Pharyngula

President Obama has released memos on the policies on prisoner interrogation under former President Bush. These are horrifying documents that expose the immorality of the previous administration. Unfortunately, Obama has not gone far enough: it’s a good start to reveal the truth, but what needs to be done next is to investigate the senior officials who advised the perpetrators that torture was legal.

That investigation should start with the lawyers who wrote these sickening memos, including John Yoo, who now teaches law in California; Steven Bradbury, who was job-hunting when we last heard; and Mr. Bybee, who holds the lifetime seat on the federal appeals court that Mr. Bush rewarded him with.

These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him. And if the administration will not conduct a thorough investigation of these issues, then Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the executive branch accountable. If that means putting Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales on the stand, even Dick Cheney, we are sure Americans can handle it.

After eight years without transparency or accountability, Mr. Obama promised the American people both. His decision to release these memos was another sign of his commitment to transparency. We are waiting to see an equal commitment to accountability.

We need to organize to bring these criminals to justice. You should sign petitions demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor, and demanding that California impeach Jay Bybee.

This is the least we can do, and I think even these petitions don’t go far enough: I want to see George W. Bush and Dick Cheney held accountable for their villainy. Start here, though, and bring the corrupt lawyers who made excuses for horror to trial.

Comments

  1. #1 SocraticGadfly
    April 20, 2009

    You should also stop enabling the two-party duopoly, folks. Vote Green, or Socialist, or something. As I have, the past two presidential elections.

    You should also push Congress for public funding of Congressional as well as Presidential elections, including provisions for third-party candidates.

    Until you do, it’s kind of like a spouse, partner, etc., enabling an alcoholic.

  2. #2 me
    April 20, 2009

    Bybee is a federal judge, Congress would have to impeach him. That petition is just a (futile) LA Democratic Party resolution.

  3. #3 Catboy
    April 20, 2009

    Mr. Obama promised the American people both.

    And anyone who bought that is required to turn in their skeptic’s badge, certificate and decoder ring.

  4. #4 Pat McComb
    April 20, 2009

    Thanks for posting this.

  5. #5 GBJ
    April 20, 2009

    It is up to the Justice Department, not the White House, to determine whether to prosecute federal crimes. We’ve just lived through a period of time during which the Justice Dept. was transformed into a political appendage of the White House and I don’t think that Barack Obama is the kind of president who will engage in that form of governmental perversion. I’m hoping that Eric Holder will appoint a special prosecutor to deal with this.

    The wingnuts will go berserk. But they go berserk no matter what.

  6. #6 tsig
    April 20, 2009

    Sure takes the bloom off the Rose.

    I didn’t let myself have too much hope but I guess that was too much.

    I hate being ashamed of my country.

  7. #7 SocraticGadfly
    April 20, 2009

    Creationists are suing the state of Texas after officially being called stupid, or willfully scientifically illiterate, to be polite, a year ago.

  8. #8 800guy
    April 20, 2009

    I say make all the guys who “legalized” torture submit to the same interrogation techniques for about a month. The experiment can end after that month or sooner if they admit to their crimes. I bet they don’t last a week. LOL

  9. #9 K. Signal Eingang
    April 20, 2009

    He may have promised accountability – I’m not sure when or where – but he never promised prosecutions. Remember, Obama voted for telecom immunity, too. I’m disappointed as much as anybody here, but for better and worse, this is the guy who ran, and this is the guy we elected.

    But! That’s all the more reason to write your congresspeople, organize, and put the pressure on. If we want to see justice done, we know the administration can’t, or won’t lead the parade – we’ll have to drag them along with us. Whether that’s done through Congress, the Justice Department, or private suits, we *can* make this happen.

  10. #10 Alverant
    April 20, 2009

    There are two problems, both with politics. First it sets a bad example for a current leader to prosecute the previous leader for crimes while in office. Even if the previous leader is guilty beyond reason. If Obama does this, what do you think will happen when the next Republican president takes office? Start going after Obama out of revenge. Of course they probably will anyway because conservatives like to pretend they’re tough and for the rule of law.

    Second if Obama does prosecute the crimes of the Bush administration, the conservatives are going to whine about persecution and claim this it’s purely partisan and revenge for Clinton (who was punished more more for far less crimes).

    I really don’t see a way to find justice for what the Bush administration did now that he’s out of office. Everything now will seem like revenge even if it isn’t – especially when it isn’t because Republicans hate being held responsible for anything. Responsibility is for Democrats and liberals.

  11. #11 CalGeorge
    April 20, 2009

    Obama spent today placating the C.I.A.

    Mr. Obama went out of his way to lavish praise on intelligence officers, using words like ?indispensable,? ?courage? and ?remarkable? and promising his ?support and appreciation.?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/21/us/politics/21intel.html

    He’s a lost cause. Justice will have to come without his participation.

  12. #12 raven
    April 20, 2009

    It is a major surprise and accomplishment that any of this torture stuff is coming out. Governments rarely release secret information that makes them look bad. About once in a blue moon at the most.

    This is an extraordinary event.

    I doubt that any hearings or judicial actions will be held until most of the perpetrators are way old and the statue of limitations has run out. If then.

    But the info is out there and circulating among the media and the internet. Thinking people will draw their own conclusions.

  13. #13 Nils Ross
    April 20, 2009

    Look, I’m not from the US, but what you’re suggesting isn’t right or helpful P. Z.

    What was done may was torture, but it was mandated from the top. The lawyers who justified it, the agents who ordered it, and the agents and contractors that carried it out were doing so on orders from the top.

    Now, the Nazi ‘just following orders’ defense doesn’t hold here either; but unless you can make a conviction stick to Cheney and Bush it isn’t right to go after the guys underneath them, who, after all, were just doing their jobs. If you can’t cut off the head don’t go for the body.

    Practically speaking, you won’t do any good by going after anyone on this. The best way forward is simply to resolve never to open that door again; the US’s loss of credibility and moral authority on the international stage should be lesson enough for future politicians in this regard.

  14. #14 The Sanity Inspector
    April 20, 2009

    All congressfolks who agitate for prosecution of CIA or military interrogators should have a Gitmo detainee released into their districts.

  15. #15 SocraticGadfly
    April 20, 2009

    @ Eingang @9: When did Obama even promise “accountability”? I think he UNpromised accountability when he flip-flopped (nothing else to call it) on telco immunity. I was already planning on voting Green (not that they’re perfect by any means, and there’s nothing else on the left in Texas) before that, but that confirmed everything I’d already been feeling that way.

    Let’s also not forget that, per his biographer David Mendell, even his 2002 antiwar speech was partially (I did NOT say entirely, so nobody flame me) politically motivated.

  16. #16 mxh
    April 20, 2009

    @#12

    But the info is out there and circulating among the media and the internet. Thinking people will draw their own conclusions.

    That’s nice, but the media is pretty good at twisting it. When these reports came out, Fox News immediately had this headline: “Attorney: Justice Memos Prove US Did Not Torture”. It’s complete B.S., but the american people will buy it. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many “thinking people” in the US, most would rather have their “information” spoonfed to them.

  17. #17 SocraticGadfly
    April 20, 2009

    @ Sanity Inspector @15.. False dilemma, textbook-level example. Go read The Skeptic?s Dictionary.

  18. #18 Janine, Insulting Sinner
    April 20, 2009

    Sanity Inspector, you should be waterboarded six times a day for a month so that we can see what information you may hold. You might be surprised by what you “know”.

  19. #19 Ian
    April 20, 2009

    @Alverant, #10

    First it sets a bad example for a current leader to prosecute the previous leader for crimes while in office. Even if the previous leader is guilty beyond reason.

    I’m sorry, but that line of reasoning makes absolutely no sense unless you expect every administration to commit war crimes. And, of course, it means that governments can commit crimes like this with impunity, because they know that they will be shielded by their successors.

    Torture and war crimes aren’t like other crimes. You are obligated to prosecute suspected torturers. Failure to do so makes you guilty of a crime.

    @Nils Ross #13

    Practically speaking, you won’t do any good by going after anyone on this. The best way forward is simply to resolve never to open that door again

    Shielding these people from prosecution is the best way to ensure that it will happen again.

  20. #20 Daniel Hast
    April 20, 2009

    I more or less agree with Nils Ross @13?it is impractical in the current political climate to pursue criminal investigations into the matter?but I think the United States needs to go beyond simply resolving never to torture again.

    President Obama can advocate something that is much less politically risky than attempting to prosecute the war criminals of the Bush administration: putting laws in place to ensure that nothing like that could happen again. The U.S. needs clear, unambiguous, and strongly enforced laws that absolutely prohibit torture of any sort, under any circumstances. To start, Congress should put the rules of the Geneva Conventions directly into U.S. law, so that no one can claim that the U.S. is exempt from those international laws.

    Going further, there should be a clear punishment for authorizing torture at all levels of government. For one thing, knowingly authorizing the use of torture should be explicitly designated as an impeachable offense. There should also be protections in place for those who refuse to carry out acts of torture, to remove the excuse that they were just following “orders from the top.”

    This would, in my opinion, be much more feasible and beneficial of a move.

  21. #21 SocraticGadfly
    April 20, 2009

    What we REALLY need is parliamentary government.

    Read ?The Frozen Republic? by Daniel Lazare.

  22. #22 Meng Bomin
    April 20, 2009

    @#1:

    You should also stop enabling the two-party duopoly, folks. Vote Green, or Socialist, or something. As I have, the past two presidential elections.

    You, my friend, have been doing this in the wrong order. What you should be doing is promoting the adoption of a voting system other than single-member district plurality, which is unfortunately just about universally used in American elections with the notable exception of the abomination we call the Electoral College (which is de facto based on SMDP, but takes it to another level of ridiculousness).

    Until we have a different voting system, the two party system is going to stay well entrenched for a very long time. Public funding may erode it to some degree, but until a third party can act as a true competitor and not as a spoiler (giving the win to the candidate least like them), third parties will continue to be irrelevant.

    So, basically, right now, you’re mainly forfeiting your own say in the process and you’re no less of an enabler than those who vote for a major party ticket.

  23. #23 Larry
    April 20, 2009

    I want to say this as painlessly as possible. I think too many of us are trying to be the Lone Ranger
    riding into Dodge City trying to clean up the mess the town has turned into insteead of being out on the range dealing with the rustling happening now. Obama and our government have enough to deal with presently. In revealing the torture
    guidelines, Obama has already “sentenced” Bush and his cronies to a thinking, rational public.

  24. #24 SocraticGadfly
    April 20, 2009

    @ Daniel Hast @ 20:

    No, there is no “need” for such a program. The Genevas are “the law of the land,” as is the International Convention against Torture, per our constitution.

    All we need to do is enforce laws that are on the books.

  25. #25 raven
    April 20, 2009

    That’s nice, but the media is pretty good at twisting it. When these reports came out, Fox News immediately had this headline: “Attorney: Justice Memos Prove US Did Not Torture”. It’s complete B.S., but the american people will buy it. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many “thinking people” in the US, most would rather have their “information” spoonfed to them.

    The type of people who watch Fox News still think Obama is a Kenyan Moslem Terrorist and Bush is a saint.

    The media is far larger than TV or cable. The internet is an important source and is taking over to a large extent from both TV and print.

    Yeah, yeah, The USA is full of idiots. Not that other countries don’t have their idiots as well. Still Obama was elected over the christofascist and the zombie. The die hard Bush fans won’t know or care but plenty of people will. You have to deal with the population you have, all 300 million, rather than the population that exists only in your dreams.

  26. #26 The Chemist
    April 20, 2009

    I hate to agree with the people expecting little from Obama… but I do. Sadly, I can’t claim I didn’t ever believe the hype.

  27. #27 Liveliest Crib
    April 20, 2009

    SocraticGadfly @ #1:

    You should also stop enabling the two-party duopoly, folks. Vote Green, or Socialist, or something. As I have, the past two presidential elections.

    Indeed, the duopoly of Do-Nothing Democrats and Know-Nothing Republicans is nefarious, but third parties will not become viable without comprehensive ELECTORAL REFORM. And I’m not referring to the electoral college. I’m referring to the archaic manner in which we allocate representation in local, state and federal offices. We have single-member districts and first-past-the-post majoritarian elections. No recently formed democracy operates under that system, which fosters and perpetuates the kind of duopoly we have. We need to abandon it.

    GBJ @ #5:

    It is up to the Justice Department, not the White House, to determine whether to prosecute federal crimes.

    Fair enough, I suppose, but the the DoJ is still an arm of the executive branch. For all practical intents and purposes, Holder knows that Obama can remove him at will, and while I agree that the DoJ should not become merely a political tool for the person or party in the White House, I can’t quite let the President of the United States off the hook just because he says, “It’s not really up to me.” Yeah, it is. If Obama would encourage, if not order, Holder to prosecute, it would happen.

  28. #28 Liveliest Crib
    April 20, 2009

    Meng Bomin @ #22,

    Right on! Too many Americans do not even understand that there are other, better systems of allocating representation. Systems that actually represent EVERYONE, as opposed to the arbitrary majorities of gerrymandered districts.

    We can even reform our system with few changes to the ballot or the act of voting in the U.S., even keeping primary and general elections in which we vote for our one favorite candidate, and STILL end up representing everyone. It can be done. But people need to be educated about the issue.

  29. #29 TheNewAtheist
    April 20, 2009

    President Obama is in a very difficult situation. I believe he will go after the Bush administration for war crimes when and if he is re-elected. Hes trying to push an ambitious agenda and will spend all his political capital to get Bush now. We doesn’t want to make the same mistake as Clinton did, ruling too far to the left which lead to the so-called Republican Revolution of 1994. I know I sound like an Obama apologist (or honk if you prefer), but President Obama always says politics is the art of the possible, and he is more concerned with health care, energy, and the economy than he is dealing with the criminals in the former administration. But, only for the moment.

    http://www.TheNewAtheist.com

  30. #30 Susan
    April 20, 2009

    Thanks for this. I just want to live in a country that doesn’t torture people. It doesn’t seem to much to ask, but it won’t happen until those who encourage and implement torture are not considered “too big to fail” and above the law.

  31. #31 MadScientist
    April 20, 2009

    Gee, and people told me I was paranoid when I said the Bush-monkey was the biggest threat to the nation and far more dangerous than those terrorists (my apologies to monkeys everywhere). I’m glad our current president isn’t a mere sock-puppet and I hope he doesn’t fall prey to such horrible advisers as Dubbyah had.

    I hope someone chases these people and puts them behind bars; that’ll show the world that we just don’t tolerate that stuff.

  32. #32 Avi Steiner
    April 20, 2009

    Do any of you guys know the page numbers for the stuff mentioned in this quote:

    They detail how to fashion a collar for slamming a prisoner against a wall, exactly how many days he can be kept without sleep (11), and what, specifically, he should be told before being locked in a box with an insect

  33. #33 not completely useless
    April 20, 2009

    Hey, the torturers have several defenses being put out by some pundits: they were advised it was legal; the country was trying to protect itself; etc, etc.

    Let’s just see how their arguments stand up in court, shall we?

  34. #34 Liveliest Crib
    April 20, 2009

    not completely useless @ 33:

    Hey, the torturers have several defenses being put out by some pundits: they were advised it was legal; the country was trying to protect itself; etc, etc. [ ] Let’s just see how their arguments stand up in court, shall we?

    Heh, the double standards for the “people in chrage” (for lack of a better term) are staggering.

    If I were to argue in court that my client was told by one of his attorneys that shoplifting was legal, my own law degree and credentials would likely be questioned.

    If I were to argue that my client killed someone in self defense, I would have to demonstrate how my client acted in conformity to the many, many nuances of that affirmative defense. Merely saying, “He was trying to defend himself,” is hardly enough, though that’s what’s bandied about by many on Talk Video.

  35. #35 Area52
    April 20, 2009

    and will spend all his political capital

    Along with all the federal revenues for the next 200 years.

  36. #36 CalGeorge
    April 21, 2009

    Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy:

    “The criminal law is not a private matter completely at the discretion of citizens. The public has a stake in upholding the criminal law, and is understood to be an interested party whenever it is broken.”

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justice-transitional/

    This is not a matter between Obama and the C.I.A.

    Obama and Holder has an obligation to society to pursue justice.

  37. #37 shamwow
    April 21, 2009

    Since when is it a given that waterboarding and rough treatment are torture? They’re certainly abuse but calling them torture dilutes the meaning of the word and hurts your credibility. I always found it odd that one of the coercive tactics used that certainly is torture (blasting damaging noise, causing hearing loss and tinnitus) flies under the radar while pouring water on a person’s face is depicted as morally outrageous. I’m glad he put an end to prolonged sleep deprivation and noise torture, but I want to keep waterboarding in our arsenal.

  38. #38 Pete
    April 21, 2009

    The pragmatic excuses for not prosecuting (the next administration will go after the current one; there will be violent riots; it will hamper the Democrats’ agenda) all share one thing in common: they are candid admissions that the government and/or society of the USA has in some way collapsed or failed.

    On the plus side, collapse makes it slightly more likely that another country may one day be able to bring Cheney and friends to justice.

  39. #39 windy
    April 21, 2009

    Thanks for posting about this PZ.

    shamwow:

    Since when is it a given that waterboarding and rough treatment are torture?

    At least since Japanese soldiers who did it to POWs were convicted of torture after WWII?

  40. #40 Sgt. Obvious
    April 21, 2009

    As much as I hate to admit it, because I hate the decision as much as you guys, the reasoning behind the decision is pretty solid. Let’s run through the list of potential criminal targets.

    First, we have the low-level people who actually did the torturing. While it’s been said that “just following orders” is no excuse, the fact remains that the military drives that principle into their recruits from day one, and I’m damn glad they do. I, for one, don’t want to see a bunch of heavily armed guys who just saw a friend get killed to just start winging it. A rigid adherence to orders, whether you agree with them or not, is essential. Prosecuting people for doing so would therefore be hypocritical, to say the least.

    Next, the people who game the orders. They swear up and down that they were told by the justice department that this was legal. Now, I certainly feel that could be looked into and verified, but if it’s true, they were acting in all good faith. If the justice department tells you something is legal, it becomes rather fair to assume that it is, in fact, legal, albeit not ethical.

    Lastly, the justice department heads themselves. Barring an explicit legal code declaring these practices to be torture (which, laws being as intentionally obscure as they are, is very unlikely), the question is one of interpretation. Given that, you can’t prosecute them just because the interpretation of the new administration is different. It is possible that they would have a case, but it’s rather unlikely it would go anywhere. Such a prosecution would just be a show for the public, and nothing would come of it.

    As I said, I hate the decision from an ethical standpoint, but from a legal one, it’s fairly solid.

  41. #41 natural cynic
    April 21, 2009

    @37: Waterboarding is torture. The United States prosecuted, convicted and hung several Japanese for waterboarding American POW’s in WWII. There are other precedents.

    And why would you keep waterboarding when it was so useless that they had to do it so many times. It was done purely for revenge after the 5th time IMHO. It has never been shown to be effective in doing anything other than making the victim say anything, which often turns out to be lies to try to please the torturer.

    The one hopeful thing here is that prosecutions are not supposed to be in the purview of the president. It is the US attorneys that determine whether to prosecute. Holder is not making any commitments at this time and Obama could have a potential problem with the US attorneys if he puts much pressure on them not to go forward. This whole idea may [hopefully] be Obama just finding a way to cover his ass a little bit “Hey folks, this wasn’t my idea”.

    And promoting and condoning torture is a high crime [a felony and a breach of treaties and international law]. Thus, it is an impeachable offense. No need for any further legislation.

  42. #42 Fiisi
    April 21, 2009

    Do any of you guys know the page numbers for the stuff mentioned in this quote:

    pp. 2-4

    At this link.

  43. #43 Scott from Oregon
    April 21, 2009

    The rule of law in America is only for poor folks to keep them behavin’ for the man…

    You actually expect the Federal Government to adhere to the rule of law when it comes to itself?

    That’s funny.

    Look at all of the fraud going unprosecuted involving banks and financials and those funny GS folks over at Treasury…

    Lying to the American people to promote a war which resulted in the death of lots of folks? No way Jose…

    Where are all the civil wrongful death suits over Iraq? You think there would be several, at least…

    When Obama tells you he’s “looking forward” it means his handlers don’t want to open up the can of worms that says those “too big to prosecute” can be brought to justice. That would suck for them, now wouldn’t it?

    Boggledy boggle…

  44. #44 Liveliest Crib
    April 21, 2009

    shamwow @ #37:

    Since when is it a given that waterboarding and rough treatment are torture? They’re certainly abuse but calling them torture dilutes the meaning of the word and hurts your credibility. I always found it odd that . . . pouring water on a person’s face is depicted as morally outrageous.

    Waterboarding is hardly “rough treatment” or “pouring water on a person’s face.” To suggest that it is undermines your credibility.

    Waterboarding is drowning. It’s not “simulated drowning,” as it is often called on talk video; it is drowning. It’s just that the waterboarder prevents actual death just in time, revives the subject, and then asks for more information. Only, of course, to repeat the process if the desired information is not forthcoming. Even people who volunteer to undergo waterboarding, those who know the people who will administer the procedure and fully trust them to prevent death, believe they are drowning to death during the treatment. They can’t breathe, and their minds believe they are dying. It is impossible not to.

    It’s akin to beating someone to within an inch of death, stopping to apply medical treatment to make him well again, and beating him again within an inch of death. All in the pursuit of dubious information.

    Waterboarding has been long understood to be torture, as other commenters have mentioned. What’s truly terrifying is that the one presidential administration, with the aid of FUX News, has been able to make it debatable by sheer repetition. Just say it enough, and it becomes true — or in the age of free speech, debatable.

    If the current trend in media continues, after we’ve all watched the Superbowl or World Series transpire, a talk video host will then hold a debate about which team actually won. His team, of course, will have been unarguably trounced, but no matter. He’ll force it into the debate that his team won, that “some people say” his team won, and that their “opinions” need to be respected.

  45. #45 xeric
    April 21, 2009

    I think folks are being very naive on this subject. The US (and ALL governments) will use torture and the threat of torture as a form of intimidation. Naturally we find OTHER countries guilty of illegal acts of torture (Japan as an example mentioned above) for propaganda purposes and to maintain a nationalistic sense of moral superiority. The use of torture after 9/11 was telegraphed by the Bush admin as a form of psyops, as was Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. The policy was to intimidate any opposition in the Middle East and elsewhere. It was an attempt to say “see this could happen to you”. It was even meant to intimidate opposition at home. There was never any interest in obtaining actual info from the use of torture (and there never really is) but it is standard operating procedure with “intelligence” agencies, as is covert assassination and a host of other dirty tricks. Is this morally acceptable? Of course not. But nation states have been playing this “game” for centuries. Mr. Obama is incapable of changing this scenario. He wouldn’t last long if he even tried. It would literally be suicide. Even a cursory reading of US history (and others) shows this to be the case. Some people in government will ALWAYS be above the law.

  46. #46 Liveliest Crib
    April 21, 2009

    Scott from Oregon @ #43:

    Where are all the civil wrongful death suits over Iraq? You think there would be several, at least…

    I do like your post. But there’s actually an easy (if frustrating and outrageous) answer to that one. Of course, the answer might itself be further evidence for your case, but there is an answer.

    Such suits have been deemed unconstitutional. The president has immunity from civil suit for any matter of policy s/he devises and carries out in his or her official capacity as president. One could try to sue other members of the executive branch, I suppose, but the attempt would likely be futile. The immunity will either extend downward, or the defendants would be deemed to be the wrong people to sue.

  47. #47 raven
    April 21, 2009

    The real professionals don’t think torture is very useful. Most people under torture will say anything. Hey, want to know where bin Laden is? Torture me. I’ll tell you exactly where he is even though I don’t even know if he is still alive. By the time you find out that someone just made something up to get it to stop, months have gone by.

    You get a lot of information by torturing people. Most of it is just made up stuff to get it to stop.

  48. #48 xeric
    April 21, 2009

    I might add that the Obama admin’s release of these documents and the pretense that there is “change” is really just a Bad Cop/Good Cop ploy for international consumption. There is continuity in American foriegn policy because our political system never really enters into it. The ends always justify the means.

  49. #49 agenoria
    April 21, 2009

    I e-mailed the Department of Justice about waterboarding six months ago. Other than an automated acknowledgment, still no reply. Not that I’m expecting one.

  50. #50 shamwow
    April 21, 2009

    @44 [quote]It’s akin to beating someone to within an inch of death, stopping to apply medical treatment to make him well again, and beating him again within an inch of death. All in the pursuit of dubious information.[/quote]

    Beating somebody to within an inch of their lives necessarily causes permanent bodily damage. Barring the odd death by heart attack, interrupted drowning performed responsibly causes no long-term physical damage. Inflicting temporary dread and panic may be cruel but it is not akin to inflicting bodily trauma, and PTSD is amenable to treatment. The information extracted may be dubious, but not useless. Further corroboration and investigation will be necessary.

  51. #51 Jadehawk
    April 21, 2009

    Beating somebody to within an inch of their lives necessarily causes permanent bodily damage.

    aaah yes…. the good old “it’s not abuse if there are no marks” line.

    lovely

  52. #52 Faith's A Sin Of Pride
    April 21, 2009

    @shamwow

    Cheney ? Dick, is that you ? ;)

  53. #53 Faith's A Sin Of Pride
    April 21, 2009

    Or are you just some ordinary Dick ?

  54. #54 breadmaker
    April 21, 2009

    so what’s the fundamental moral problem with torture?
    can’t we be humble enough to acknowledge that we may be ignoring untested assumptions as to what will build a healthy and safe society?

    what’s all the fuss about? really.

    a handful of people out of 6 billion?

  55. #55 Faith's A Sin Of Pride
    April 21, 2009

    Now another one !

    @breadmaker

    Are you kidding me ?!?

  56. #56 Jadehawk
    April 21, 2009

    torture and “healthy and safe society”. Are you fucking serious…?

  57. #57 Katkinkate
    April 21, 2009

    Posted by: raven @ 12 “It is a major surprise and accomplishment that any of this torture stuff is coming out. Governments rarely release secret information that makes them look bad. About once in a blue moon at the most.
    This is an extraordinary event.
    I doubt that any hearings or judicial actions will be held until most of the perpetrators are way old and the statue of limitations has run out. If then.
    But the info is out there and circulating among the media and the internet. Thinking people will draw their own conclusions.”

    I agree. Obama’s hands are tied re. judicial actions. It would do more harm than good to the country, the Presidency, and the Democrats if this President sought to put the last one in prison. At the least it would set a very unfortunate precedent and distract him from his real job. He should keep his hands clean and concentrate on trying to minimise/fix the damage done by the previous government. Let someone else chase them.

  58. #58 Mary
    April 21, 2009

    @ breadmaker,

    A couple of “special ops”-types and a CIA agent (cant remember any names, sorry) who worked in Afghanistan and Iraq, put out books in the last couple of years going through the reasons why torture doesn’t work.

    There was also a very clear report written by one of the intelligence agencies that went through the scientifically based psychological reasons why torture hasnt/doesnt work. i remember reading excerpts, but don’t know if the whole report is available.

    Here are some links to some articles for you to peruse if you’re interested. These were the first few I came across via google, there are many more:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2302-2005Jan11.html

    http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=7440

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1114/p09s01-coop.html

  59. #59 Peter Ashby
    April 21, 2009

    Hows about you folks clean the outstanding stuff first? Like Kissinger? Are you aware that the number of foreign countries he can visit without fear of being arrested is reducing by the month? Why is the world doing this? because you guys won’t clean house.

  60. #60 LadyRhian
    April 21, 2009

    interrupted drowning performed responsibly

    Man, I’m glad I wasn’t drinking something when I read this line, because I’d probably need a new computer, not to mention a new screen! How can someone even type the above with a straight face? The whole idea just leaves me stranded on WTF? Island! That’s an Oxymoron to rival the worst ones I have ever heard. “Oh, he’s only torturing in a responsible manner.”

  61. #61 El Guerrero del Interfaz
    April 21, 2009

    As somebody already pointed out, although this should be done, this is not the job of the government but of the Justice dept. Montesquieu, you know.

    And, if the USAmerican justice does not do what it should, call our Garzn. I’m sure he’ll do something about it :-)

  62. #62 Rorschach
    April 21, 2009

    interrupted drowning performed responsibly

    Yeah,with purified water at a pleasant temperature.

  63. #63 Lilly de Lure
    April 21, 2009

    Raven said:

    You get a lot of information by torturing people. Most of it is just made up stuff to get it to stop.

    I hope you won’t think me unduly cynical here but I get the distinct impression that getting exactly what they wanted to hear out of suspects was part of the point of using torture in the first place.

    That way they could claim with at least a semi-straight face that they were basing their policies on “intelligence”, rather than on “what we’ve wanted to do all along”.

    Breadmaker said:

    what’s all the fuss about? really.

    a handful of people out of 6 billion?

    Interesting . . . so how many people, precisely, have to be tortured before it does become important to you?

  64. #64 Isa
    April 21, 2009

    Mm hmm, torture conducted responsibly. Sounds like we’re back to known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns la Zen Master Rumsfeld.

    Spare me. @@

  65. #65 Alex Besogonov
    April 21, 2009

    “There are two problems, both with politics. First it sets a bad example for a current leader to prosecute the previous leader for crimes while in office. Even if the previous leader is guilty beyond reason. If Obama does this, what do you think will happen when the next Republican president takes office? Start going after Obama out of revenge.”

    Why the hell is this BAD??? Obama just needs to not commit any serious crimes. Is that too big to ask?

  66. #66 Lilly de Lure
    April 21, 2009

    Alex Besogonov said:

    Why the hell is this BAD??? Obama just needs to not commit any serious crimes. Is that too big to ask?

    I think the worry is what the republicans will choose to define as “serious crimes”, given that the definition for the last democrat president apparently included “getting a blowjob and then lying about it”.

    Given that, I think Obama is concerned that he will wake up one morning to find that (for example) “letting the new dog poop on the White House lawn and forgeting to clean it up” has suddenly become an impeachable offence.

  67. #67 Africangenesis
    April 21, 2009

    Alex Besogonov,

    “Why the hell is this BAD??? Obama just needs to not commit any serious crimes. Is that too big to ask?”

    Too late. Obama has already tortured thousands of American citizens, detaining them in camps for weeks of sleep deprivation, verbal and physical abuse, conditioning to follow orders and desensitization to killing. Some argue that what occurrs in military boot camps isn’t torture because these are not innocent civilian draftees, but volunteers who have “consented” to these activities. However, consent must be informed, and in the case of torture, there can’t be true consent until it has been experienced. These “volunteers” should be able to change their minds and withdraw consent at any time during the procedure. Without this much needed reform, Obama is as much a torturer and war criminal as any of his presidential predecessors.

  68. #68 G. Tingey
    April 21, 2009

    Cheny has put his vile oar into this debate…..

  69. #69 Africangenesis
    April 21, 2009

    G. Tingey#68,

    That seems to be a rather reasonable “oar”. Perhaps the oar should be judged on its merits rather than your opinion of the source. Why shouldn’t the assessments of the intelligence gained from the torture also be declassified? Many posting here think that ineffectiveness is one of the arguments against torture. The assessments may shed some light on this.

  70. #70 Cuttlefish, OM
    April 21, 2009

    Lawlessly, flawlessly,
    Waterboard torturers
    Speak of a drowning like
    It?s just a game

    Worse, since our government?s
    Representational?
    All of their evil is
    Done in our name.

  71. #71 Anon
    April 21, 2009

    A-genesis–If Cheney would allow the documents on both the “successful” and unsuccessful tortures to surface, that would be one thing. He is asking for the release of only the successful. If he focused only on the good and ignored the bad, I would bet even PZ could make a case for the positive function of, say, fundamental christian young-earth teaching.

    I’d allow Cheney’s request if and only if the cases he does not want to come to light also are aired.

  72. #72 Africangenesis
    April 21, 2009

    Anon#71,

    A low signal to noise ratio should indeed be considered, since assets chasing false leads down might, at some ratio, have saved more lives employed elsewhere.

  73. #73 Lilly de Lure
    April 21, 2009

    africangenesis said:

    A low signal to noise ratio should indeed be considered, since assets chasing false leads down might, at some ratio, have saved more lives employed elsewhere.

    You know that sending agents on wild goose chases is dangerous and dumb, I know that, everyone with a fair mind and a brain knows that.

    Unfortunately, I’ve got a horrible feeling that Mr Cheney will try and spin things so that a successful torture is defined as “one that got the suspect to start talking”, regardless of whether or not what they were actually saying had any connection with reality.

  74. #74 BMcP
    April 21, 2009

    They are not doing this for “justice”, they are doing it for the cynical purpose of making the last administration look worse in the eyes of public, for the sake of polls and public relations. It isn’t about justice, it is about partisan politics only. If people are fine with this, alright, but don’t pretend it is something borne of nobility. There will be no prosecution by the federal government because the present and future administrations want to keep such “options” theoretically open to them, “just in case”.

    I wonder if the Obama administration will release all the information as Dick Cheney is now requesting they do? As in the results and the information gathered from these interrogations and not just how they were conducted. Full transparency is only a positive. Release everything and let us all decide what to think of it all.

    The new president promised transparency in government and I want to hold him to it.

  75. #75 Jeanette
    April 21, 2009

    Cool. Thank you for the petition links.

  76. #76 JBlilie
    April 21, 2009

    AG@72:

    A low signal to noise ratio should indeed be considered, since assets chasing false leads down might, at some ratio, have saved more lives employed elsewhere.

    Exactly. Wild goose chases are 100% wasted efforts. Unless you consider that the real work of the assets is non-value-added, the goose chases are a dead loss of (potentially critical) time and man-power. Those assets should have been doing real work for us not chasing after non-information blathered by a terrorized (and I use the word advisedly) suspects. We know the ratio of nonsense to sense under torture is huge: It cannot be a fruitful effort, except potentially in really specific conditions, which are extremely unlikely in themselves (e.g.: You’ve caught a suspect that you know for sure knows where the ticking time-bomb is. How coudl you know for sure, without knowing the bomb itself? Why wouldn’t the suspect tell you a distant location so that the bomb will go off (success!) before you can get to the search location? Remember, these people are fully willing to die for their missions.)

    Anon@71:

    If Cheney would allow the documents on both the “successful” and unsuccessful tortures to surface, that would be one thing. He is asking for the release of only the successful.

    Anon: Dead nuts on. This is what Cheney wants to do: Count the hits and ignore all the misses. Reminds me of, hmmm, stories of religious miracles, and hucksters of the “paranormal.” Anything looks plausible if you only look at the data that supports the idea.

    I agree with PZ’s call to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators: The lawyers and senior officials who devised, promulgated, and promoted torture. I also agree with President Obama’s (I love the sound of that) decision not to prosecute the grunts who actually had hands-on the suspects. (Although a case could be made that “following orders is an insufficent reason to do something wrong, re: the Holocaust. I don’t think this rises to that level. I also would like to have functioning CIA field agents and if grunts are prosecuted for following the lead of the Prez, then it’s all over.)

  77. #77 JeffreyD
    April 21, 2009

    Some of the pro-torture comments here truly astound me. The nonsense that waterboarding is not torture is equally astounding and offensive. As part of training, long time ago in Special Forces, we underwent waterboarding. That was later removed from the course as the effects lingered for too many people and because both the students and the trainers realized waterboarding had crossed the line from exposure to techniques into actual torture. The technique has always, as far as I can determine, been considered torture and was prosecuted as such by the United States after WWII.

    There are two problems with torture in my eyes. The most important is that I cannot conceive of it as other than wrong, all the time, every time. It degrades the people undergoing it AND those doing it. It becomes easy to torture, witness the nearly 200 times is was applied to two prisoners. After a while, it is obviously not working, probably 2-3 times, but that is guess based on reading and personal experience undergoing the technique. More than that and it is just punishment. Personally, I think that is all it ever was for Bush and Cheney, a chance to punish our enemies. The bottom line for me is that it is wrong from my moral viewpoint – inflicting pain for no good reason is wrong. Then there is the slippery slope – if you torture for what appears to be a good reason, you will eventually torture for a bad reason. I mean, really, we have all of these suspects, why not just torture all of them and see what we find out? While we are at it, lets torture US citizens and Canadians and Brits and other allies who may have something of interest. Surely it would be effective to torture their spouses and parents and children in order to help break the suspect, yes? You may say that under Bush torture was tightly controlled and that the above cannot happen. Well, my reply is that once the slope is slippery it is hard to keep your footing. Torture begats torture and unless totally outlawed, it will remain in the inventory and it will return.

    Second, read the history and literature of torture versus other forms of interrogation – do your own research, people. It is a fact that torture is the least effective means of obtaining information from suspects. Far better to obtain trust and information from treating the suspect as a human. Obtaining false information is a problem as it means valuable resources have to be expended chasing down leads that have no basis in reality. Our intelligence agencies do, more the most part, a good job, but are stretched horrendously thin. Like our military, they need clear goals and information in order to operate effectively.

    I find this whole debate horribly depressing and as I said above, the number of people who can defend cruelty for cruelty’s sake astounds me. One final point I do want to make, I do not repeat not want to see low level people at the CIA or other places indicted and tried until and unless those above them face justice first. The techniques were ordered by Bush and Cheney, authorized by their Justice Department, and then implemented by senior intelligence officials. Whether those who undertook the torture should be prosecuted is a question that must be examined openly, but if the choice is that Bush and company go free, then they should as well. The orders came from the top, the initial and long term responsibility for those orders is at the top, the blame and the justice should start at the top.

    I realize the above is long on feeling and emotion and short on facts. All I can say is that I have spent a lot of time learning about this subject and worked in the U.S. government for 30 years until my recent retirement from the Foreign Service. I am also a veteran. I have served in wars and in both Iraq and Afghanistan. None of that makes me any more qualified to speak about this issue than anyone else, it just means I have been closer to the issues than some and had more of an opportunity to talk to military and intelligence professionals about the subject. Their views are not hard to find – do some research on the subject that does not come from the mouth of Cheney or Faux news if you want to learn about torture, then return to the debate.

  78. #78 SteveM
    April 21, 2009

    GBJ @ #5:

    It is up to the Justice Department, not the White House, to determine whether to prosecute federal crimes.

    El Guerrero del Interfaz @61:

    As somebody already pointed out, although this should be done, this is not the job of the government but of the Justice dept.

    Sorry but the Justice Dept. is the government and is the primary functions of the administrative branch, so it is indeed up to the White House how to prosecute. Congress writes the laws, the Administration enforces the laws, the Judicial interprets the laws. The Justice dept. is not some seperate non-governmental agency. That was the problem faced with Watergate, how can the administration prosecute itself, and the continuing Constitutional crisis around “special prosecutors”.

  79. #79 raven
    April 21, 2009

    They are not doing this for “justice”, they are doing it for the cynical purpose of making the last administration look worse in the eyes of public, for the sake of polls and public relations.

    Probably not. I realize you will never understand this, but some of us find torture morally reprehensible as well as counterproductive.

    We also want to believe the USA are the good guys, the shining beacon of freedom on the hill. We’ve had that drummed into us since kindergarten. It is occasionally true if you look at events like WWII and ignore ones like Vietnam and Iraq. Having secret groups torture away for no particular purpose in offshore settings to evade US laws and scrutiny doesn’t quite fit in with the grade school image.

    This release is causing Obama as much PR damage as it is generating positive PR.

    Besides which, how hard is it to make Bushco look bad?
    Bush’s approval ratings were around 25%, barely above the number of people who think the sun orbits the earth. Cheney’s were lower. Bushco earned the contempt of the US citizens already. At this point, anything that comes out is just another bullet into a dead horse. If they hadn’t shredded the US constitution and disgraced the country, no one would be calling them on it.

    Don’t want to be called a sadistic torturer? Don’t torture.

  80. #80 Emmet, OM
    April 21, 2009

    I don’t think there’s any realistic prospect of anyone, other than maybe a handful of low-level scapegoats, ever being brought to justice for torture, war crimes, or whatever.

    The sad reality is that those who have been complicit in this activity are far too powerful to be held to account ? if someone like Kissinger can’t be tried, what chance is there for people who so recently held power? It’s nave to believe otherwise: the aristocracy inevitably get away scot-free. The US has a long history of obscene foreign involvement (Guatemala, Venezuela, Chile, Namibia, Indonesia, etc.), the only real difference this time is that the public got a tiny glimpse of what is done in their name and it got some purchase in public consciousness. A good example is Gitmo, whose detainees represent less than 3% of the people who have are currently imprisoned without trial by the US. According to Reprieve (a UK civil rights charity), the US government admits to having 26,000 people in secret prisons. Closing Gitmo is purely a fig-leaf, but a fig-leaf that will satisfy the huge majority of people because they erroneously believe it’s an exception; nothing could be further from the truth.

  81. #81 Africangenesis
    April 21, 2009

    Raven,

    “We also want to believe the USA are the good guys, the shining beacon of freedom on the hill. We’ve had that drummed into us since kindergarten. It is occasionally true if you look at events like WWII and ignore ones like Vietnam and Iraq.”

    Really? You like the US internment camps, conscription, firebombings and nuclear attacks on civilians, censorship, wage and price controls, rationing, executions without judicial review, coverups, aid to Stalin, abandonment of eastern Europe, etc. of WWII that much? Hmmm, a little historical perspective is in order.

  82. #82 eyeofhorus87
    April 21, 2009

    ‘ We also want to believe the USA are the good guys, the shining beacon of freedom on the hill. It is occasionally true if you look at events like WWII and ignore ones like Vietnam and Iraq. ‘

    What about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? I wonder what peoples opinions would be on how ‘good’ that was if it had been Germany nuking the USA or other European countries.

    On the subject of torture: I don’t think that anyone should be prosecuted for following orders which they thought were legal at the time. But I also think it was wrong, and I don’t think the USA is the shining beacon it would like everyone to think it is.

  83. #83 raven
    April 21, 2009

    AG the kook:

    Really? You like the US internment camps, conscription, firebombings and nuclear attacks on civilians, censorship, wage and price controls, rationing, executions without judicial review, coverups, aid to Stalin, abandonment of eastern Europe, etc. of WWII that much? Hmmm, a little historical perspective is in order.

    Thanks for posting that AG. We all know you are a nutcase.

    Now we know you seriously, viscerally hate the USA. It’s OK, a free country after all.

    We aren’t angels but compared to other countries, it could be a lot worse. Without US involvement in WWII, Japan and Germany might be the two superpowers and we all know how that would have worked out. We haven’t had a Mao or Stalin or Pol Pot or Taliban yet.

    Compared to the rest of the world, we are a egalitarian democracy with a high standard of living, the world’s largest economy with only 4.5% of the population, a bill of rights that we take very seriously, and the world leader in science.

    People aren’t fleeing the USA to escape oppression by escaping across the Silicon curtain and evading armed guards trying to keep the population in. People move to the USA from the rest of the world by the millions, illegally and legally for opportunities and the hope for a better life. Voting with their feet and actions speak louder than words. A poll a decade or so ago found that 1 in 3 people in the world would move to the USA if they could.

    I despised Bushco like most Americans because they were destroying what most of us built here and like about the country.

  84. #84 Stu
    April 21, 2009

    AG:

    Hmmm, a little historical perspective is in order.

    Which a lot of Americans don’t have. No wonder, with the pathetic state of history education.

  85. #85 Stu
    April 21, 2009

    Without US involvement in WWII, Japan and Germany might be the two superpowers and we all know how that would have worked out.

    Without France, the United States would not have existed.

    Without the United States, a million Vietnamese and a million Iraqis would still be alive.

    Gee, this is fun!

    We haven’t had a Mao or Stalin or Pol Pot or Taliban yet.

    Native Americans see your Stalin and raise you a Manifest Destiny. Just because a genocide was democratically decided upon does not make it okay.

    Compared to the rest of the world, we are a egalitarian democracy

    No.

    with a high standard of living

    No.

    the world’s largest economy with only 4.5% of the population

    And staggeringly poor education, an appallingly large gap between rich and poor, hunger, a pathetic infrastructure and an insane amount of debt.

    a bill of rights that we take very seriously

    BWAAAAHAAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Thanks for the laugh.

    and the world leader in science.

    Science as performed by…

    A poll a decade or so ago found that 1 in 3 people in the world would move to the USA if they could.

    We have it better than 33% of the world! U S A! U S A! Whee!

  86. #86 Marcus Ranum
    April 21, 2009

    The worst aspect, to me, about the torture situation is that it makes clear what an utter failure our “intelligence community” is.

    Reaching for torture – morals aside – is an admission that they utterly failed to penetrate enemy operations, and had no clue what was going on. Worse than torture, they reached for a pack of lies, which they offered to the american people to hide their utter uselessness. “It’s really hard to penetrate terror cells!” they whined, expecting we’d forget that John Walker Lindh did it effortlessly. “They use secure communications” they snivelled, in spite of having published the fact that Bin Laden’s cell phone was being tapped by the NSA – giving Bin Laden the ability to head-feint special forces in Tora Bora.

    We must deal with the torturers but it’s an open question which is worse:
    – the cowardice of the US attorney general “forgetting” how he did his job
    – if waterboarding is not torture, is waterboarding Khalid Shaik Mohammed 160 times? the guy’s brain must be melted.
    – the NSA espionage on US citizens
    …all of this is either cowardice, stupidity, or both. I fear ‘both’ is the answer.

  87. #87 Alverant
    April 21, 2009

    Ian #19
    “I’m sorry, but that line of reasoning makes absolutely no sense unless you expect every administration to commit war crimes.”

    Unfortunately I don’t think the difference between war crimes and “regular” crimes will matter when the pundits get a hold of it. They’ll just see one administration going after the previous administration of the opposing party and leave out the facts they find inconvenient. We’ve been seeing conservatives use “Bush Derangement Syndrome” as a shield to deflect any and all criticism of the previous administration.

    As for allowing presidents to be above the law. Well if the president is good, he or she will realize they’re not. If they’re bad they’ll take the “it’s only OK when we do it” position and justify their actions to enough people to make impeachment impossible outside of “pure partisan vindictiveness”.

    It’s like holding a CEO responsible for his actions, they take credit for the good things and defuse responsibility for the bad things so much they can act like the victim.

  88. #88 Alex Deam
    April 21, 2009

    Some people in government will ALWAYS be above the law.

    Yes, no one in the US government has ever been impeached. I mean, the US president is clearly above the law, what with the trials of Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton obviously never occurring.

  89. #89 Alex Deam
    April 21, 2009

    They are not doing this for “justice”, they are doing it for the cynical purpose of making the last administration look worse in the eyes of public, for the sake of polls and public relations. It isn’t about justice, it is about partisan politics only.

    Right, so Obama releases torture memos, therefore it must have been a partisan decision. So every time Obama does something different to Bush, then it must be because of “partisan politics”, and not because it’s something Obama agrees with. Well, your theory has the advantage of being completely unfalsifiable, I’ll give you that.

  90. #90 Alex Deam
    April 21, 2009

    Obama spent today placating the C.I.A.

    Mr. Obama went out of his way to lavish praise on intelligence officers, using words like ?indispensable,? ?courage? and ?remarkable? and promising his ?support and appreciation.?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/21/us/politics/21intel.html

    He’s a lost cause. Justice will have to come without his participation.

    You missed out the part where it says, “Aides said Mr. Obama worried about damaging morale at the C.I.A. and his own relationship with the agency.”

    Put yourself in Obama’s shoes. You’ve just released memos that destroy the reputation of the CIA. That make it look really really bad. Do you not think that morale would be low there, and that the CIA’s desire to follow orders from Obama might be diminished? Of course Obama had to say something good to them, else he would’ve released these memos to the detriment of his working relationship with the CIA, and its relationship with the US as a whole.

  91. #91 Mike in Ontario, NY
    April 21, 2009

    Sigh, all this discussion and not one mention of the chief criminal/architect of all of this state-sanctioned horror: Cheney’s law-talkin’ guy David Addington. If he, alone, were persecuted for war crimes I would be happy. But the likes of Yoo and Feith should all be serving life sentences, IMO. I unreservedly recommend Jane Meyers’ “The Dark Side” to all pharyngulites.

  92. #92 Broggly
    April 21, 2009

    I wonder what it was they wouldn’t tell us about putting insects into the box with him?

  93. #93 protocol
    April 21, 2009

    To add to what stu said in response to raven’s–some may suspect willful– misconceptions, Germany basically lost World War II in the Eastern Front (where they suffered more than 85% of their casualties). The U.S. had relatively little to do with it. Japan, yes, Germany, not really.

  94. #94 Lilly de Lure
    April 21, 2009

    To add to what stu said in response to raven’s–some may suspect willful– misconceptions, Germany basically lost World War II in the Eastern Front (where they suffered more than 85% of their casualties). The U.S. had relatively little to do with it. Japan, yes, Germany, not really.

    I take your point, although to be fair, without the US we could pretty much have said goodbye to any chance of invading Western Europe from Great Britain.

    That would almost certainly have ended WWII with the Red Army at Calais, which wouldn’t exactly have been ideal . . .

  95. #95 Africangenesis
    April 21, 2009

    Raven#83,

    “Now we know you seriously, viscerally hate the USA.”

    I am a bit amazed and amused by your powers of inference.

    “I despised Bushco like most Americans because they were destroying what most of us built here and like about the country.”

    With you knowledge of history, I suspect you dispise “Bushco” in order to be “like most Americans”, rather than based upon any rational analysis. I hope you feel all warm and fuzzy.

  96. #96 Africangenesis
    April 21, 2009

    Protocol#93,

    Norman Davies in “No Simple Victory” made precisely that point. He noted that the USSR had already won the key turning point battles before significant lend/lease support from the US arrived. He thought that the main impact of lend lease was in aiding Stalin to take Eastern Europe as well.

    Victor Suvorov in “The Chief Culprit” argues that Stalin had designs on all of Europe and that Hitlers attack on the USSR was actually preemptive in response to the huge soviet buildup in preparation for the invasion. His talk on booktv was quite entertaining and may be available on booktv.org

  97. #97 uncle frogy
    April 21, 2009

    that things like this happen sanctioned by “government” on paper is amazing that it should be made public is unprecedented is it not.

    When our government was founded those men new it was not the end of all disagreements and the dawn of a new order. It was the formal establishment of a process by which the citizens could function as a whole while we came to some agreements on things we could not at that time agree on. That debate would be engaged in public square openly with a free press and numerous votes.
    We as a society are looking at the past deeds of our country with the understanding of today as we should. The willful ignorance of the public fostered by the powerful is harder to maintain in 2009 than it was in 1890.
    If human rights and justice count for anything then full disclosure is one of the best things we could and should do. Secrets are not good for free people.
    If these things are good then why hide them?
    What possible reason are we keeping them secret for the public when the “bad guys” know?
    Is it that the public would and is appalled and revolted by it? “We need to do these things so we can protect ourselves and maintain our freedoms and our way of life”

    “in order to free the village we needed to destroy the village” comes to mind

    if that is the only way to maintain our way of life then how does that make our way of life any better than any of other great tyrannical empires from the past?

  98. #98 Anri
    April 21, 2009

    Not too terribly long ago, people under torture, or even just the threat of torture, admitted to having sex with the devil.

    Would anyone care to comment on the likely signal-to-noise ratio of that information…?

  99. #99 Jim
    April 21, 2009

    I know it’s an unpopular opinion here, but I’m not entirely convinced that torture is “wrong” or “evil” in all circumstances. I can completely understand why some people would find the concept of torture deplorable, but I can also see why some others wouldn’t; and I can see how both sides would have the potential for political motivation. For the sake of argument, however, I’ll grant that torture is probably a bad thing.

    Now, that being said, I think a round of Devil’s Advocate is in order: can we state with certainty that torture was never used by American agents before 2001? I’m certainly not trying to argue that historical prescedent would make it ok, but I do think it would be interesting to see some historical context, free of partisan bias. The CIA has seemingly always had carte blanche; are we really supposed to believe Bush/Cheney came up with something new?

    I’d also like to see Cheney’s “evidence,” but ALL of it, not just the positives. Someone who is truly in the right has no need for confirmation bias, so let’s see it all.

  100. #100 windy
    April 21, 2009

    They are not doing this for “justice”, they are doing it for the cynical purpose of making the last administration look worse in the eyes of public, for the sake of polls and public relations. It isn’t about justice, it is about partisan politics only.

    Weren’t they court-ordered to release the memos? Which they tried to delay as long as possible?

  101. #101 Jim
    April 21, 2009

    Not too terribly long ago, people under torture, or even just the threat of torture, admitted to having sex with the devil.

    Would anyone care to comment on the likely signal-to-noise ratio of that information…?

    I don’t believe it’s a valid comparison, as the circumstances were night-and-day different. Those accused of witchcraft were almost universally innocent of any crimes, real or perceived, and obviously had no information to offer. Abu Zubaydah certainly had some very valuable information, and was just as certainly guilty of any number of crimes.

  102. #102 Ktesibios
    April 21, 2009

    Posted by: JeffreyD Author Profile Page | April 21, 2009 9:10 AM [kill]?[hide comment]

    Some of the pro-torture comments here truly astound me.

    Perhaps a little history might help. Did you know that in ancient Rome any slave who was a witness in a judicial proceeding was tortured? Not just in the case of a recalcitrant witness, but always? Even if the slave was signing like a bird already?

    The Romans simply couldn’t believe that a slave could tell the truth without being tortured. Therefore they made it a routine part of an investigation, just on G.P., as it were. The prospect also helped keep the slave population terrorized and, so the Romans hoped, submissive.

    Our own explicit policy of schrecklichkeit comes from the same roots- first, the belief that those people, not being fully human, can’t possibly be truthful unless brutalized and second, the belief that those people, not being fully human, have to be kept cowed, and so our Glorious Leaders hope, submissive.

    Since dividing humanity into Us and those people, with humanity recognized only in Us, is the essence of authoritarianism, the density of torture apologists in this thread can be taken as an indication of how badly infested by authoritarian-follower personalities our society is.

  103. #103 Jim
    April 21, 2009

    *In #101, I meant to reference Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but I think my point stands, regardless. Terrorists are terrorists.

  104. #104 teammarty
    April 21, 2009

    Is anyone surprised?

    O’Same did vote for FISA, the misnomered patriot act renewal and his promice to end the war has turned into an eleven year committment.

    Makes me proud I voted for Nader (again).

    I do feel bed for the people who thought they were voting for FDR and got Jerry Ford instead.

    But there is one hope for justice…

    No-one expects the Spanish Rendition!!

  105. #105 OneHandClapping
    April 21, 2009

    Here’s how I like to determine what qualifies as torture:

    If (insert potential torture here) were used on criminal suspects for any old crime, would it be considered excessive?

    Of course we can avoid a lot of this by not allowing the executive branch to suspend things like habeas corpus and other inconvenient rights. But hey, I’m no lawyer.

  106. #106 Keanus
    April 21, 2009

    Unless a thorough criminal probe is pursued to its logical conclusion?that is with charges filed and trials held?nothing changes, and this or future presidents will be free to use torture with a simple executive order. That situation cannot stand.

    Obama defends his position by saying we have to look forward and not backward, but to look forward we have to understand the past and purge the body politic of the errors of the past, or we will be doomed to repeat them, if not under Obama than under some successor. We cannot trust our freedom to the promise of a president, and having had one really bad president, it’s entirely possible to get another or worse.

    I’m still hoping that Obama is simply biding his time, so he can use all his political capital now to attack health care, global warming, energy reform, and the like. I also think it’s likely that between Congress and the DOJ, we will see some kind or combination of kinds of probing investigation of all the abuses of the Bush administration from torture to warrantless wiretapping to outright fraud (think KBR). I’m sure that Obama’s view is that attacking those issues now would quickly become a partisan fight and jeopardizing his other goals.

  107. #107 Alex Deam
    April 21, 2009

    I know it’s an unpopular opinion here, but I’m not entirely convinced that torture is “wrong” or “evil” in all circumstances. I can completely understand why some people would find the concept of torture deplorable, but I can also see why some others wouldn’t; and I can see how both sides would have the potential for political motivation. For the sake of argument, however, I’ll grant that torture is probably a bad thing.

    Great, a fence-sitter.

  108. #108 Anri
    April 21, 2009

    Jim replied:
    “I don’t believe it’s a valid comparison, as the circumstances were night-and-day different. Those accused of witchcraft were almost universally innocent of any crimes, real or perceived, and obviously had no information to offer. Abu Zubaydah certainly had some very valuable information, and was just as certainly guilty of any number of crimes. ”

    I could quibble by noting that all humans are considered sinners and therefore guilty in the sight of the church, but that’s not my main point.

    My point is that even for the professional torturers, it was impossible to sort good information from bad, so long as the information matched what the torturer was seeking.

    I’m not stating that no information was revealed – various among the accused might have accurately described feelings they had had at some point, or acts they had contemplated – but that it was buried in so much nonsensical noise as to be useless.

    To put it another way, do you think calm questioning would have revealed less accurate information about these people?
    Or more accurate?

  109. #109 Alex Deam
    April 21, 2009

    @Keanus: Thread win for putting into words what I think.

    Of course we can avoid a lot of this by not allowing the executive branch to suspend things like habeas corpus and other inconvenient rights. But hey, I’m no lawyer.

    And the legislative branch.

  110. #110 Marcus Ranum
    April 21, 2009

    You missed out the part where it says, “Aides said Mr. Obama worried about damaging morale at the C.I.A. and his own relationship with the agency.”

    Why should it matter? The CIA is an abject failure as an intelligence agency. It’s a pretty incompetent “department of dirty tricks” too, but that has mostly been its role. They’ve been utterly incapable of providing strategic intelligence, and very very poor at tactical intelligence, either. (*cough* *cough* WMD, *cough* collapse of Soviet Union *cough*) CIA needs to be restructured with a chainsaw not kept on good terms with.

  111. #111 Alex Deam
    April 21, 2009

    I’m pretty sure the Soviet Union actually collapsed.

    Whether the CIA needs restructuring or not is besides the point. You would still want to be on good terms with the CIA.

  112. #112 Jim
    April 21, 2009

    Anri @ #108:

    To put it another way, do you think calm questioning would have revealed less accurate information about these people?
    Or more accurate?

    In my opinion, we’re not dealing with people who will ever respond to calm questioning. These are people who fly airliners into office buildings, who recruit women and children to carry bombs into shopping centers, and who behead foreign reporters who happen to be Jewish. What would calm interpreters have to offer them, that is greater than their brainwashed faith in martyrdom?

    This is why I want to see this alleged evidence Cheney is talking about. If the torture does just obtain mostly noise, as you suggest, then I can’t really justify standing behind torture at any reasonable level; but if they do actually get more good intel than bad, it’ll be harder to reconcile.

  113. #113 Jim
    April 21, 2009

    Alex Deam @ #107:
    Thanks for your contribution.

  114. #114 Alex Deam
    April 21, 2009

    In my opinion, we’re not dealing with people who will ever respond to calm questioning. These are people who fly airliners into office buildings, who recruit women and children to carry bombs into shopping centers, and who behead foreign reporters who happen to be Jewish.

    And yet most haven’t been charged with anything. Or had a fair trial.

  115. #115 Faith's A Sin Of Pride
    April 21, 2009

    @Jim

    “For the sake of argument, however, I’ll grant that torture is probably a bad thing.”

    How grand of you.

    More than for the sake of argument, more than a ‘bad thing’, torture is ILLEGAL.
    And every time any of the HUNDREDS of waterboarding sessions failed to produce timely and reliable intelligence they were reduced to serving a secondary purpose alone – sadistic revenge.

    The rush to embrace and defend the use of torture by those who present no evidence of its effectiveness could be an indication of something screwy…..let’s say a happily ‘overly-authoritarian’ personality.
    Are we having fun yet? Where’s my billyclub? Abu Ghraib trading cards anyone?

  116. #116 Jim
    April 21, 2009

    Faith @ #115:
    Just because something is illegal doesn’t make it wrong. I bet every single commenter here can list at least one thing they don’t think should be illegal, but currently is…marijuana, anyone? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely discounting your argument, just pointing out that it is all relative.

  117. #117 Faith's A Sin Of Pride
    April 21, 2009

    @Jim

    Wow. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Perhaps nearly killing someone repeatedly to extract information of therefore dubious reliability ‘make(s) it wrong.’ And then, therefore, for civilized folk, illegal.
    The comparison to marijuana is ludicrous, relatively speaking.

  118. #118 Boletus
    April 21, 2009

    On the contrary: It’s not ‘all relative.’ Kofi Annan nailed it when he said that ‘right makes might.’ We need to make sure we have good laws. We need the courage to fight for those just laws. And we need to prosecute people — even our own — who violate those laws. Intellectual flexibility coupled with the rule of law are our only long-term protection against tyranny and rule by force, intimidation, coercion and torture.

    Obama may yet revive the international faith in a proud and just America that existed some 50 years ago. I grew up listening to Radio Free America. I hope those days come back.

  119. #119 windy
    April 21, 2009

    Those accused of witchcraft were almost universally innocent of any crimes, real or perceived, and obviously had no information to offer.

    Of course they did: names of other witches.

    In #101, I meant to reference Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but I think my point stands, regardless. Terrorists are terrorists.

    Did anyone else find this ironic? ‘Actually, I’m not sure about that first guy any more, I meant this other guy who is definitely a terrorist. But terrorists are terrorists!’

  120. #120 Alex Deam
    April 21, 2009

    Did anyone else find this ironic? ‘Actually, I’m not sure about that first guy any more, I meant this other guy who is definitely a terrorist. But terrorists are terrorists!’

    He probably just realized that the first person he referred to, has never been charged, but was still locked up.

  121. #121 darth_borehd
    April 21, 2009

    “All congressfolks who agitate for prosecution of CIA or military interrogators should have a Gitmo detainee released into their districts.”

    So the only two choices allowed in your world are allowing torture of detainees or setting them completely free?

  122. #122 Boletus
    April 21, 2009

    “All congressfolks who agitate for prosecution of CIA or military interrogators should have a Gitmo detainee released into their districts.”

    Servile coward. You would have fit right in living under Soviet communism. They had all kinds of prudential arguments for evil.

    I’d rather run the risk of being attacked by radical Muslims yet know that I live in a free country that respects the norms and standards of Enlightened civilization. I want to know that my children can grow up proud to live in a free country that obeys laws they can wholeheartedly support. The worst our enemies can do to us is to kill us. The worst we can do to ourselves is to allow ourselves to become barbarians.

    (I’m not kidding, by the way. This is not rhetoric. Enough of my relatives have died in wars and recently enough that I know exactly what I’m saying.)

  123. #123 uncle frogy
    April 21, 2009

    Boletus said
    “The worst our enemies can do to us is to kill us. The worst we can do to ourselves is to allow ourselves to become barbarians.”

    I could not have sad it better.

    other wise what is the point?

  124. #124 Claude
    April 21, 2009

    What world do we live in. Torture to obtain information is harsh, so is the idea of killing for god. My moral judgement tells me I have a right to protect myself and my family. Why should I worry about the view the rest of the world has of me? We all live in socities that do worst than any government does. What about drugs? What about the cartels in the south, gangs in the cities, serial killers using Craiglist? I have worked in the system to long not to realize that man is an animal and will respond as such. Do you want to stop the actions of the so called terrorist find a pill, but until you do I dont want to rely on the liberal view of “humane treatment”. Humane is a joke its not real it is only something those who sit on their sofa’s at home thinking, wow we shouldnt do that. Let’s stop being naive and lets start taking action that makes a difference. President Obama wanted to take the fight into Western Pakistan to fight the terrorist, does anybody really believe that will be easy even if we stopped torture and played by the civilized rules. I dont like any of it but if someone isn’t right in this world then please pass the koolaide….
    Thanks for listening

  125. #125 Anri
    April 21, 2009

    It is also a worthy question to ask if those unopposed to torture would just shrug and say “Well, them’s the breaks” if it were their own servicemen and civilians being tortured.

    One would seem to be put in the uncomfortable position of either agreeing with any enemy’s *right* to torture our citizenry…

    Or objecting to it on the grounds that “Well, we’re the good guys! And you can tell, because we’re allowed to torture people, unlike those nasty barbarians who aren’t supposed to… yep.”

    Also, Jim said:
    “In my opinion, we’re not dealing with people who will ever respond to calm questioning. These are people who fly airliners into office buildings, who recruit women and children to carry bombs into shopping centers, and who behead foreign reporters who happen to be Jewish. What would calm interpreters have to offer them, that is greater than their brainwashed faith in martyrdom?”

    And the answer to that question is the living, breathing demonstration that what there were told by their religious leaders…
    ..is wrong.
    That the Great Satan does not, in fact, treat the brave soldiers of the lord as punching bags and chew toys, but as human beings.

    It may make no difference at all, but if you have been told all of your life that when captured, expect ground glass to be rubbed into your wound, and you actually get bactine and hot soup – it just might make you question the people doing the telling.
    That’s optimistic, but not ridiculous.

  126. #126 Leigh Williams
    April 22, 2009

    Good God. Are we actually having an argument about whether TORTURE IS BAD? On THIS forum?

    Goddamn it, where is the outrage civilized people should feel when they find out human beings have been tortured in their name?

    We’re supposed to be chocolate bars and rebuilding. And no matter how many times we fall short, we’re still supposed to be the fucking good guys!

    I’m with PZ. I want to see prosecutions. I want there to be NO DOUBT WHATSOEVER, NOW AND FOREVER, THAT THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DOES NOT ENGAGE IN TORTURE. I want to see the people who committed these crimes in jail, their reputations shattered, their lives ruined.

    And I want to see George W. Bush prosecuted for his crimes against humanity and against this country. I want to see him pilloried, repudiated, cast once and for all into the garbage can of history.

    I want this to never, ever, happen again in my country. I want it to be unthinkable, inconceivable, so revolting that no one would ever even think to put one little toe over the line.

    For God’s sake, people! Do you not see the legacy of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Madison being dragged through the sewer?

  127. #127 Leigh Williams
    April 22, 2009

    Well, if we don’t have the balls to clean house, we may get some help:

    European Nations May Investigate Bush Officials Over Prisoner Treatment

  128. #128 Mary
    April 22, 2009

    I will post this again since many who supprt torture here, and think it is a viable option obviously havent been following it in the media (outside faux news perhaps)…

    Intelligence agents who worked in Afghanistan and Iraq, put out books in the last couple of years going through the reasons why torture doesn’t work.

    There was also a very clear report written by one of the intelligence agencies that went through the scientifically based psychological reasons why torture hasnt/doesnt work. There have also been independent reports that have reached the same conclusions.

    Here are some links to some articles for you to peruse if you’re interested. These were the first few I came across via google, there are many more:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2302-2005Jan11.html
    http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=7440
    http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1114/p09s01-coop.html

    If it is provent to not be useful, why is that still an option?

    Again, read the articles above (and more) and you will find that it has NEVER acted as a deterrent, nor has torture EVER aided in extracting useful information. IT HAS ONLY EVER HAD THE OPPOSITE EFFECT!

    If it has been proven to not work, why insist that it should or could be used?

    Completely illogical!

  129. #129 Mary
    April 22, 2009

    Apologies for the typo’s in my last post.

    Here is a petition supporting prosecution of the architects of the Bush-era torture program.

    http://pol.moveon.org/torture/

  130. #130 LRA
    April 22, 2009

    George Bush and ESPECIALLY Dick Chaney should be water-boarded. I hate those mo-f*ckuers with a passion (I hope you all realize that 48% of us Texans voted for Obama–myself included!!!)
    I especially hate how the republican’ts are now whining that they aren’t being represented. Well welcome to my world for the last 8 years. The republican’ts need to shut the f**k up!

  131. #131 Rahul
    April 22, 2009

    Hi, am a long time lurker and love the uncommon good sense around here. I tend to agree with prevalent opinion here on most issues , so I think there is something I am missing about the “torture is wrong under all circumstances” belief.
    I think torture is wrong in the same way killing someone is wrong. If killing to save lives (war) can be condoned , why can’t the same thinking be applicable to torture? I don’t know IF it can save lives and that’s not the argument I am making. IF the only means to gain information about terrorists and shut them down / safeguard against them is by using torture, is it still wrong? (I understand that there is no way to know a priori if torture will work, but supposing everything else has been tried?)Under this particular circumstance is torture still wrong? My dissonance is with the view that torture is wrong in ALL circumstances. Imagine that in one of the 9/11 aircraft , the hijackers were overpowered and captured. They refuse to give up any information about their organization. Everything besides torture has been tried. Is torture viable if it has even a possibility of gaining information which can make the world safer? ( this is not a completely hypothetical situation , one of the gunmen in the Bombay massacre had been captured .Had he refused to talk we would not have been to implicate the people and organizations involved or draw the attention of the international community to the extant terror apparatus in Pakistan)

  132. #132 Mary
    April 22, 2009

    #131,

    you say “I don’t know IF it can save lives and that’s not the argument I am making. IF the only means to gain information about terrorists and shut them down / safeguard against them is by using torture, is it still wrong? (I understand that there is no way to know a priori if torture will work, but supposing everything else has been tried?”

    Once again, IT IS KNOWN THAT TORTURE DOESNT WORK, IN FACT IT HAS THE OPPOSITE EFFECT THAT IT IS INTENDED TO.

    Quite apart from the moral implications (which have been discussed here at great length), why would you “resort” to using a tecnhique that doesnt work!!!

    I will see if I can find some other reports or interviews that I can post …in any case, please go to my last post #128 and click on the articles and read them, there are plenty more online.

  133. #133 Jim
    April 22, 2009

    windy @ #119 and Alex @ #120:
    Sorry to burst your bubble, but it was a simple case of glancing at a CNN article for a foreign/unfamiliar name, then copy/pasting the wrong one – neither is really a household name for me. ’twas nothing more than a typo on my part. Perhaps I should have just said “the guy who looks like Ron Jeremy with a hangover” and been done with it, it would have prevented any confusion.

    And windy, you missed my point entirely, Re: accused witches’ info – the point I was making was that they had no actual names to give out, but captured terrorists certainly do have plenty of valuable info. I realize you probably intended that as a clever aside, but I figured I’d clarify, just in case.

    And as quick as many of you are to insinuate that I drank the Fox News (fyi – the only time that channel is on my TV is when my parents visit, and they get chastized for it) kool-aid, no one has addressed the main point I tried to raise in my initial post (#99), specifically whether we know for sure that torture by American agents was initiated since 2001, or was in place prior, just more under-the-radar. I am legitimately curious about this, and I really do understand why most of you are so against torture, I honestly do; but I’m still somewhat skeptical that this current outrage isn’t at least partially politically motivated. Then again, I should have remembered that being skeptical of the stated concensus here is akin to herecy in the Catholic church. I really should learn to just stick to the science and atheism posts, and avoid the political ones.

  134. #134 Mary
    April 22, 2009

    Bob Baer, former CIA official
    “What happens when you torture people is, they figure out what you want to hear and they tell you.” (Interview with Slate, May 12, 2004)”

    Rear Admiral (ret.) John Hutson, former Judge Advocate General for the Navy
    “All the literature and experts say that if we really want usable information, we should go exactly the opposite way and try to gain the trust and confidence of the prisoners. Torture will get you information, but it’s never reliable. Eventually, if you don’t accidentally kill them first, torture victims will tell you something just to make you stop. If you torture 100 people, you’ll get 100 different stories. If you gain the confidence of 100 people, you will get valuable information.” (Legal Affairs “Debate Club” January 27, 2005)

    Michael Scheuer, formerly a senior CIA official in the Counter-Terrorism Center
    “…any information gotten through extreme methods of torture would be pretty useless because it would be someone telling you what you wanted to hear.” (60 minutes “CIA flying suspects to Torture?” March 6, 2005)

    Dan Coleman, retired FBI agent
    “It?s human nature. People don?t cooperate with you unless they have some reason to.” He added, “Brutalization doesn?t work. We know that. Besides, you lose your soul.” (The New Yorker “Outsourcing Torture” by Jane Mayer)

    Army Field Manual 34-52 Chapter 1
    “…Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation…the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.”

    Video: FBI interrogator: Torture doesn’t work, breeds jihad
    http://www.boingboing.net/2008/03/10/fbi-interrogator-tor.html

    Interview with Neil James, executive director of the Australian Defence Association – torture doesn’t work.
    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/counterpoint/stories/2007/1881639.htm

    video: David Shuster talks to former military investigator Matthew Alexander about why the techniques the Bush administration used do not work. Alexander noted that all torture did was prove to be a recruiting tool for al Qaeda and harden prisoners’ resolve not to cooperate with interrogators. http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/countdown-torture-doesnt-work

    Video:CNN?s Kiran Chetry speaks to a former CIA operative…
    http://www.truveo.com/Torture-doesn?t-work/id/1623729654#

    Video: Daily Show interview with Matthew Alexander
    If i remember correctly, this was a really enlightening interview:
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=212890&title=Matthew-Alexander

    “…torture doesn’t work. Instead of getting reliable, credible information, the one being tortured just tells the interrogators what they want to hear so that they will stop torturing them.” John Mccain.

    …”According to former senior government officials involved in the interrogations, The Washington Post reports, ?All the leads attained during the enhanced interrogations were useless, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida ? chiefly names of Al Qaeda members and associates ? was obtained before the waterboarding was introduced.?

    I might be compelled to post some academic articles tomorrow…

  135. #135 Leigh Williams
    April 22, 2009

    Jim, I’m not sure what you mean by “politically motivated”. Are you implying that we’re baying for Republican blood in order to gain a partisan political advantage?

    Why would that be a goal of ours at this time? The Republican Party is destroying itself quite handily without any help from us whatsoever.

    No, what you’re seeing here is outrage. We’ve felt it all along, you understand. We certainly were aware that Bushco had comported itself monstrously, from the initial lies to gin up war fever, continuing through the shameless profiteering amongst their cronies, then with shredding the Constitution and Bill of Rights and suborning the Department of Justice in pursuit of an imperial presidency, and fetching up finally against the sharp rocks of human rights violations.

    Our concern is not for the Republican Party per se. Indeed, many of us would like to see people of principle once again in charge of the GOP, so that our two-party system might return to a more healthy balance.

    Rather we see the magnitude of the offenses in Bush’s administration. What those delusional terrorists could only dream of doing with their stolen airplanes, Bushco did without compunction: the administration seriously wounded the republic, rotting our institutions from within, setting us against each other in disunity, wrecking our economy, and abandoning the liberal principles and high ideals upon which the country was founded.

    No one argues that our history is perfect in actual applicaton of those ideals — far from it — but we had made progress in pursuing a just and decent society. It’s anguishing to see how far we’ve fallen back into naked imperialism and thuggish behavior on the world stage.

  136. #136 Jim
    April 22, 2009

    Anri @ #125:
    Optimistic? Yes. Ridiculous? Probably not. Realistic? Probably not, sadly.

    As far as your first point, regarding torture used against Americans; that is probably the main difficulty I have when trying to reconcile my conflicting opinions. Obviously, I don’t want to see “our boys” getting tortured, but I also don’t want to see them getting shot by enemy soldiers, or blown up by roadside bombs. I guess when it all comes down, I don’t see much distinction between those three scenarios. They’re all unfortunate parts of war.

  137. #137 Jim
    April 22, 2009

    Leigh,
    Then I guess it comes down to this: I just don’t have as much capacity for outrage as most of the people on this forum, I guess I’m too damn apathetic. That’s why I never fit into any political molds…not enough outrage to be a Democrat, too reasonable to be a Republican. Sigh.

  138. #138 windy
    April 22, 2009

    I am legitimately curious about this, and I really do understand why most of you are so against torture, I honestly do; but I’m still somewhat skeptical that this current outrage isn’t at least partially politically motivated.

    Not in the way you seem to think. These documents were released because of a lawsuit that has been going on since 2003, not because of any initiative by the current administration.

    And why do I have to tell you this, it’s not even my government! Aren’t you “skeptical” enough to look things up?

  139. #139 africangenesis
    April 22, 2009

    It looks like the openid typekey login has stopped working. Has anyone worked around this?

    Windy,

    “These documents were released because of a lawsuit that has been going on since 2003, not because of any initiative by the current administration.”

    That’s just an excuse. The presidents commander in chief and foreign policy powers could have protected these secrets. The administration released these because it didn’t want to. Similar secrets are still being kept, in litigation about a detainee recieved physically damaging torture when he was temporarily turned over to another country. Preserving relation with that country is assumed to be why keeping the secrets is in national interest.

    Leigh Williams#126,

    “I want there to be NO DOUBT WHATSOEVER, NOW AND FOREVER, THAT THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DOES NOT ENGAGE IN TORTURE. I want to see the people who committed these crimes in jail, their reputations shattered, their lives ruined.”

    There is considerable doubt about how to define torture, perhaps you should work on that first. While I agree that the US shouldn’t engage in torture, a little historical, cultural and idealogical perspective is called for. For instance, I consider most involuntary components of military boot camps torture and doubt that there can be a definition that preserves this abomination without resorting to just arbitrarily excepting it. Perhaps commission or sanctioning of torture should be kept in perspective relative to behaviors which are arguably worse. For instance, Obama has already ordered military strikes on suspected al Qaeda members killing family members and others. Some think that a seconds of waterboarding is not as bad killing the suspect and possibly innocent bystanders. Perhaps the jailing, damage to reputation and the extent of life ruination should be proportionately less for sanctioning waterboarding. Of course, the previous administration with its longer tenure is responsible for far more “collateral damage” than Obama’s. There may even be a qualitative rather than just quantitative difference, time will tell, just as history and objective analysis provides perspective.

  140. #140 Walton
    April 22, 2009

    Africangenesis,

    For instance, I consider most involuntary components of military boot camps torture

    No, for two reasons. One, in the US (and in the UK, where I live), we have an all-volunteer army. Those who join do so voluntarily, and those who can’t handle basic training are able to drop out (and many do). Your argument would have more force if we were talking about a conscript army (though most modern nations with conscription allow conscripts to choose alternative civilian service instead).

    Secondly, and more importantly, tough training is absolutely essential in order to prepare soldiers for the stresses and challenges they face on operations. If the training were made less arduous, more troops would lose their lives when they come into contact with the enemy. Having some (very limited) experience of the military (I’m in my university’s OTC unit, a non-deployable cadet unit) I would like to point out that the toughest training is reserved for those who are going into front-line combat, and, from talking to several officers and men who’ve served on combat operations, I am also pretty damn sure that the training is absolutely necessary. There are several people in this forum who are combat veterans (JeffreyD, brokensoldier and Tis Himself, to wit) and I imagine they will say the same (though I’ll defer to their views, being much more informed by experience than my own).

    I am against conscription because, as a classical liberal, I do not believe in compelling people to participate in military operations with which they may not agree. But I also think any realistic person must recognise that in our dangerous world, a well-trained professional military is vital to the protection of our safety and liberties; and I believe we must respect those who choose to risk their lives in order to achieve that goal, whatever one thinks of the conflicts in which they fight.

  141. #141 africangenesis
    April 22, 2009

    Walton,

    “One, in the US (and in the UK, where I live), we have an all-volunteer army. Those who join do so voluntarily, and those who can’t handle basic training are able to drop out (and many do)”

    I know the forces are “voluntary”, but my problem all along has been that informed consent to something like boot camp may not be possible until one is actually experiencing it. Are you sure that recuruits are free to drop out of “recruit training” anytime they want? I thought it wasn’t quite that easy once one had “committed”. That would address my concerns.

  142. #142 Walton
    April 22, 2009

    Re torture, I would certainly say that any practices which meet the legal definitions of torture (as defined by international treaty) need to be stopped now. Waterboarding is definitely a form of torture and has been widely considered so for many centuries, and I’m entirely against using it on detainees; history teaches us that power corrupts, and once we give our government weapons to use against evil people, there is nothing to stop them turning the same weapons on innocent people.

    As regards more moderate interrogation techniques (sleep deprivation, etc.), I don’t like it, but I would accept that it’s probably necessary in order to extract information on terrorism and therefore save lives. But anything further than that is totally unacceptable, IMO. Once we torture one innocent person, we lose our moral superiority.

    On the topic of prosecuting/condemning/humiliating people like John Yoo, I’m not so sure. As I understand it, Yoo and others were doing their jobs, which was to offer a legal opinion on whether certain interrogation techniques were permitted by US law. That legal opinion may have been (and, in my opinion, was) wrong, but being wrong isn’t a crime. Nor should we hold responsible the CIA operatives who carried out these interrogations, as they were advised that the interrogations were lawful. IMO, the best thing to do is to draw a line under the past; stop using torture, and prosecute any operative who uses it from now on, but let the existing skeletons stay in the cupboard.

  143. #143 africangenesis
    April 22, 2009

    Walton,

    “Waterboarding is definitely a form of torture and has been widely considered so for many centuries,”

    In a legal interpretation of the Geneva Convention, and the question of what torture is and who the conventions apply to, do the centuries really matter? Presumably, the wording of the convention was carefully selected, yet still allows considerable room for interpretive disagreement. I wonder for how many months to years any trials would divert the attention of the country from the ill advised economic policies?

  144. #144 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 22, 2009

    I wonder for how many months to years any trials would divert the attention of the country from the ill advised economic policies?

    Wait. That’s a reason to not have trials?

  145. #145 Walton
    April 22, 2009

    Are you sure that recuruits are free to drop out of “recruit training” anytime they want? I thought it wasn’t quite that easy once one had “committed”.

    In the UK, those who drop out of basic training and do not serve out their service obligation are usually required to pay a substantial fee (to cover the cost of the training they have already received). (This happened to the singer Billy Bragg, for instance.) I don’t know about the situation in the US. Obviously, those who run off and go AWOL are committing a court-martial offence and may be imprisoned (though more often they’re simply thrown out of the Army).

  146. #146 africangenesis
    April 22, 2009

    Walton,

    “Obviously, those who run off and go AWOL are committing a court-martial offence and may be imprisoned (though more often they’re simply thrown out of the Army). ”

    One of the results of an “Article 15″ in the US is having to restart training. The punishment for objecting to being tortured, may be … more torture, hmmm.

    Even the wikipedia article on “recruit training” is disturbingly rife with euphamisms, “indoctrination”, “conditioning”, “change of personality”, “instinctive obedience”, etc.

    The wikipedia article also unquestioningly accepts terms like “essential”, “likely” without the usual specific supporting authorities.

    Perhaps the most disturbing distortion made it into this article:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Army_Basic_Training

    which described one of the most essential lessons as “self-discipine”. Hmmm.

  147. #147 Anon
    April 22, 2009

    What those delusional terrorists could only dream of doing with their stolen airplanes, Bushco did without compunction: the administration seriously wounded the republic, rotting our institutions from within, setting us against each other in disunity, wrecking our economy, and abandoning the liberal principles and high ideals upon which the country was founded.

    hear hear!

  148. #148 africangenesis
    April 22, 2009

    Rev. BigDumbChimp#143,

    “Wait. That’s a reason to not have trials?”

    No, rather diverting attention is a reason to have the trials despite a shakey and ambiguious legal basis and little likelyhood of being able to meet the standards of evidence required for criminal convictions.

  149. #149 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 22, 2009

    No, rather diverting attention is a reason to have the trials despite a shakey and ambiguious legal basis and little likelyhood of being able to meet the standards of evidence required for criminal convictions.

    Sure, I don’t disagree. But we haven’t established that it is a “shakey and ambiguious legal basis and little likelyhood of being able to meet the standards of evidence required for criminal convictions.” SO you making that charge is a bit conspiracy theory-ish.

  150. #150 africangenesis
    April 22, 2009

    Quoting myself#145:

    “The punishment for objecting to being tortured, may be … more torture, hmmm. ”

    The moral dilemmas are rife here. Does “consenting” to the period of torture in order to avoid more torture constitute true “consent”?

    Switching to the interrogation of the detainees, what if they had been given the “choice” of continued detention by the US or repatriation to their countries despite knowing what the US had in mind? Fearing worse more damaging torture in their home countries, they “consent”? Is that really “consent”?

    Back to military recruits, is a volunteer for military service, really consenting, if he is only volunteering because he fears occupation and perhaps even torture by an invading country? Is that really “consent” to “recruit training”? Is there ever really a good excuse to physically or verbally abuse another person, consenting or not? What if the person has a mental illness such as masochism? Shouldn’t treatment be offered instead?

  151. #151 Walton
    April 22, 2009

    Africangenesis:

    Back to military recruits, is a volunteer for military service, really consenting, if he is only volunteering because he fears occupation and perhaps even torture by an invading country? Is that really “consent” to “recruit training”? Is there ever really a good excuse to physically or verbally abuse another person, consenting or not? What if the person has a mental illness such as masochism? Shouldn’t treatment be offered instead?

    I repeat what I said in reply to you earlier:

    (Walton)

    Secondly, and more importantly, tough training is absolutely essential in order to prepare soldiers for the stresses and challenges they face on operations. If the training were made less arduous, more troops would lose their lives when they come into contact with the enemy. Having some (very limited) experience of the military (I’m in my university’s OTC unit, a non-deployable cadet unit) I would like to point out that the toughest training is reserved for those who are going into front-line combat, and, from talking to several officers and men who’ve served on combat operations, I am also pretty damn sure that the training is absolutely necessary. There are several people in this forum who are combat veterans (JeffreyD, brokensoldier and Tis Himself, to wit) and I imagine they will say the same (though I’ll defer to their views, being much more informed by experience than my own).

    I am against conscription because, as a classical liberal, I do not believe in compelling people to participate in military operations with which they may not agree. But I also think any realistic person must recognise that in our dangerous world, a well-trained professional military is vital to the protection of our safety and liberties; and I believe we must respect those who choose to risk their lives in order to achieve that goal, whatever one thinks of the conflicts in which they fight.

  152. #152 africangenesis
    April 22, 2009

    Walton,

    I think you are being too uncritically accepting of harsh and abusive recruit training. There are a lot of stress injuries due to the physical training that could be avoided with a more moderate and extended regimen. It has been shown that the “change of personality” and “instinctive obedience” doesn’t really take in older recruits, yet they can become good soldiers, so the abuse and dehumanization may not be necessary at all. Perhaps there can even be savings in expense and time that balance the longer more humane training from not having to reverse some of the effects with “sensitivity training” before deployments.

  153. #153 Josh
    April 22, 2009

    I applaud what Leigh wrote in #126, both in principle and in detail. That said, however, if we’re truly going to be consistent in thinking about this subject, then we really should be congnisent of what happens during military training. I say this because, having been through, shall we say, a good bit of it, I think that an outsider looking in might well conclude that the lines between “torture” and “non-torture” can blur a little… Basically, I think that the spirit of what africangenesis wrote in #138 about training is solid. There is no widespread moral outrage regarding what they put us through in certain combat schools, but I suspect that the actual facts of that training would scare the shit out of some of you.

    Walton wrote, in comment #139:

    Those who join do so voluntarily, and those who can’t handle basic training are able to drop out (and many do).

    This isn’t really accurate for the US, at least in the Army.

    africangenesis wrote in #145:

    One of the results of an “Article 15″ in the US is having to restart training.

    Really? Can you point to where it says that in the UCMJ? I am truly curious about that. My team sergeant has an Article 15 on his record; he’s never mentioned having to restart BCT. I have another current teammate who got an Article 15 when he was in AIT; he also has never mentioned having to restart BCT. And these two guys were both training for different MOSs at different posts. I had a guy in my company in Infantry AIT back in the day who got one, during AIT, for insubordination. Funny thing, he was standing with his platoon about 20 meters away from me on graduation day.

    Or, did you mean a possible result? If so, again I’d like a citation to the appropriate section of the UCMJ, because I don’t recall reading that anywhere. I’m not implying that it’s not there; I’m implying exactly what I’m saying.

  154. #154 africangenesis
    April 22, 2009

    Josh, my bad. I should have said “possible result”. Unfortunately, my source was not the UCMJ, but a wikipedia article. Yes, I relied upon an article I had just been critical of. 8-(

    “Some combinations of actions can also consist of being “held over”, “recycled” or “rolled back” to start training from a date already passed, including being started over (“new start over”, or NSO) at the beginning. There is a certain amount of disgrace associated with being a “holdover” or “NSO”, however the knowledge of training already gained by the recruit held back is held immensely valuable by the recruits of the company or class just starting.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Army_Basic_Training

  155. #155 Josh
    April 22, 2009

    African,

    *smack for using Wikiblabbia*

    But “okay” to your comment. When I get a chance, I’m going to puruse the UCMJ (*snore*), because you’ve got me curious. It is definitely accurate, however, that recruits can get held over and stuff, but from what I’ve seen that’s usually for other problems (like getting sent to FTU at Reception and not ever passing), but I will check and see what the UCMJ has to say about it.

    Incidentally, I checked out the BCT entry you linked to. Even though it’s my standing policy to throw things at people who link to Wikiblabbia (and of course you grope for my approval–duh), the entry does seem broadly accurate. There were some interesting howlers in there, though. I especially love the “a typical day begins at 05:30.” HA! That’s priceless. I know it says that times vary by location and CO, etc., but I gotta tell ya, if that’s accurate at any post now, then basic has changed a bit since I went through*…

    *Because back in my dayTM, we had to run to and from Chow naked, with 322 pounds on our backs, uphill both ways, in 160 degree C heat. Bah! These new “recruits.” Bah!

  156. #156 Nick Kelsier
    April 22, 2009

    ShamWow, here’s what the third geneva convention says:
    Article 13

    Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.

    Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

    Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.

    Now…exactly how are you going to argue that waterboarding isn’t seriously endangering the health of the prisoner? It’s causing them to drown. And no..there is no requirement that there be permament harm. It’s any physical harm period. By authorizing waterboardin and other forms of torture, Sham, George Bush rendered the United States no better than any other nation on the planet. Congratulations..we joined the League of Ordinary Nations. And you’re fine with that why?

  157. #157 africangenesis
    April 22, 2009

    Nick Kelsier,

    That is the part of the convention that pertains to “Prisoners of War”.

    “George Bush rendered the United States no better than any other nation on the planet.”

    Overgeneralization, I think you are forgetting the US role in expanding NATO, the liberation and democratization of Iraq, the patrolling of the Somali trade routes against piracy and the aid to the tsunami victims.

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