Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Torture Nation

I think it is now patently clear that the United States, under Bush-Cheney, became a torture nation. Whether one seeks to justify the behavior or condemn it, I really don't think it is beyond any reasonable question that the behavior took place, that it was carefully planned and executed, and that it constitutes torture.

Frankly, I am horrified.

We have become what we supposedly despise.

And Peggy Noonan would just like to put on the blinders and simply walk right by it.

Catholics who fashion themselves as adherents to the Church's pro-life orthodoxies would do well to read Mark Shea on the subject.

11 comments:

Eric said...

"We have become what we supposedly despise."

Funny how we can approach that statement from two compeltely different perspectives and come to an agreement about it! I think the same thought, but it has nothing to do with waterborading terrorists.

Huck said...

Eric - Well, we know that my reference is to torture; but, I'm still unclear what your use of the statement would apply to. I would assume it has to do with the functioning of government? Perhaps you think we are becoming a "Socialist" country? Is that what you mean? If so, I'm not sure that we have "despised" the nanny state in the same way that we despise torture. I hear lots of people admit to big government, but I hear very few admit to torture. And even though I would guess most Americans live beyond their means on credit, much like our government does, I don't think we can say the same about most Americans practicing torture like their government does.

Eric said...

"I don't think we can say the same about most Americans practicing torture like their government does."

I don't know. A whole lot of people watch reality shows. Personally, I'd rather be waterboarded.

Eric said...

"If so, I'm not sure that we have "despised" the nanny state in the same way that we despise torture."

And I can only speak for myself here, but yes, I certainly despise the nanny state more than I despise belonging to a country that waterboarded three guys to save thousands.

Huck said...

Eric - Am I understanding correctly that you are essentially saying you're a torture apologist before a welfare advocate? No carrots, only sticks! Well, it's not like we just waterboarded (and only waterboarded) three guys one time. We waterboarded hundreds of time, we banged them into walls, we sleep-deprived them (hell, I remember even you calling this practice torture), etc. And there's clear evidence that there were plenty more than just three. And there's NO evidence that the information they provided saved ANY lives. (All we hear are claims by the torturers that this saved lives, but I have yet to hear any specific details of targets, plans, bombings, etc., that were stopped). And, regardless of all this, is the practice of torture, and the law-breaking that came with this, morally and legally acceptable?

Eric said...

"Am I understanding correctly that you are essentially saying you're a torture apologist before a welfare advocate?"

If we are going to lump sleep deprivation and waterboarding in the same category as dismemberment, skin flaying, and foot roasting then yes, I suppose you could say that statement is true. Maybe that makes me a bad person, or maybe there is a problem with our definition of torture being too broad.

" We waterboarded hundreds of time, we banged them into walls, we sleep-deprived them (hell, I remember even you calling this practice torture), etc. "

Then I guess maybe they shouldn't have been involved doing the major planning for 9/11 and other heinious attacks against this country. If we had just scooped people up off the street and done this to them, I'd feel very differnet about it, but when you have one of the main masterminds of 9/11 in front of you, and his answer to your questions about upcoming attacks is, "Soon, you will know..." then you do what you can to make him tell you.


"And there's clear evidence that there were plenty more than just three."

There was enough evidence of inaproppriate and unauthoraized actions at Abu Ghraib to put some people in jail, but of course in that case, justice was served. They didn't commit any waterboarding there, and I haven't seen any evidence that more than three people were waterboarded.

"And there's NO evidence that the information they provided saved ANY lives."

Well, other than the testimony of a CIA Director Michael Hayden to a Senate Committee, who cites that two of the waterboarded 9/11 planners accounted for 25% of the human intelligence reports circulated by the CIA on Al Qaeda in the five years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Also, a CIA legal counseler revealed a lot of details to a Justice Departnment inquiry, as detailed here: http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2009/04/exclusive-text-what-waterboarding.html

"And, regardless of all this, is the practice of torture, and the law-breaking that came with this, morally and legally acceptable?"

In this case, if it's not it should be. Lots of special circumstances exist during a time of war, especially when your enemy is not part of any formal army or nation. This is one of them.

Huck said...

Eric - First, let me say that I don't think your position makes you a bad person. I just don't find it consistent with your other commitments to liberty, freedom, and the heavy hand of an oppressive big brother.

As trite as I know you probably think this sounds, the torture issue is not and never has been about them. It is always about us. Our founding fathers, in fact George Washington himself, uncategorically called on the humane treatment of prisoners -- even those who were "irregular" prisoners. And it wasn't because he couldn't envision the kind of terrorists there are today, it was because he understood the principle that, as Shep Smith says: this is America and in America we do not torture. Period.

The definition of torture that we have used in the U.S. has not changed at all since World War II up until the Bush Administration. Waterboarding, sleep-deprivation, walling, stress positions, etc., have always been classified as torture. Either it always was or it never was, but the fact is that we DID have a clear understanding of what constituted torture and we called it uncategorically evil. I don't see how it stopped being an evil just because a terrorist is a particular creature these days than in previous days. That just doesn't compute to me.

With regard to the link between waterboarding and information dissemination, what we know is that whatever information we gleaned from these detainees, we got through interrogation methods that did not use torture. Your assumption is that the torture led to the information, and I have seen no information that proves this in the least. What is pretty clear now is that the torture just led to more torture, not to information produced by the torture that was useful in saving lives.

It just strikes me as odd that you would worry about the nanny state, even if you aren't nannied by the state yourself, but that you aren't equally worried about big brother, even if you're not big brothered yourself.

Eric said...

"Your assumption is that the torture led to the information, and I have seen no information that proves this in the least."

There is plenty of information out there to that effect. The CIA director specifically said, in his Senate Panel testimony, that they didn't employ enhanced interrogation techinques until their regular techniques had failed to provide any information. In fact, prior to being waterboarded, Khalid Sheik Mohommad was pretty snarky in his comments during interrogation, stating that 'Soon, you will know..." when asked about future Al Queda operations. After being waterboarded (many times), he not only spilled his guts about the '2nd wave' attack planned for California, but he turned over the names of the cell members, who were then apprehended. There are other examples of similar results yielded by these techniques.

So I don't think you can say with any authority that these methods aren't effective. They most certainly are. I can understand you making an argument that you would rather let Americans die in terrorist attacks than have our government engage in anything that can be construed as torture in order to get information that could save them. I think you are wrong, and I think most people would disagree with you, (especially when it comes to sleep deprivation and stress positions), but I understand where your appeal comes from, and even respect it to a degree. But it is misplaced in this case.

"It just strikes me as odd that you would worry about the nanny state, even if you aren't nannied by the state yourself, but that you aren't equally worried about big brother, even if you're not big brothered yourself."

I'm plenty worried about being big brothered. The nanny state IS big brothering. What I'm not worried about is being waterboarded by my government in order to obtain information about terrorist threats.

Christopher Taylor said...

"Your assumption is that the torture led to the information, and I have seen no information that proves this in the least."The CIA several times and President Obama's own press secretary specifically confirmed this is true.

Poison Jack said...

I think that it's a specious argument that torture is okay because we gleaned valuable information that saved a few lives. It freaks me out that Cheney is pressing Obama to release the results of the torture as if the results actually make any difference.

If we are going to commit to a policy of torture then we will be setting a clear precedent that takes us down a very slippery road.

First, something as simple as the decision to torture invites our enemies to torture our own citizens, and we invite this behavior for all time (until of course we have subjugated the entire world or been defeated). That means when our children go abroad for a vacation to Europe and are kidnapped by an extremist faction, we can count on their being tortured. It means that our soldiers captured in action will be tortured. People on hijacked airplanes will be singled out and tortured. What does it matter that they may or may not have useful information? The torture our children and our grandchildren will experience will be exacted on us as revenge, because to our enemies, Americans are now less than human. So what does it matter that we save a thousand innocent civilians? If the price is only five U.S. citizens captured, tortured, then dismembered in public each year, is it still worth it? When does it end? How do we make it end?

Second, we need to decide what will become of our prisoners in the end; the logical conclusion of torturing prisoners is that they can never be released without our unleashing sociopathic monsters on society. Once we have extracted all of the information that we need from them, or once any intelligence we get from them is hopelessly out of date, then we have another decision to make. Should the taxpayer shoulder the expense of keeping them in prison until their natural death? Such a decision would be unpopular with proponents of a small government. Perhaps it would be better to simply kill them and return their remains to their families, or feed them to the pigs. Imagine each prisoner growing in their hatred for Americans as they endure torture. They resolve to exact revenge on Americans. When this prisoner is released, and a group of Americans visit his town five years from now, how will he treat them? We already have evidence that each one of these released prisoners leave Cuba and has a cost to us – of infrastructure, allied lives, American lives, and innocent civilians. So should the taxpayer foot the expense of rehabilitating the prisoners with decades of therapy, or is the price of a single bullet an easier pill to swallow?

Third, as we’ve already seen at Abu Ghraib, all those impressionable American teenagers watched CIA agents torture the prisoners, and suddenly to these unfinished minds, our behavior made everything okay. It set a precedent for cruel, inhuman abuse that has damaged the reputation of our country beyond all possible repair.

Finally, what happens when it gets completely out of control? What happens when your own child is suspected of colluding with the enemy because they wear a T-shirt in Arabic with a verse of the Koran on it, and she is taken in and tortured every day for a decade or two? Will you be able to stop it then?

Evil always grows. It always gets out of hand; it snowballs and it rolls downhill. Torture, concentration camps, these things are the end of freedom. Anyone who believes that our actions don’t lay waste to human civilization in the future is kidding themselves.

We need to decide once and for all what we stand for. If we are going to be a superpower and subjugate the world, and quash all dissent, and observe and suspect all people, then we may as well get started in earnest and put these troublesome scabs to the sword, and take our rightful place at the top rung of civilization. We already spend 44% of the world’s military dollars – we can easily subjugate this planet.

If, on the other hand, diversity is to be embraced and respected, and justice and charity for all people is our highest principle, who would we be then? Will we need to spend 650 billion dollars a year on defense when our biggest possible enemy spends less than 70 billion? Who can justify this kind of humongous government?

mominem said...

Let me interject that the conversation has exceeded its limits.

On one side are those who believe that anything less than Miranda warnings and exclusion of the forbidden fruit is tantamount to torture. Including the use of deceit, deprivation of religious totems or zealous legal representation.

On the other hand you have the crowd who believe that any means justify the ends.

There is virtually no discussion of the middle ground.

Is threatening "water boarding" torture? Is deceit an acceptable interrogation technique? How bout denying there is any meaning to the Presidents pronouncements? Surely our enemies will say that.