen it argued that waterboarding can’t be torture because we do it to our own troops. Actually, the reverse is true. The reason we do it to some of our troops is because it IS torture – or at least torturous. It is done precisely so that they can experience torture (though without lasting physical injury) and learn to withstand it to some extent.

    I doubt that we expect our men to experience waterboarding, since our enemies are often less concerned about injuring their prisoners. But we allow them to experience torture in order to learn the mental discipline that might help them to survive.

    Now… if we agree it’s torture, does that move us a step forward or not?

    don (76022a)

  54. “no apology…just play the victim card”

    Victim? No baby, I give what I get. And you’re right, I don’t apologize for anything (except typos.)

    blah (fb88b3)

  55. BTW, I realize that blog comments can get pretty hard at times – and they often offer much more heat than light. But I have to say that in spite of the occasional flare-ups, the posters on this blog seem to keep it much more in control than in many other places I read. Most comments at least try to offer something substantive. And there are some very thought provoking things written here from points of view that I agree with, and from those that I don’t. I really appreciate that.

    don (76022a)

  56. As I wrote elsewhere:

    I agree with you and and Mr. Dershowitz that there are situations where torture is morally permissible, even, perhaps, morally required. However, I don’t think there are any situations where torture ought to be legally permissible.

    I think that there is sufficient prime facia evidence, especially from Israel’s example, to hold that allowing limited amounts of torture under the law in extreme cases has a corrosive effect on liberal democratic institutions and that, eventually, the use of torture will spread, weakening the institutions is was designed to protect.

    elsewhere

    Fritz (cab0df)

  57. Good post, Patterico, I agree that the issue isn’t as simple as some say it is at first glance.

    I know four people who have experienced waterboarding as part of their military training: An uncle, a cousin, a little brother, and little brother’s best friend. An Air Force fighter pilot, a U.S. Marine, and two U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers. They are/were career soldiers, and they don’t talk in detail about classified military things, which SERE training is, but they do agree to a man that waterboarding “really sucks.” The Marine told me that on the “suck-ometer” scale of 1-10, it’s an 11. One of the SF guys told me “it was the only thing we were allowed to fail.”

    The purpose of the waterboarding exercise in training, as it has been explained to me, is NOT to teach soldiers to resist torture. It is to prove to these bad-ass commando/fighterjock tough guys that they WILL break in captivity, and that they need to begin thinking about that as one aspect of their survival training. When you go back to your little cell after having “signed the paper” and realize that you gave it all up without having your eyes gouged out or your genitals hacked off and there was no blowtorch or whips you feel like sh*t. It took them 15 seconds to make you sing like bird, and you don’t even have an injury to show for it. All they had to do was put a wet towel on your face, and they had you crying like a baby, Mister Baddest Motherf*cker In The Valley. And now (in the real world) you have to sit there in your cell and think about that failure for however many years the conflict lasts. That is tortuous.

    The soldiers who get SERE training are like human Border Collies….”accomplish the mission” is what it is all about for them, it’s what their training/selection process was/is all about, and when they “fail” at the mission in the ultimate way by being captured, that is the hardest blow that they have to learn to overcome. That is why they waterboard some of our troops. The most horrible torture for a Border Collie is to frustrate him in accomplishing his mission.

    I think I’m going to write about this more today at my own blog…you know where to find me.

    driver (faae10)

  58. So are the few thousand members of Al Qaeda really as dangerous to us as a dictator with the most advanced military and will armed military on the planet and a population of millions primed for conquest? Is it? Make the case. Please, just try.

    Depends. If they get nuclear weapons, they could easily be more dangerous.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  59. Fritz,

    I respect your position. You are one of the few waterboarding opponents who actually grapples with the tough issues and doesn’t simply get on a high horse.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  60. BTW, I realize that blog comments can get pretty hard at times – and they often offer much more heat than light. But I have to say that in spite of the occasional flare-ups, the posters on this blog seem to keep it much more in control than in many other places I read.

    Thanks. I do try to cultivate that sort of atmosphere.

    You know what would make the comments much better — and I’m guilty of this myself, and may do a post about it — is avoiding the flourish at the end of the comment that says: “And that is why you are _________” (an idiot, not being serious about this, trying to fool us all, insert your pejorative)

    Many comments make a decent little argument. But then, when addressing someone directly, you have to stick in the shiv at the end.

    Maybe we could *try* to avoid that?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  61. Good latest set of posts (Don, Fritz, Driver)….got me re-thinking some things I said anyway.

    Doc Rampage had an interesting idea which was to use a “do unto others” model and adapt the severity of what we allow to the severity of what our enemies allow. It might re-inforce the idea that war has “rules” and that we will play to the extent that our enemies will.

    EdWood (160ece)

  62. “Depends. If they get nuclear weapons, they could easily be more dangerous.”

    You know who I am and you know I’ve mentioned Pakistan before, and well before this current crisis. You’re aware of what’s happened with North Korea and that now we’re back where we were with Clinton, after Bush ran away from every agreement. And we know the results
    And Pat, do you know who A.Q.Kahn is?.
    Yes you do. He’s the world’s foremost trafficker in nukes, and he works for the Pakistani government.

    You don’t think and you don’t plan, you react. And you blame others who aren’t as panicked as you are after the fact.
    You panic after your own mistakes but won’t admit they’re yours. And you know what, thanks to you and yours, I’m starting to panic too. Only I know who to blame for this shitstorm.
    And don’t worry, I blame democrats too.

    blah (fb88b3)

  63. @ 54

    I think that there is sufficient prime facia evidence, especially from Israel’s example, to hold that allowing limited amounts of torture under the law in extreme cases has a corrosive effect on liberal democratic institutions and that, eventually, the use of torture will spread, weakening the institutions is was designed to protect.

    Except that we know in the US this is not the case. No more than three prisoners in custody have been waterboarded, and none have been waterboarded in over two years. So how has torture spread?

    If anything, our treatment of prisoners has become more humanitarian as the War on Terror has worn on, to the point where we’re even issuing enlisted personnel manuals on the proper care and handling of Korans.

    DubiousD (440aee)

  64. Its a shame that people would ignore the princuiple behind “torture” is to extract information from someone who either will not cooperate or there is a time factor involved. Torture would not be a tool if it didn’t work unless one believes that for thousand of years people did this just so sadists could be employed. One would have to ignore that the US Military recognized that even its troops would delvuge vital data under torture and so changed its Code of Military Justice several times after seeing what would happen to troops who underwent torture.

    The same people who wail so against torure eem to be hell bent on trying these terrorists in US courts rather than affording them the treatment they so richly earned under the accepted terms of the Geneva Convention.

    I am so sorry if the standards of individuals like Blah aren’t met by the USA. For such as Blah only a large mushroom cloud over each American city will afford them with a high enough altitude for their sense of “moral superiority.”

    Such snakeoil salesmen should peddle their wares in Europe or at the UN.

    Thomas Jackson (bf83e0)

  65. Pat

    Almost all of our guys captured are uniformed combatants and have certain priviledges from this that the international community accords to them.
    So waterboarding soldiers captured in uniform could certainly be illegal treatment at the least.

    Tell al Qaeda to put on a uniform, get out from behind the women children and mosques if they want to fight us.
    Or make their movement political and work from within the system peacefully.
    At these points waterboarding of them would be illegal and I doubt we’d even consider it.

    A poster here mentioned she’d always thought that waterboarding meant that people were strapped to a device and then dunked upside down into a tub of water. I’ve heard of this being done while concurrently beating the victim in the stomach. and testicles.
    I know that I have defended “waterboarding” but I’d like to be clear that methods and implementation strategies of waterboarding vary wildly.
    Some waterboarding incidents (like the Japanese and Philippine examples) are nothing more than brutal, punitive torture. The subject may have no information at all to share…. certainly nothing that would change a battlefield one millisecond and yet they are repeatedly subjected to brutality.

    I see the type of waterboarding that has been described as the US method as repugnant… but as an occaisional necessary evil and something we need to keep in our arsenal….like nukes.
    Hopefully never used, then used judiciously, but also if circumstances require…. rain ‘em on the enemy.
    I also find police and the IRS lying to me repugnant. Irealize it is part of their job, but it induces the fear in me that although I am innocent, these guys can spin a web of lies to get me. It is a wrentching place to be and there are two detectives and an IRS agent whom I’d love to get a punch at…. but I understand the need for it and I wouldn’t take that tool away from the rest of the public and deny them their safety just because I ran into three dipshits.
    Same goes for plea bargains where crimnals get let off for ratting out the bigger fish. I find it repugnant and slippery morally, but again it is a tool I am comfortable with on the level of utility to the greater good of our society.

    Don’t know if this makes sense (and I can think of at least two posters who will say something snide, so an advance *bleep* shout out to you two)
    But to boil it down… yeah, I think waterboarding as we implement it is the best way to waterboard. I want it in our arsenal. I want it used rarely if at all.
    I am angry that there are people in the world who have information in their twisted minds about immediate bombings and other murderous schemes… information that may require us to do something like waterboarding that can produce immediate results.

    Most mothers of captured US soldiers that I know would expect us to waterboard enemies who likely have direct knowledge and location of those who have captured their sons and are currently torturing them do death.
    Most soldiers moms I know would get on task themselves

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  66. TJ,

    I believe in drum-head court martials and I’m against the legalization of torture.

    Can you wrap your head around that?

    Fritz (cab0df)

  67. Blah seems to be interested in killing children. Perhaps he would like to comment on what it takes to defeat people like this. The comments about Pakistan are irrelevant. They are what they are. The world is not made up of saints and sinners. We do the best we can with the information we have. It was a mistake to leave the Afghans to their own devices after the Soviets left but we had other concerns. The sniping is from people who wouldn’t have the first idea of how to deal with the problems.

    MIke K (c46c21)

  68. Patterico, I’ll add that the only comments worth reading on any major blog I know are this one and Volokh. What makes the two sites worth reading are variety of opinions and a high ratio of debate to bickering.

    I appreciate your efforts to keep the comments this way.

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  69. If you’re in favor of torture to use for your objectives (fighting Al Queda, etc.) why be so decietful about it? Say you’re for it. And then do it whole hog. and to lots more people.

    TCO (3b23ad)

  70. I agree with Driver’s #55.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  71. You’re aware of what’s happened with North Korea and that now we’re back where we were with Clinton, after Bush ran away from every agreement. And we know the results.

    Yes, we do know the results. The nuke program that was built while they were laughing at Madeline Albright is now being dismantled, by agreement with Bush through six party talks.

    Poor blah, and those pesky, pesky facts. Better to light a candle, blah, but whatever gets you through the night…

    Pablo (99243e)

  72. I’ll ask this again: Who thinks the guys who broke Khalid Sheik Mohammed should be prosecuted?

    Now, a couple of more esoteric questions: Are swirlies torture? How about wedgies?

    Pablo (99243e)

  73. I think they should be prosecuted. They should plead guilty. In the penalty phase they should present the mitigating factors involved in the case, i.e., how many lives they saved. Then, if that aspect of their case holds up, the President should pardon them.

    Fritz (cab0df)

  74. While I respect your straight answer, Fritz, I think that’s ridiculous, and no way to run a war like this. And if I were the one of the guys tasked with dealing with the likes of KSM, and I knew that scenario were a likely outcome of my doing what I’m supposed to be doing…I’d find another job and you could find someone else to try and ply information out of that ilk with promises of extra cookies.

    And I wouldn’t move to a big city or work in a tall office building.

    Pablo (99243e)

  75. And then the next question is, what about when the world community decides I need to be tried at The Hague and America can’t disagree? Who pardons me then?

    Pablo (99243e)

  76. I think we’ve already illustrated why Fritz’ proposal is not serious and is impractical.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  77. Fritz

    RE: #70

    I’ve written here before that this position is impossible to support. This position relies on political whimsy.
    No sane CIA interrogator should EVER take action that would require pleading guilty and then expecting a pardon (I believe in a previous post someone mentioned “prosecutorial discretion” as well)

    I’ll start with the obvious problem of the CIA equipping its interrogators with waterboarding equipment that is never to be used unless circumstances require it… and oh the way you will be committing a felony and will be charged regardless of the value of the information.

    If an act is illegal… and this one sounds felony illegal… a prosecutor has the obligation to pursue the case with all his/her abilities to the furtest extent of the law. So throwing oneself at the mercy of “prosecutorial discretion would be ridiculously risky even if you were lucky enough not to draw a liberal politically ambitious prosecutor and judge.

    The idea of a blanket Presidential pardon for waterboarding is a reach. Why not just make it legal and stop with the elaborate gymnastics?
    If there is not a blanket pardon extended through administration changes, the interrogator would remain exposed to political whim.
    For example I’d be pretty sure Bush would pardon someone for this. Barack Obama may not.
    So a politically motivated prosecution waits to file charges until Obama is in office. The interrogator is now totally screwed.

    Another problem I have is in pleading guilty to anything hoping that the people in charge of your destiny will “do the right thing”. No sane lawyer would give their client that advice. As I have illustrated above, my view is that our legal system has enough politically motivated actors involved in it to render that approach foolhardy.
    I won’t even go into the issues of incompetence that might arise.

    It is much easier to have the practice remain legal as long as it has been authorized at the appropriate level of the CIA. A warrant if you will.
    Waterboardings outside of the legal structure should be prosecuted… and then if the President wants to commute or pardon fine.

    Which brings me to a question.
    If a person employed in the CIA pleads guilty to felony torture and is convicted; then pardoned… does he or she regain pension rights?
    I know that officers charged at Haditha for failure to investigate would lose their medical and pension benefits if they are guilty.

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  78. Stacy, that is one of the forms of waterboarding. If you don’t pull the person up he suffocates or drowns, depending on how much water he gets into his lungs. It’s a slow-motion execution interrupted by questions.

    Expecting the legal system to deal with warfare is folly. The state of war is when the state of law has broken down. (Badly mangled John Locke quote.)

    htom (412a17)

  79. Htom, by that standard it should be illegal to stop feeding a prisoner between breakfast and lunch. After all, if you continue not feeding them, they die. A slow motion execution.

    Al (b624ac)

  80. If the only way to prevent an attack killing thousands was to waterboard KSM I would do it. Similarly if the only way to prevent the attack was to give KSM freedom, immunity and $10,000,000 I would do that also. Do the other waterboarding supporters agree with the second point?

    In the real world I don’t think waterboarding should be legal as I don’t believe the benefits are great and I think the whole mindset that considers waterboarding vital is wrongheaded.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  81. Similarly if the only way to prevent the attack was to give KSM freedom, immunity and $10,000,000 I would do that also. Do the other waterboarding supporters agree with the second point?

    That’s a tough one, since doing so would make it possible (and even likely) that he could pull off a worse attack — possibly a nuclear one.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  82. Similarly if the only way to prevent the attack was to give KSM freedom, immunity and $10,000,000 I would do that also. Do the other waterboarding supporters agree with the second point?

    I find it difficult to imagine a plausible scenario in which that would be the best option.

    Pablo (99243e)

  83. I find it difficult to imagine a plausible scenario in which that would be the best option.

    Sure, but that’s a dodge. What if?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  84. No, it’s really not. Suppose you give him a complete free pass and a pile of money. What motivates him to tell you the truth? You’ve already given him the world.

    Pablo (99243e)

  85. Or, should I say, you’ve already appeased him. Then what?

    Pablo (99243e)

  86. Sure, but that’s a dodge. What if?

    How is it a “dodge” to point out that you’re posing a ridiculous scenario?

    Arguing about “waterboarding vs. the Library Tower” is like arguing about Martians landing on your roof and letting you choose whether they abduct your mother or your father. It might make a fascinating abstract debate if you’re sitting around stoned on a Friday night, but it has absolutely no connection to the real world and one shouldn’t expect the reality-based community to waste much time coming up with an answer.

    Out in the real world, there really are some simple truths about waterboarding:
    - it produces false confessions,
    - it weakens our legal system and our commitment to justice,
    - it generates enormous resentment and recruits more terrorists for Al Qaeda and other groups,
    - it cedes the moral high ground and reduces us to the level of our enemies,
    and, perhaps most importantly,
    - it leaves us with no credible way to object if our own soldiers are captured and tortured by others.

    No matter what confusion you find in your own mind, the reality is actually quite clear: Waterboarding and other forms of torture are unambiguously wrong and unambiguously bad for America and for the world as a whole.

    Instead of fantasizing about imaginary TV-script-scenarios where we save the world by torturing some bad guy, America should reject the disaster of the Bush administration and firmly reject waterboarding and all other forms of torture. That single step would do more than anything else to restore our standing in the world and protect our nation from terrorism.

    Oregonian (f5502e)

  87. Al, I suggest that you try the victim end of both and see if you can discern a difference.

    htom (412a17)

  88. That single step would do more than anything else to restore our standing in the world and protect our nation from terrorism.

    Along with a world-wide converion to Islam.

    /sarcasm off

    Paul (ec9716)

  89. Al, I suggest that you try the victim end of both and see if you can discern a difference.

    There is: drown or starve to death.

    /sarcasm off

    Paul (ec9716)

  90. Out in the real world, there really are some simple truths about waterboarding:
    - it produces false confessions,

    A meaningless objection, as intelligence work always involves sorting our unreliable information.
    - it weakens our legal system and our commitment to justice,
    No one is suggesting that such information be used against someone in a criminal prosecution. This is another red herring argument.
    - it generates enormous resentment and recruits more terrorists for Al Qaeda and other groups,
    A laughable argument given the brutality that such terrorists believe acceptable.
    - it cedes the moral high ground and reduces us to the level of our enemies,
    and, perhaps most importantly,

    A laughable objection given that our enemies believe that beheading captives is acceptable.
    - it leaves us with no credible way to object if our own soldiers are captured and tortured by others.Our opponents really torture, not this faux “torture” that is waterboarding, and then murder captives, so this objection is also laughable.

    Completely laughable.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  91. 78

    Possible I grant you but likely? KSM is just one guy.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  92. - it generates enormous resentment and recruits more terrorists for Al Qaeda and other groups,

    Wait a minute. Didn’t Ken Hirsch tell us only one in a million muslims are terrorists? Which means there are ony 500 terrorists in the world?

    So where are all the new recruits?

    Man, a scorecard is needed to keep up!

    Paul (ec9716)

  93. “completely laughable”
    No not really

    blah (fb88b3)

  94. Another meaningless driveby link devoid of content by blah.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  95. I haven’t participated in any of the other waterboarding discussions, so apologies if this has already been posted. In fact I’d be surprised if it hasn’t been.

    Getting Waterboarded

    For me it sure removed things from the realm of the abstract.

    Itsme (3e955b)

  96. nk, yep, that’s him officer.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  97. Itsme,

    Yeah, I like that video.

    The people who did that to him, though — criminals who should be thrown in prison?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  98. Well, I doubt criminals would stop when he asked them to.

    I don’t know what I think about the larger context of waterboarding. It’s a toughie.

    Itsme (3e955b)

  99. blah #90:

    Very thought provoking testimony.

    Itsme (3e955b)

  100. Itsme, I think what it comes down to is waterboarding is truly sucky and I’m opposed to it in the same sense that I’m opposed to shooting someone and blowing their arm off. By itself, it’s easy to be against it.

    Balanced against thousands of men, women, and children dying if it’s not used in a specific case, it’s easy to be for it… just like blowing someone’s arm off is easy to be for if someone is holding a gun pointed at your friend.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  101. “Well, I doubt criminals would stop when he asked them to.”
    Pat thinks he’s found a big distinction there.

    What’s the difference between being blindfolded and thrown out of a helocopter thats hovering 4 feet off the ground and being blindfolded and thrown out of a helocopter thats hovering 4 feet off the ground…
    when you have no idea where you are?
    Is that torture Pat?

    What’s the difference between having someone put an unloaded pistol to your head and pulling the trigger and doing it after he’s told you it’s fully loaded. Is it legal to put someone in front of a firing squad every few days?

    Simple.

    blah (fb88b3)

  102. Good point, Christoph.

    I think it’s a point Col. Kleinman addresses rather well in the videotaped testimony blah linked to.

    Itsme (3e955b)

  103. Is it legal to shove someone’s head underwater for 1 or two minutes at a time?

    No permanent damage. Right?

    blah (fb88b3)

  104. Torture was not legal through two world wars.
    Why?

    blah (fb88b3)

  105. blah #99:

    Also a good point. After all, one consents to undergo this “program” in the first place.

    If the consent were not there, the men would be prosecuted as criminals regardless of whether it’s torture or not.

    So maybe asking whether they’re criminals isn’t the best approach.

    Itsme (3e955b)

  106. 79

    As to a plausible scenario. Suppose every time we capture one of these guys we said: “Boy you are in a heap of trouble. But you have a way out if you know about a future mass casuality attack. Tell us about it and if it checks out we will give freedom, immunity for past actions and $10,000,000″. You think such tactics would never produce useful information?

    James B. Shearer (3f377d)

  107. James, I think such tactics would stop a few attacks while putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the hands of men who have already proven that they have the will and determination to plan such attacks. You’ve changed them from terrorists who have to spend time raising money and have to work with limited resources into self-funding multimillionaire terrorists –an army of bin Ladens.

    Besides that, I can see hundreds of generic violent criminals getting into the act: car-bomb some random hotel to turn yourself into a terrorist, then plant a time-bomb in a grade school and get yourself captured a few hours before it is set to go off. Instant multimillionaire status and immunity for anything you’ve ever done that you can claim was part of your terrorist past.

    It’s hard to see the upside of your scenario.

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  108. Tell you folks what.

    I volunteer to be waterboarded until I tell you the first name of my first sexual encounter.

    When we’re done, we can then have a frank discussion on waterboarding a torure, ok?

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  109. Itsme,

    Getting Waterboarded

    For me it sure removed things from the realm of the abstract.

    It sure does.
    “I underwent waterboarding during my training in the service and I’m going to undergo it again today because I think it’s important to put this in the court of public opinion.”

    Try that with thumbscrews. I’m going to bet that you won’t have any repeat volunteers.

    Pablo (99243e)

  110. blah almost finds a point with: “Torture was not legal through two world wars. Why?”

    Consider instead why WWI saw the use of chemical warfare, and WWII did not. Was it a question of legality? Chemical warfare violated conventions already in place by WWI. The issue was practicality and reciprocity.

    We don’t fight an enemy that recognizes either. Blah’s comment is based on the most superficial of understandings of the issue being discussed.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  111. The issue also was Adolph Hitler had been injured by chemical weapons in WW1 and had an aversion to them.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  112. blah almost finds a point with: “Torture was not legal through two world wars. Why?”

    Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca were not available for comment.

    Pablo (99243e)

  113. PQR #108:

    We don’t fight an enemy that recognizes either.

    I don’t think that’s really the point. Simply because one side chooses not to be bound by laws, or even ethics, morality, or principles doesn’t mean we are excused.

    Itsme (c209c4)

  114. Simply because one side chooses not to be bound by laws, or even ethics, morality, or principles doesn’t mean we are excused.

    Actually, it does. The protections in the GC’s don’t apply to those who don’t follow them.

    Pablo (99243e)

  115. I’d use 2 principles here. One is the Golden Rule, and the other is that to speak to someone you have to use their language. I suppose the victims at the Twin Towers, given their choice of evils, would have preferred being captured by a jihadist who waterboarded them, got their ATM number and donated their checking account to UNICEF. Treating the jihadist other as the American would have prefered to have been treated, water boarding those appropriately believed to be terrorists, is acceptable. Secondly, terrorists believe in terror. To ‘speak’ to them, you are going to neeed to frighten them.

    michael (387479)

  116. “torture was not legal through two world wars. Why?”

    Because there were international laws regarding treatment of uniformed combatants and non combatant civilians.
    One of the reasons non uniformed combatants were not afforded protection under the laws was because of how this type of activity increases the risk of death within the innocent civilian population.

    Japanese tortured American, Dutch, Australian, Filipino, Chinese, Korean, uniformed personnel regardless of the laws and the Japanese were prosecuted.

    The Soviets were said to execute uniformed German prisoners and subjected some thousands of uniformed German POW’s to appallingly brutal assault and torture.
    The Soviets won of course and I don’t think any of their war fighters got charged for any of their crimes. I doubt any of the Soviets involved even got a reprimand.

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  117. Sorry to come late to the party. Weekend commenting is a little erratic.

    Although I don’t agree with the premises insofar as they relate to the efficacy (or, rather, the accuracy) of torture, I’ll play the game and take that up later. However, there is one part of the introduction with which I don’t agree: I am not at all sure that a German Army private who shot American soldiers was “behaving wrongly”. Do I think a Wehrmacht colonel who ordered the massacre of civilians or torture of prisoners was behaving wrongly? Yes, because there was a pre-existing understanding that these acts (much less Auschwitz) were criminal and reprehensible. But judging a private by the morality of his cause is more than a little dicey: would you care to apply it to Vietnam? The Mexican War? Interestingly enough, this has relevance to my explanation why we should not be using torture, even at some cost to ourselves.

    First: the United States is not only a signatory of the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, we were one of the sponsors. If we decide that under suitable provocation, we can break these treaties (which brook no exceptions), they are basically worthless. It’s ridiculous to hold other states to positions we have abandoned. Indeed, we would probably owe apologies (in some cases post-execution) to Germans and Japanese who should benefit from our new understanding of the “but we really need it to win” exception to torture. Incidentally, we are sending a clear message that our signature to all other treaties is worthless without even the courtesy of formal withdrawal. What sort of leadership we show in the world and cooperation we get from the civilized countries (a group I would say no longer includes us) is zero, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the pro-torture set largely coincides with the we’re-so-big-we-make-our-own-rules set. In combating international terror, I don’t think that’s going to work.

    Second, I also would like to point out that the record of states which resorted to torture isn’t that good. Given who won WWII and who lost, the appeal of Japanese methods of interrogation must lie in the realm of abnormal psychology and not military success. Nor did torture save the Nazis, the Soviet Union, the Shah of Iran, the Argentine junta, the Chilean junta, etc. Even our BFFs the Israelis must wonder if their extensive program of torture developed more counter-terrorist intel than it radicalized the Palestinian population. We have already followed the USSR in a blunderous invasion (their commitment in Afghanistan was comparable in sicope to ours in Iraq). Why we should follow them onto the ash heap of history, I can’t fathom.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (b9afa2)

  118. Itsme, it is the point. You don’t understand the principle of reciprocity at all.

    SteveG, in fact the Soviets tried to pin some of their atrocities on the Germans, see the Katyn Forest.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  119. 105

    I am not saying this would be a good idea just that it would sometimes work just as torture sometimes works. If you want to argue bad long term effects you can do the same for torture.

    And your claim that it would put hundreds of millions of dollars in terrorist hands is dubious since that implies it would prevent numerous mass casualty attacks.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  120. Pablo #112:

    Actually, it does. The protections in the GC’s don’t apply to those who don’t follow them.

    I wasn’t talking strictly in terms of the GC. But if we are excused from being bound by or own or international laws or even morality, principles, and ethics, then we are perfectly justified in beheading suspects on video.

    Itsme (c209c4)

  121. AJL # 115:

    I agree with you about the questions raised. I think efficacy is in fact, a big part of the equation. blah posted a link to Col. Kleinman’s videotaped testimony that elaborates on that point.

    I also agree with this:

    I am not at all sure that a German Army private who shot American soldiers was “behaving wrongly”. Do I think a Wehrmacht colonel who ordered the massacre of civilians or torture of prisoners was behaving wrongly? Yes, because there was a pre-existing understanding that these acts (much less Auschwitz) were criminal and reprehensible. But judging a private by the morality of his cause is more than a little dicey: would you care to apply it to Vietnam? The Mexican War?

    Itsme (c209c4)

  122. SPQR #116:

    I understand that the principle of repricocity generally applies to states and legal entities.

    Itsme (c209c4)

  123. Correction, #118:

    “our own” not “or own”

    Itsme (c209c4)

  124. Wow. That’s two votes disagreeing with this statement:

    “If you shoot an American soldier because you are fighting for Hitler’s right to exterminate the Jews, you are behaving wrongly.”

    I wouldn’t have thought I’d find even one.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  125. Well P, if you are including me in that “two votes,” perhaps I should clarify.

    In the realm of moral culpability, I think there is a distinction between a soldier who is following otherwise legal orders to fight other soldiers and someone who acts from a particular motive or political agenda.

    Hence my agreement with (what I thought was) AJL’s point.

    Itsme (c209c4)

  126. It’s a minor point in the context of this discussion but I think comparisons to WWI and WWII are not helpful. There were many interrogations during those wars that would be classified as torture by today’s standards that were acceptable and even commonplace then. For instance, in WWII, uncooperative captives in the European theater were subjected to highly coercive interrogations and rendition.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  127. Patterico, no one disagrees that fighting for Hitler’s right to exterminate Jews was wrong. But the implication that all (or even a substantial number of) German soldiers were fighting for Hitler’s right to kill Jews is wrong, and furthermore is a slander against the thousands of men who fought and died courageously for their country. Despite what Hitler and the Nazis were doing in the background, the actual German soldiers that we fought in WWII were among the most honorable enemies that the US has ever faced.

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  128. I second Doc Rampage’s comment. My Dad was in the European theater for most of the war. He has far more respect for the Germans he fought against than for the English he fought alongside.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  129. DRJ #126:

    He has far more respect for the Germans he fought against than for the English he fought alongside.

    Wow, there’s a story there, I’ll bet.

    Itsme (c209c4)

  130. Several.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  131. These comments reinforce the general point I was making.

    It matters what you do.

    And it matters why you are doing it.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  132. You mean it ain’t what ya do it’s the way how ya do it? It ain’t what ya chew it’s the way how ya chew it?

    Couldn’t resist, sorry.

    Itsme (c209c4)

  133. Itsme,

    But if we are excused from being bound by or own or international laws or even morality, principles, and ethics, then we are perfectly justified in beheading suspects on video.

    Not at all, because we’re not excused from our own morality, ethics and principles. Such things are situational and subject to balancing tests. If you’re picking up little old ladies or children from the street and waterboarding them, that’s shocking and unconscionable. If you pick up Khalid Sheik Mohammed and waterboard him, that’s not. And that calculation is based entirely on ethics and morality.

    If you’re beheading people with a rusty knife, that’s sadistic and it serves no legitimate purpose. If you’re shooting someone in the head, not so much, depending on who, where and why. Summary execution can be, under the right circumstances, the right thing to do. But as Patterico notes, it’s what you do and why you do it.

    Pablo (99243e)

  134. Why do people justify the practice of waterboarding as crucial to the war on terror and then say…but it’s only been used three times? Somehow, I really doubt that a long term “war on terror” is dependant on 3 interrogations.

    TCO (3b23ad)

  135. I’ll answer my own question:
    a. They are stupid.
    b. They are sophists.

    TCO (3b23ad)

  136. Oregonian, are you for real or are a conservative troll posing as a straw liberal to make Patterico’s point? On the off chance you are for real, here’s an inconvenient truth: alternate “reality” based community talking points aside, Library Tower is real, and so is the connection between waterboarding and its continued existence. Referring to that historical fact as a “TV-script scenario” is every bit as irresponsible, not to mention every bit as downright goofy, as claiming Neil Armstrong never really walked on the moon, or that 9/11 and the Kennedy assassinations were inside jobs. Lemme guess: you and your quaint little community probably buy into those “realities,” too, right?

    Xrlq (6a3c55)

  137. Oregonian is simply employing the same dodge that I fully expected from all people like her: folks puffed up with their own self-righteousness.

    Funny, though: she quoted me remonstrating someone for employing a dodge — but I was remonstrating Pablo for employing a similar dodge on behalf of conservatives.

    She didn’t read carefully enough to notice that. She simply assumed I was accusing a liberal of dodging a question — and eager (as I would expect from people like her) to rush to the keyboard to brag about how moral her position is.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  138. Pablo #131:

    I think there are some internal inconsistences in your argument.

    Laws are not situational. Ethics, morals, and principles are not situational. Either we are bound by them in all circumstances or we are not.

    Itsme (c209c4)

  139. Leaving aside the “honor” of those who swore loyalty to Adolph Hitler (and every WWII German soldier did that, Doc and DRJ) and going back to Patterico’s question:

    The baseline for the waterboarded prisoner is already high. He is a prisoner. He has been deprived of his home, family, friends. Whether he eats, drinks, performs his bodily functions, moves is at the will of his captors.

    Since we are his captors, I presume conclusively that we have done that to him because he is dangerous to us. Nonetheless, we have caused him a great harm for our protection.

    How much of a greater harm is waterboarding, as we do it, if it is necessary for our protection? For the protection of even one innocent life anywhere in the world?

    I vote that that incremental increase in our trespass on another human being is de minimis. Neither immoral nor illegal. It would be immoral, in my opinion, for our squeamishness (and it is squeamishnes not ethics) to allow the taking of an innocent life.

    nk (09a321)

  140. Itsme,

    I disagree. For instance, shooting someone in self defense is moral while shooting someone for fun is not. Both involve shooting but one is ethical while the other isn’t.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  141. Itsme, of course ethics and morals are situational. We don’t view all actions the same, outside of the situation.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  142. Laws are not situational. Ethics, morals, and principles are not situational.

    Of course they are. Shooting someone in anger is illegal and immoral. Shooting then in self defense or the defense of others is not. Kicking down someone’s door to intimidate them is illegal and immoral. Kicking down someone’s door to drag them out of a burning building is not.

    Perhaps you’re confusing acts with laws, ethics morals and principles. Your argument smacks of zero tolerance policies and legislation which have led to some rather ridiculous outcomes. Prosecuting the guys who broke KSM would be such an outcome.

    Let me ask you, if such a prosecution took place, would you support a pardon?

    Pablo (99243e)

  143. nk,

    (and it is squeamishnes not ethics)

    Exactly right, except for when it’s political grandstanding, which IMHO, is as repulsive as any torture.

    Pablo (99243e)

  144. NK,

    To me, condemning all German soldiers for Hitler’s genocide of the Jews would be like condemning all US soldiers for My Lai. It’s a fair condemnation if they participated in atrocities or if they knew and supported it. Otherwise, I don’t get it.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  145. Speaking of honor and Germany, there is an article in our local paper today by a guy who survived 5 extermination labor camps and a death march.
    He is a Jew and his name is Norman Jaffe.
    Jaffe recalls that on Crystal Night his father came to the dinner table dressed in his Kaiser Army uniform. His chest was covered with medals and included the Iron Cross First Class for heroism and bravery in battle from WWI.
    He made it clear that they were German patriots first and Jews second… thugs appeared at the door and Mr. Jaffe demanded to know if they had ever fought for Germany…. they beat him, his wife and his son to the floor with rifle butts.

    Zero respect for bravery, honor and sacrifice.

    Today is the day we honor American veterans. It isn’t a day for nuance, or for hoping we lose, or placing political gains over their lives.

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  146. NK writes: “I vote that that incremental increase in our trespass on another human being is de minimis. Neither immoral nor illegal. ”

    I would disagree. I strongly object to calling waterboarding “torture” as I find that ridiculous rhetoric and that the motivations for it are less a concern for the interrogation practices of our nation than a desire to fulfill the speakers’ desire to cast their political opponents all as nazis. The cheap political theatrics that we see are good ways for those willing to observe to see who is and who is not adult enough to be entrusted with safe-guarding our national security.

    Nonetheless, waterboarding is an abuse of prisoners that must be carefully controlled, and applied only with grave reflection. It is a technique that we need to keep available but be concerned each time it is employed.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  147. Nonetheless, waterboarding is an abuse of prisoners that must be carefully controlled, and applied only with grave reflection. It is a technique that we need to keep available but be concerned each time it is employed.

    Given that the total to date is 3, I’d say that’s exactly what we’ve done with it. Which you wouldn’t know to listen to the torture shriekers.

    Pablo (99243e)

  148. DRJ #140,

    Millions of pages have been written about the complicity of the Wehrmacht to Hitler’s crimes, starting with the Night of the Long Knives when they locked themselves in their barracks and let the SS and the Gestapo run lose to kill Hitler’s rivals and finally consolidate his power. They set out on a war of conquest. The SS and Einsatzgruppen would have been nothing without the Wehrmacht subjugating their victims first. They were committing their atrocities under the protection of the Wehrmacht. They all loved Hitler. As long as he was winning. It was only when the Russians started teaching them what real honor, patriotism, sacrifice and love of one’s country mean that some turned against him.

    And anyway, reviling WWII Germans is better than reviling poor blah.

    nk (09a321)

  149. I can’t imagine you would hold the Russians up as paragons of honor, NK, but in a way this brings us to a point I think has been lacking here.

    War is hell. Subjecting it to civilized rules makes it more likely we will be willing to go to war. I doubt that’s a result anyone here wants.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  150. yeah, nk, between the Soviet’s NKVD, and the German Gestapo/SS einsatzgruppen, gulags and concentration camps, it is a choice of degrees at best.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  151. DRJ, SPQR, Pablo:

    We have determined that shooting someone in self-defense is moral, ethical, and usually legal. We are agree to be bound by that. It does not mean that the morality, ethics, and legality is situational.

    And as to some of the examples, eg, beheading suspects…well, we have determined that that is not moral because it is done in anger or whatever. However, the individuals who have done just that have determined that it is in fact moral and ethical. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, if you really believed that witches could maim and destroy, burning them would be moral and ethical … you are operating within your own universe of morals and ethics.

    Itsme (846a95)

  152. Sorry, “It does not mean that the morality, ethics, and legality of shooting someone in self-defense is situational.”

    Itsme (846a95)

  153. Morality differs with the situation but that doesn’t make it subjective. I think you’ve confused situational for subjective.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  154. Possibly. But the description I’ve seen here suggests it depends only the end being served, which isn’t the same as saying we are bound by moral codes.

    Itsme (846a95)

  155. I can also argue both sides. I’ve been shot with a taser in law enforcement training. It was a few seconds of hell but when the current was shut off I was fine. But would I consider it torture for police to use it as an interrogation tool? You bet.

    On the other hand my wife went through SERE while in the air force academy in the late 80′s. She was tortured, starved, an sleep deprived as part of her training. She went home on the break to her horrified parents 15 pounds underweight and covered with bruises. Her offense was that she was a beautiful and athletic young patriot who wanted to serve her country. So do I get upset when a suspected murdering terrorist gets a little water in his gullet? No.

    steve rogers (5cedf1)

  156. Hallo,

    auf der Suche nach Gebrauchtwagen|Autos|Jahreswagen|Unfallwagen|gebrauchten Autos| bin ich in diesem Forum gelandet.

    Falls etwas zum Verkauf im Raum Dresden ansteht bitte kurze PN.

    Hochachtungsvoll|MfG|Gruss|Bis dann

    Sassan Hilgendorf
    Automobile|Gebrauchtwagen|Autos|Jahreswagen|Unfallwagen Dresden

    Sassan Hilgendorf Gebrauchtwagen (be355d)

  157. Ich will mich mal hier zu Wort melden.
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    Sassan Hilgendorf Frankfurt (e45bf2)


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