Democrats & Liberals Archives

Gitmo: The Right Fight, The Wrong Way

Gitmo does not represent some tough, clear cut attempt to cut through the red tape, to do what more liberal methods would not or could not. It is nothing short of a declaration of failure of the Bush Administration to figure out a way to balance America’s necessary adherence to the rule of law, but more than that, it is a declaration of the Bush Administration’s lack of faith in its ability to properly interpret the facts to discern the terrorist’s plans and prevent the next 9/11.

Responsibility is the issue.

Torture is unreliable, and its very unreliability casts reasonable doubt on both its value as a means to seek out the guilty and as a method for gathering intelligence. Sure, you might get a confession from somebody who deserved to get it beaten out of them, but then again, you might just have beaten it out of a person who had nothing to do with it. In terms of intelligence value, there's a real, constant danger of polluting the meaningful information that a person could give you, with confabulations essentially cooked up to avoid further pain. If this happens with an innocent person, there is not darn thing they'll tell you that will do you any good. If it's not, you still run the chance of contaminating what they really know with what you think they should know. Worse yet, they may not be able to tell the difference, after you're through with them.

Every confession you get out of a torture victim is a potential waste of resources, and an intelligence failure that cannot be undone. It blurs the line between guilt and innocence, making it difficult for the government to focus on the truly guilty. It also increases the chances that the sadistic and the opportunistic, the over-zealous and the corrupt can drive the system into dysfunction, as each seeks to serve their own purposes with the power that's supposed to protect people. Though such people always operate in a society like ours, in law enforcement agencies and police departments, our laws keep them in check and accountable for their actions.

Denying terror suspects their rights seems only appropriate, but unfortunately, it's simply an extension of the same thinking that muddles the torture debate. Consider things in terms of accountability and responsibility again. One of the biggest fears driving our keeping those people at Gitmo was that we couldn't tell the difference between the innocent and the guilty. What if the coerced confession was real, what if it wasn't? If we could be sure these people were all terrorists, we could line them up in front of a firing squad, and be done with it. But the Bush Administration did a lot in haste and this is no different, and because separating the sheep from the wolves wasn't built into the system, and we used the good old-fashioned, new and improved enhanced interrogation, we don't know which is which. Gitmo's evolved over time into a prison where our certainty goes to die.

I think it's only prudent at this point to be clear: both systems can let the guilty go free. A system based on taking a harsh, no-quarter approach to terrorism suspects will catch up innocent suspects in the bargain, diverting resources and attention. The unaccountable nature of secret, incommunicado detention, without habeas corpus rules might encourage politicians to take the morally cowardly position of simply letting their mistakes rot. With the added outrage of torture, and fears that prisoners might not take kindly to their unjustified punishment, the perverse incentives to leave terror suspects in those legal black hole become greater. This only compounds the problems of inefficiency, of investigators not doing their homework. The perverse, unintended consequence of such a harsh system will ultimately be that more of the guilty go free, worse yet with the innocent sometimes serving the punishment in their place.

Our native system keeps those enforcing our laws honest. Arresting a person? Searching their belongings? Tapping their communications? The constitution asks you to justify this. Which means you go through the trouble of gathering information, gathering meaningful facts. Which means you start out focused, and have something to keep your focus. When we get into surveillance program where we're filtering through everybody's e-mail and cell phone conversations, intercepting their web traffic, trying to magically find that crucial last minute piece of information, we're essentially the boa constrictor trying to swallow the elephant.

We're in a bad enough situation trying to translate Arabic. Now we're just producing a supremely huge backlog of such information. And for what reason? Fear of missing the critical message. The trick is, information always takes time to process, and the more you force yourself to swallow, the more likely you are to miss the message because of your zealous intake of irrelevant information.

A common feature of the former administration was this panicked, inefficient pursuit of information. Emotionally, one could easily justify it, but logically, practically, it's been a farce. It is more important, in the end result, to shape one's practices to get meaningful information quickly, rather than to committ oneself to this signal gluttony in hopes that random, lucky chance will yield you the important information you need to know.

But that kind of good detective work runs you a risk: you have to employ your judgment here, and decide what's important information, and what's not. The irony here may be that one might need the courage to make a risky judgment call like that in order to be one's best at intercepting the terrorists and preventing their plots from following through. The Bush Administration, lacking that courage, could only glut itself on all the information it could get, any way it could get it, in the feverish aspiration that it would never be caught on the wrong end of such a call.

The burden of responsibility in the sphere of law enforcement is the necessity to make such decisions, which if wrong could cost lives. It's important to consider though, that if we don't have the courage to make such decisions, to admit that we are human and to admit that we must live with ourselves as such, that we may iironically make ourselves more vulnerable, not only to attack from without, but corrosion from within.

We are not Gods, omniscient, omnipotent, wise beyond mortal consideration, clever enough to outwit all takers. We are human beings who must learn hard lessons, and allow for our mortal failings in order to best overcome them.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at January 27, 2009 11:45 AM
Comments
Comment #274414

Stephen,

Are you saying we should close GITMO because it is STUPID to have it? Or are you saying we should close it because it is WRONG to have it?

The first is a practical reason…the second a legal/moral reason.

GITMO is both impractical and illegal/immoral. Closing it because it is stupid just means saving a buck or two of wasteful spending. Closing it because it is illegal is the right thing for America to do. Why do you say we are closing it for the wrong reason?

(Of course, both reasons are valid and can be combined)

Posted by: Marysdude at January 27, 2009 1:05 PM
Comment #274423

Marysdude-
The stupidity of it and the wrongness of it go hand in hand. Even if these means were effective, we would still have the question of what it does to us as country, what tyrannies and police state horrors it could inflict on us in the long run.

Haste is the word to describe what we have here. We suppose that well-intentioned investigators, given the ability to snoop anywhere, on anyone, could expedite their investigation. What’s not considered is temporal opportunity cost, which is to say that it’s not just the ability of the investigators to go anywhere they see fit we have to take into account, it’s the consequences of that. There are no guarantees, which ever way we do things, that our government will find the rightr people, and find them in time. But when we give such unrestricted powers, governments and their investigators have a momentum of their own that can be troublesome to put the brakes on without civil liberties keeping them honest.

This capacity for self-delusion can take a government so far off course that they might as well be powerless to stop the threat.

It is both moral and intelligent to create a system that keeps the government from unnecessary or illegitimate intrusion into folks lives, to prefer a system that depends on logical or intuitive extrapolation from what we know, instead of building itself up on fallacies of appeals to ignorance, appeals to fear. We don’t favor torture because it has a good track record. We favor it because it’s one size fits all, quick, and expedient. There are many wrongs in this world maintained for the sake of moral and intellectual laziness, for the sake of the notion that the good and the evil of the world need not be held to the same standards.

This despite the fact that many of the evil of the world are people who believe that their sense of good entitles them to a separate, more expedient standard of what constitutes good.

If we are to do actual good, we cannot merely annoint ourselves defenders of the right and the good, and then reason that we can do anything we want. Evil will come of that because we are only human, and evil will come of it because convince ourselves that no matter what vicious, unrighteous, morally queasy thing we do, we are exempted from it because of our intentions and goals.

The truth of good and evil in the world is that we make our bed and we have to lie in it, and if we befoul our dwelling, we’ll be making excuses for our own stench from here to doomsday like everybody else. The clever, the good, and the morally strong must hold themselves to a higher standard, if they want to reap the good fruits of their virtue. Otherwise, they might as well have been as dumb, depraved and cowardly as everybody else.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 27, 2009 3:25 PM
Comment #274425

Stephen,

In your last paragraph, and occasionally some paragraphs prior, you left ‘government’ behind and spoke more of the current financial situation than anything else. You may not have meant to, but you did none-the-less. Honor and integrity are far more important today than they have ever been in history, in government and in business, and they are the hardest ‘sell’.

Obama seems to be speaking the language to government, but who in business will step forward?

Posted by: Marysdude at January 27, 2009 3:53 PM
Comment #274430

Stephen, you write as if every terrorist brought to Gitmo was “tortured” for information. Has it been stated that was standard operating procedure?

Posted by: kctim at January 27, 2009 5:48 PM
Comment #274432

kctim,

How many would it take for torture to be wrong, and to be associated with the location? GITMO would be a blight, if only one had been tortured, and that does not take into account the numbers of prisoners that were not chargeable. The suspension of habeas corpus, for convenience of not having to find proof of someones guilt, is just plain WRONG.

Posted by: Marysdude at January 27, 2009 6:08 PM
Comment #274434

Here in America terrorism is a major concern. Besides 9/11 we have the Unibomber Ted Kaczynski, The shoe bomber John Walker Lindh, Oklahoma City’s McVeigh and Nickels, the anthrax ‘A’ hole, and the mailbox bomber.

But, the rest of these guys are Americans. Maybe we should have the FBI torturing people instead of the CIA. That way if someone’s accused of being a terrorist we can torture them until they give us the names of two co-conspirators. Then we can torture them until they give the names of two more co-conspirators and so on. In this way we could uncover a giant conspiracy.

Does this sound incredibly stupid to anyone else? If Americans will tell you anything to get the pain to stop, so will everyone else. Torture doesn’t work! All it does is to swell the ranks of radicals who hate our guts. It’s the best recruiting tool Bin Laden ever had! Now we’re worried about what to do with all the people at Gitmo, for fear one of the ones we release might be a terrorist. I’m sorry but even the innocent ones will have a hell of a chip on their shoulders after Gitmo.

The war on terror has being unbelievably botched.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at January 27, 2009 6:22 PM
Comment #274443

kctim-
The Bush administration went through a lot trouble to defend and legally justify “enhanced interrogation”, if it wasn’t. Such practices were common enough that when applied to Abu Ghraib, we essentially got the results infamous now today.

Even if it wasn’t necessarily common at first, it was an option they were willing to justify by legal methods. If they had succeeded, would it make sense not to employ those methods as a matter of course, since they were supposedly superior to traditional methods?

And why not then import them here? Once you legalize and lionize torture, whatever you call it, it’s going to become the tough way of dealing with scum and villainy, and folks are going to have to explain why they aren’t willing to waterboard criminals.

That’s how it works, really. We could, though, if we were more willing to approach things with an eye to results, both ethical and practical, conclude that acting tough doesn’t mean you’re doing things right.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 27, 2009 9:03 PM
Comment #274447

Seems a fair number of prisoners were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Before 9/11 elements of the Taliban had been called “freedom fighters” by none other than Ronald Reagan. Immediatly after 9/11 they became enemies. No wonder there was confusion.The Bush regime should have recognized this and dealt with it quickly instead of refusing to to allow hearings etc. for years,embarassing the nation.
Again with credit to Tom Clancy,Great powers that do not maintain a minimum regard for human rights become
“abominations”, like Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia. Its not fair. At times it is a disadvantage when dealing with a ruthless enemy but it is am inescapable duty of a great democracy to refrain from torture.
A premptive strike too the so called Christians that will no doubt post to justify torture: Who would Jesus waterboard?Maybe,just maybe, torture might be one of those things that could get you into Hell.

Posted by: bills at January 27, 2009 10:11 PM
Comment #274448

Hardly ever heard any outcry on this ,I knew a Doctor who was a Buddhist A very nice man he told me about it When it happened. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamyan

Posted by: Rodney Brown at January 27, 2009 10:42 PM
Comment #274453

Stephen,
Gitmo should be closed in order to save money and close a problem prison. And why I doubt if the worse inmates would be put into county lock up, I do believe that over the next year we can find a suitable place for them.

Maybe we should send them to an oil rig in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico or put them in the cell with the rest of the murders we hold everyday. Nonetheless, to do nothing or follow President Bush idea that we do not have alternative sets up America for continued law suites around the world. So why the Left and Right fight over what is the best way to handle the inmates I do believe that the larger question facing President Obama and Congress is how does the law see a person who insist that they belong to No Government in the World. Can these humans be found to be mentally insane?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at January 28, 2009 1:15 AM
Comment #274454

Rodney Brown
I certainly recall a good deal of outrage when that sensless destruction occured. The Talaban are a bunch of jerks. Makes me question Reagans trainning and arming those thugs.
A bit of follow up. There has been an expedition in the same area that purports to have discovered a huge,reclinning Buddha. It was hidden by time from the ravages of the Talaban thankfully and its unearthing and restoration will be a delightful thumb at the nose to those goons.

Posted by: bills at January 28, 2009 4:33 AM
Comment #274459

Stephen
I really was just curious if they had released a report or something. I believe the “enhanced interrogation” procedures were only used on the few of importance and only after all other options had not worked, so such a report would be of interest to me.

Posted by: kctim at January 28, 2009 9:31 AM
Comment #274460

Dude
We just disagree. I have no problem with using whatever means necessary to get information from terrorists who we are at war with.

Politics, not facts, are what has made Gitmo out to be a torture factory where US soldiers torture innocent muslims for the fun of it and now Obama has to use another option. I believe he will do as clinton did and just ship them to another country and get the info that way.
Why one is right and the other wrong, I’ll never know.

Posted by: kctim at January 28, 2009 10:02 AM
Comment #274462

bills-
The Taliban (or Taleban as it’s sometimes spelled) is comparably recent. It’s very name speaks to it’s relative youth: it means students. They are mujahideen, in the broad sense, but most of the mujahideen we were supporting were more interested in freeing their country than spreading an extremist version of Wahhabi Islam.

kctim-
I know you’re hesitant to believe that we sunk this low, but we did. Not only that, but Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld made use of these techniques explicitly permissable.

It was Waterboarding that they claimed was only used two or three times, though I have my doubts that this is the case. This is the CIA making this claim, of course.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 28, 2009 10:33 AM
Comment #274468

Stephen
I did not say that we did not use those techniques. I said that I do not believe we “torture” every terrorist and that we probably only do so after other options have failed.

To say “but we did” is to believe all those on that list are “torture,” and I do not believe that to be true. Huge difference between waterboarding and sleep deprivation, IMO.

Posted by: kctim at January 28, 2009 2:17 PM
Comment #274476

> Huge difference between waterboarding and sleep deprivation, IMO.
Posted by: kctim at January 28, 2009 02:17 PM

kctim,

It pretty much depends on which side of the interrogation you’re on, I expect. But it is beside the point…if we ONLY tortured ONE individual, we have become no better than those we condemn. And, because we, as a nation, attempt to justify those methods, become tainted. If you lay down with dogs, don’t be surprised if you get up with fleas. All this crap rubs off on us. That is the main reason I’m so against the death penalty in murder trials. Every time an execution occurs, I become a murderer by proxy. Every time Cheney/Bush authorized torture, I became no better than the inquisition priests of old.

Posted by: Marysdude at January 28, 2009 3:34 PM
Comment #274479

kctim-
First, I’m not going to guess at the proportion of folks subject to the “enhanced” interrogation methods. Second, I’m also not going to guess at what the threshold is for their use.

But what I don’t have to guess at is that the Bush administration essentially gave the okay for it, and that it has been observed to be used by reliable witnesses. FBI agents, as a matter of fact.

It shouldn’t matter whether it’s most cases, or a minority, whether it’s a last resort or a standard warm-up. The very nature of these kinds of interrogations is that they increase the suggestibility of the subject, meaning that it’s far more likely that the person will confabulate false information, which defeats the point of the hasty, last minute interrogation. What use is it getting that guy to crack if his intelligence sends you on a wild goose chase that occupies the rest of the time you have left?

Which is not even to comment on how much of a Hollywood convention the ticking time bomb scenario is. Screenwriters call this the “timelock” method. Some element of the situation you’re writing, whether it’s a discreet period of time or an event that bound to happen at some point raises the stakes by forcing the hero to act now rather than later.

Let’s say a bad guy shows up and asks for help from a scholar in translating a relic before a certain date. The scholar might not like the guy, or he might not think it that big of a deal, and so they turn them down. Well, what happens when the scholars child is kidnapped by the bad guy, or the man perpetrates some kind of blackmail? Then it becomes VERY important when your hero acts, and that helps to raise the stakes and put a foundation of motivation under whatever actions the character takes.

By always referencing these last-minute scenario, the Bush Administration used the fear and suspense of such a dramatic possibility to motivate support for their darker approach to interrogation, to the whole process of investigating these situations.

But as reality? It’s bunk.

Or as somebody else put it:

—First, FBI or CIA agents apprehend a terrorist at the precise moment between timer’s first tick and bomb’s burst.

—Second, the interrogators somehow have sufficiently detailed foreknowledge of the plot to know they must interrogate this very person and do it right now.

—Third, these same officers, for some unexplained reason, are missing just a few critical details that only this captive can divulge.

—Fourth, the biggest leap of all, these officers with just one shot to get the information that only this captive can divulge are best advised to try torture, as if beating him is the way to assure his wholehearted cooperation.

Sleep deprivation can be torture, especially if it’s inflicted on its victim against their will, and for extended periods of time. On occasions where I’ve been up over twenty-four hours on account of different events (such as Hurricane Ike), the experience was certainly terrible. if somebody keeps somebody up for two or three days, we’re talking progressive neurological difficulties. A person can go practically psychotic as a result.

I think the whole point of techniques like that is to produce this kind of ambiguity, where people hearing about it don’t think much of it, but people experiencing it go through hell. Ultimately, the point of torture is not bodily harm, but the infliction of pain and suffering.

However, if we look at things from an empirical, real world point of view, we do not see torture working like it’s supposed to. We see techniques that essentially compel obedience to the torturer, which can mean telling the torturer what they want to hear, whether it’s true or not.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 28, 2009 4:48 PM
Comment #274481

Dude
Even if it saves thousands of American lives?

What one believes constitutes torture and how far one is willing to go to protect their fellow Americans, is the entire point.

Posted by: kctim at January 28, 2009 4:54 PM
Comment #274496

Dude “It pretty much depends on which side of the interrogation you’re on ..”

True, if I was the individual planning (or having caused) the deaths or hundreds or thousands I would have thought to myself, “What the heck, if I get caught they won’t bother with torture. They slap me on the wrist and put me in Gitmo.”

Is there not truth that in some cases, individuals are trained to resist torture?

In fact I will go out on a limb and say that I am against torturing someone that is planning to committ terrorism … to train them for being tortured. That is just plain crazy.

But then again, so are those that go to these extremes.

I agree with kctim that I have no issue with using whatever means are necessary to obtain information from combatants to protest our forces and citzens. Especially if it involves thousands of American lives.

Posted by: Honest at January 28, 2009 8:03 PM
Comment #274498

Damn!

How did this country become so blase about torture that we can accept it just because it makes things more convenient for us. There has never been anything found out by torture that could not have been found out another, better way.

Stephen is right about the mechanics of torture, but I’ll add the costs to our national psyche. When we accept torture as the best way to glean information from a terror suspect, it is no leap to figure it’s the best way to discover information about a more mundane suspect.

You keep referring to this as a way to get information from ‘combatants’. I thought that was what the Geneva Convention was for. If we are at war, we have no reason to conduct ourselves as less than combatants as well.

I hate to think of myself acting in other than honorable ways. Without honor, either personal or national, we end up with greedy financiers stealing our treasury. Without honor as combatants, we end up no better than Hitler, Pol Pot or Stalin.

Posted by: Marysdude at January 28, 2009 9:20 PM
Comment #274515

kctim-
Look, if you’re speeding to get your pregnant wife to the hospital that doesn’t make driving a car at high speed safer or smarter.

Interrogations on TV involving torture or threats of torture make for dramatic scenes. Just not realistic ones. Sometimes the most convincing stories are the ones that leave out the inconvenient details elegantly.

There is a such thing as going too far. There is a such thing as such excess not working out like people planned.

Ever since Goldwater said these words:

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

Folks in the right have forgotten some fairly important facts. First, Liberty requires that some person’s extremism be moderated. Second, without some moderation in the pursuit of justice, it isn’t justice.

You complain about other people forcing their beliefs on others. Democracy both does and does not enable that in our country. The rule of the majority inevitably forces some beliefs, in the shape of laws and regulations, on others. That’s government, and in this country, the rule of majority is its source of legitimacy.

At the same time, our civil liberties restrict the reach of that majority, ensuring that no one particular collection of a majority (for they can be different parts of the population, depending on the issue) can ever settle the argument perfectly and destroy Democracy through the entrenchment of their power.

The Republicans gave a good try at the latter, but the nature of our Democracy defeated them eventually, that and their horrid incompetence and lack of manners. But liberty won out: The Republicans could not maintain their hold over an unwilling, unsympathetic country that didn’t like their policies.

The very nature of liberty makes extremism in its defense a difficult fit. People in countries that are less free do not expect more of their government. Extremism in liberty’s defense is not sustainable, because Democracy eats at it almost immediately.

And moderation in the pursuit of justice? In my view, if it isn’t moderated, it isn’t justice, its just the government getting its way, justly or unjustly, as it pleases. Ultimately, the error of most incipient Democracies in the world is that they do not put moderating rights and liberties into their system, and because of that, different kinds of extremism can either take over or spring up depending on the mood of the public or the leaders.

Moderation is what makes justice, justice. When a government has to explain a detention or free the person, that’s necessary to justice. Otherwise they could hold anybody they want, for whatever reasons. That sometimes the guilty goes free is the price for justice for us all. When a government has to prove a case to assign guilt, much less inflict punishment, that’s necessary to justice; otherwise they could try and put people in jail or put them to death at their whim.

If the state is not moderated by liberties, justice is a casualty.

In the case of our detainees, the necessary moderation should be there because inevitably, after the government is done imposing its newfound powers on those we suspect to be our despicable enemies, it will inevitably seep its way over into our system, first under the pretext of defending us against terrorists, then under the pretext of defending us against lesser threats.

Moreover, the application of moderated practices benefits us another way: it keeps the folks running those prisons honest and focused, and yields better information from those detained within its walls. When an innocent person rots within Gitmo’s walls, he takes the place, directly or indirectly, of somebody who deserves to be there. When that person cracks under torture and mistreatment, their confession only saves them, and nobody else. And when the mistake that is that person disappears into the system, Americans and their media never to know of that person, the concealment of the mistake guarantees that other mistakes will be made, and those mistakes all will endanger American lives, and their revelation will almost certainly shame and hinder a country that has long built its reputation on the greatness of its freedoms.

Sure, to go to extremes shows committment. And sometimes such commitment is necessary for our defense. But if we’re not careful about the costs of such extremity to our country and to ourselves, we may just end up producing an effect counter to the safety and the interests of our country.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 29, 2009 8:28 AM
Comment #274524

Stephen
I agree there is such a thing as going to far and things not working as planned, those are basic facts of life. But I believe those two things take a back seat when it comes to saving the lives of Americans.

That doesn’t mean I “get off” on hearing about our enemies being tortured or that I want every one of them to be tortured either. It just means that I place more value in the lives of my fellow Americans than I do our enemies.

You see, you act and even wrote here, as if it is standard operating procedure to use the most extreme methods on every captured terrorist and I disagree with that. I believe there is an organized plan to get information from them and that only the ones who are believed to hold vital information are subjected to the more extreme methods, but only after other methods have failed.
If people would look at our process without all the emotion and BS partisanship, they would see that it is very moderate.

“You complain about other people forcing their beliefs on others”

Yes, I do. But that is because we were founded as a Constitutional Republic where individual rights and freedoms rule, not a democracy where the majority rules.
The biggest difference is that I believe your beliefs are just as valid as mine and should be respected, while you believe your beliefs are more valid and should be law.

“That sometimes the guilty goes free is the price for justice for us all. When a government has to prove a case to assign guilt, much less inflict punishment, that’s necessary to justice”

It’s interesting how you pick and choose when to apply such logic. You don’t want govt to infringe on the rights of a foreign terrorist who is intent on killing Americans, but you have no problem with govt infringing on the rights of an American who more than likely will not kill Americans.
If you are going to accept that sometimes the guilty will go free, as the price of justice, you should accept it for all rights and freedoms.

“…it will inevitably seep its way over into our system”

I agree and I believe that is a very valid concern we all should have. That is why I, unlike Obama, am not in favor of the wiretapping bill and it is why I would never support such interogation practices on American citizens.

“When an innocent person rots within Gitmo’s walls, he takes the place, directly or indirectly, of somebody who deserves to be there”

I agree and I think we should take every precaution to prevent that from happening. But, I also believe such a thing is the exception and not the rule.

Mistakes have been made and will continue to be made under Obama, but we should not let that keep us from doing whatever is necessary to protect our fellow Americans.

Posted by: kctim at January 29, 2009 11:28 AM
Comment #274526

kctim,

You think, because it is justifiable under some circumstances, that it will not be abused? That it can be monitored? That it cannot infringe on us in everyday life? That the world can’t see the hypocrisy of an America founded on civil rights and justice for all, will torture to glean bad information from perhaps innocent people?

But, I reiterate…it may not be the mechanics of this practice that is the worst part…it may be its impact on our national psyche. If we act like them, we become them. If we become them, we have little right to complain about thousands of Americans dying, as thousands of them have been dying for centuries, and especially during the past few decades..

Posted by: Marysdude at January 29, 2009 12:38 PM
Comment #274528

kctim-
I want to save as many lives as possible, and I think torture saves fewer lives than good interrogations methods.

But even where it doesn’t save lives, it saves us from betraying what people in this country give their lives to protect.

I never accused you of getting off on it. As a matter of fact, I can see you only see it as a last resort, as something that you would like to believe we do little of.

I believe, though, that torture, whether we employ it reluctantly, or with a whole heart, is wrong on multiple levels.

It’s wrong practically, because it increases the uncertainty of the facts and the knowledge it harvests.

It’s wrong morally because it’s cruel, and the cruelty undermines and traumatizes the people who employ it. It also opens our own people up to reciprocal mistreatment.

It’s wrong legally, for all intents and purposes.

It’s wrong from a public relations point of view because there’s nothing that says spreading freedom like the sordid goings on of a fully functioning dungeon.

It’s wrong on multiple levels in my opinion, but I chose the threat to civil liberties and the problem of the quality of the information given because those two issues have the virtue of being symmetrically arguable. They also have the virtue of synergetically supporting each other; it’s bad enough to endanger your own civil liberties, but its even worse to do it for the sake of using methods that don’t produce dependable results.

You say it wasn’t standard operating procedure. But what reason do you have to believe that? Is that just your sense, or do you have evidence of this? I’ve presented evidence that it was a standard operating procedure. Whether or not your feelings about the prisons and what they’re trying to do allow you to accept the possibility is irrelevant.

If I had some sense that it would work reliably, I might be able to countenance it’s occasional use in times of dire need. But it would still nag at me the way mission creep often sneaks into the equation, progressively justifying more and more “emergencies”, and it would also concern me that it not spread beyond such detainees.

Even recently, the Bush administration was pushing a case where an American was declared an enemy combatant, thrown into that legal black hole of neither being a citizen with rights, nor a fighter of one kind or another who could be put through the system appropriately. If one man like that could be exempted from his civil liberties, a government could justify broader exceptions.

Torture, though, is not reliable. So it becomes worse than the leaching of cruel, sadistic methods of interrogation into our culture. It becomes a problem of cruel, sadistic, and often misleading interrogation techniques soaking into our common practice. And unlike the other imperfect methods, this quality of unreliability is inherent to the purpose and intent of the techniques.

The very purpose of torture is to make people suggestible, to create an ordeal that breaks the person’s will to resist. But you don’t get something for nothing. They may not resist telling you the truth sometimes, but they may not also resist the conscious or unconscious bias of your questions. A person answering questions under this kind of duress will agree with anything you want them to agree with, anything they think you want them to agree with. Even the way you phrase a question can become a problem.

I encountered this sort of issue in my earlier days when I was interested in paranormal and later as I explored neuroscience: any suggestible state you put somebody into has the capacity to compromise their ability to remember things correctly. Sleep paralysis turns into alien abduction. An adult’s pressure on a child’s testimony turns a daycare into a satanic cult of child molestors.

And under torture people will react similarly.

Even if the person IS guilty, you run the risk of compromising the real intelligence you have to give. Their confabulations might very well replace the real, meaningful, accurate information.

Torture is not only wrong, it can be not even wrong, capable of destroying our ability to properly judge a situation. Consider that in the case of a ticking time bomb scenario, itself unlikely, the wrong information could kill thousands, even millions. And then consider that the very methods of torture could not only produce wrong information, but lead the interrogators themselves to innocently suggest that error to their charge in the place of good information. Haste, in this case, can make waste.

“You complain about other people forcing their beliefs on others” Yes, I do. But that is because we were founded as a Constitutional Republic where individual rights and freedoms rule, not a democracy where the majority rules.

Individual rights and freedoms moderate, they do not rule. We still elect our officials by majorities, and the members of Congress still decide what becomes law and what doesn’t by majorities. People can force things on other people, within the limits of constitution, but they have to get the majority of people to support them, and even then their actions can be overturned.

The biggest difference is that I believe your beliefs are just as valid as mine and should be respected, while you believe your beliefs are more valid and should be law.

I have my doubts. The very comparison is self contradicting. We have a difference in our interpretation of the constitution which you treat as a failure to believe in the constitution on my part. Of course you don’t believe that all my beliefs are valid. Otherwise, we’d agree on everything!

We have genuine differences of opinion, and what we have here is a system where we can either resolve things privately, between the two of us, or if it regards a public matter, a matter of law, we can compromise together a majority to pass new legislation, or one or the other of us can triumph by persuading a majority of people to agree with us.

I’ve done the persuasion, and have acknowledged from the beginning that this is what I would have to do to bring about the outcomes I wanted to happen. We were successful in convincing most people to see things our way, and that success is reflected in numbers that can pass legislation over every Republican’s objection.

This is part of our system, an inherent element of it. The constitution doesn’t function solely to make each of us a monarch of our own elbow room. It also sets up a structure that requires everybody, from the top down, to live with the rule of law, whether they want to or not. Our original system was designed more to your liking, the states and everybody given more leverage, the central government weak, barely able to get anybody to do anything.

The constitution reflects two important compromises: Americans admitting the need for the empowerment of a strong central government, and the need for a selection of rights meant to moderate the power of that government, so that it couldn’t use its authority to prevent challenges to its status quo. It is essential, though, to recall that the constitution was written to empower a government, and the civil liberties to limit and redefine those powers.

It’s interesting how you pick and choose when to apply such logic. You don’t want govt to infringe on the rights of a foreign terrorist who is intent on killing Americans, but you have no problem with govt infringing on the rights of an American who more than likely will not kill Americans. If you are going to accept that sometimes the guilty will go free, as the price of justice, you should accept it for all rights and freedoms.

What’s interesting is how you start from this position of individual rights before, but before long are defending the government’s right to act in an authoritarian manner, and implicitly, the conclusion that the government knows best in these situations.

This has long been the poisonous contradiction within the right.

I have no great sympathies with the terrorists. As a Christian, I can only hope they see the light and abandon the cause. But if they aren’t willing to do that, I would see them die, or better yet, since they seem to like dying, rot in prison for the rest of their lives.

The folks I have sympathies with are the interrogators who have to suffer the inevitable effects that non-pscyhopaths do when they inflict suffering on others, and who have to live with the consequences when information turns out wrong, or their targets turn out innocent.

I have sympathy with innocent victims of such interrogation, who rather than being given the chance to clear themselves, are pushed through these methods to confess falsely.

I have sympathy with the poeple who could die because of bad information, or who are, at the very least, ill-served by the babble of broken men.

I have sympathy with the Average American who is that much more likely to suffer under the attentions of such interrogation because of all the work that folks like those in the Bush administration did to extend their legal black holes towards American Citizens.

The terrorists can go to hell, for all I care. My concerns is that under these kinds of policies, we may shortly join them.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 29, 2009 1:36 PM
Comment #274529

Dude
Of course it can be abused, but it is up to us to be vigilant and make sure it doesn’t happen to our fellow Americans.

I really don’t care about what the rest of the world thinks of us. They are going to see the worst in everything we do no matter what.
That is why they believe we torture every terrorist and why they believe the terrorists are innocent and we are guilty.

The “impact on our national psyche” is definetely something that cannot be ignored, but we see it from opposite sides. I don’t worry about the impact from how we treat terrorists, I worry about the impact from 3000 or more of my fellow Americans being slaughtered again.

“If we act like them, we become them”

We are nothing like them and suggesting we are is disgusting and shows a total lack of knowledge of the facts.

If we stop interogations, they will not stop murdering us.
If they stop murdering us, we stop interogations.
If we stop depriving them of sleep, they will not stop beheading us.

There is no comparison between us and them.

Posted by: kctim at January 29, 2009 1:51 PM
Comment #274532

kctim-
That’s what THEY think. They think of themselves so self-rightously, that they believe they are immune to having to follow ordinary morality.

Look, the authoritarian thinking that’s accompanied the Bush War on Terror has been operating on the notion that the speed of cooperation from a suspect is the important element to preventing attacks and saving lifes. But all the haste in the world will not save you from wasting your time on false information.

We will get hit again, and no extremity of policy will prevent that. In fact, it may ensure it happens again, as people use methods that are charismatically tough rather than proven reliable. The real question is, are we going to fly to pieces every time we get hit, or are we going to learn to weather the inevitable assaults on our national and homeland security, while maintaining the integrity of our freedom and civil liberties. Is it fear or reason that leads us? Is a Republic like ours a luxury of good times, or a robust product of a nation of people who can weather difficult times too without giving up on the hard-won wisdom of the founding fathers?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 29, 2009 2:15 PM
Comment #274534

kctim,

I keep trying to separate, the rights of man, from the rights of man, and I can’t do it…sorry…

You believe, in all your heart of hearts, that ‘all men are created equal’, except those others, and them over there, and maybe him…strange…

How can you feel good about an America that uses methods of interrogation that are banned by documents in our own country, and the world at large?

Do you remember how benign RICO was at its inception? Do you remember how much good it did in driving organized crime even deeper into our national fabric (sarcasm)? How long did it take for RICO to become more abusive, and do more harm, than the good it was intended. Keeping an eye on torture, which is by its very nature clandestine and hidden from view, would be an impossibility.

Posted by: Marysdude at January 29, 2009 3:11 PM
Comment #274536

Stephen
I don’t believe you or Dude would want anything but to save as many lives as possible, and I respect your belief that torture saves fewer lives than good interrogations methods. But I totally disagree that Americans have given their lives so that foreign terrorists who wish Americans dead, would be coddled.

Being uncertain of the information provided is very valid and I can only say that I hope procedures are in place to minimalize wasted time.
Yes, it is cruel, but it wouldn’t work if it wasn’t.
Reciprocal mistreatment? Come on man. Do you really believe they murder innocent men, women and children and air beheadings of infidels because of how we treat them when they are captured?

“You say it wasn’t standard operating procedure. But what reason do you have to believe that? Is that just your sense, or do you have evidence of this? I’ve presented evidence that it was a standard operating procedure”

I asked if torture was SOP and your evidence was a list of what those groups think is torture and most were not what I consider torture.
So, I don’t believe torture is SOP at Gitmo.

“And under torture people will react similarly”

No, they may react similarly. But there is also a chance they will provide valuable information.
I understand you point and I would agree with you if it never worked. Unfortuantely, it has and it is a tool I have no problem using in order to save American lives.

“Our original system was designed more to your liking, the states and everybody given more leverage, the central government weak, barely able to get anybody to do anything”

That is because that is what our country was meant to be. No huge oppressive overlord govt running our lives, but a small central govt running government. Govt didn’t have to get anybody to do anything because everybody did what they needed and believed in, themselves.

“What’s interesting is how you start from this position of individual rights before, but before long are defending the government’s right to act in an authoritarian manner, and implicitly, the conclusion that the government knows best in these situations.”

Then you are not paying enough attention to what is being said. I clearly said I had no problem with our govt doing what is necessary to get info from foreign terrorists, but I would no support those actions being done to American citizens.

“The folks I have sympathies with are the interrogators…”

Yes, it has to be a very demanding and stressful duty. But they volunteer for it, so I would hope they know if they can handle it or not.

“I have sympathy with the poeple who could die because of bad information, or who are, at the very least, ill-served by the babble of broken men”

I know of 3000+ who died because of a lack of information.
Bad info may lead us to accidently kill a few innocent people, but no information will lead to terrorists intentionally murdering thousands.

Look Stephen, I understand your reasoning. You and Dude make some very good points. But clinton doing what it took to get info from terrorists didn’t bother me, it didn’t bother me when Bush did it and it won’t bother me when Obama does it.

Posted by: kctim at January 29, 2009 3:26 PM
Comment #274538

Dude
If I had my way, we would all live in harmony and like and respect each other. But that is not the reality of the world we live in.
Terrorists want to kill us and until they no longer want us dead, I will place the lives of Americans before their rights as man.

All men are created equal and because of that, they are deserve to be treated as equals. If they wish me no harm, I wish them no harm. If they wish me dead, I wish them dead and do what it takes for them to be dead.

“How can you feel good about an America that uses methods of interrogation that are banned by documents in our own country”

I don’t feel good about it at all. But I would feel worse if thousands more Americans were to die at their hands.

Posted by: kctim at January 29, 2009 4:08 PM
Comment #274541

kctim,

Let me see if I’ve got this right:

1. It may be, and probably is, ineffective.

2. It may be, and probably is immoral.

3. It may be, and probably is illegal.

4. It may be, and probably is mis-used.

5. It may be, and probably is misleading and inconclusive.

6. It may be, and probably is against all that citizens of the United States feel is important to our way of life.

Yet, because some obscure individual somewhere says it might save an American life, if it is used on the right person at the right time and in the right way…tortre should remain in our arsenal of interrogation SOP?

Okay, I think I’ve got it now…thanks for the enlightenment.

Posted by: Marysdude at January 29, 2009 5:02 PM
Comment #274544

Close Dude
1. It can be ineffective, but has worked before.
2. It may be immoral to some, but allowing Americans to die is more so.
3. American lives are more important to me than the world court of opinion.
4. It could be mis-used, but I would hope we have measures to keep that at a minimum.
5. It can be misleading, but has worked before.
6. I disagree. I think the majority of Americans would be ok with depriving a terrorist of his sleep and even waterboarding him, if it could prevent another attack on our soil.

It has nothing to do with what some obscure individual says or hoping we get lucky by using it on everybody. It is a method to use as a last resort on people who are believed to know something.

No need to be sarcastic. I understand and respect your position, I just disagree.

Posted by: kctim at January 29, 2009 5:16 PM
Comment #274546

kctim-
We’ve given our lives for a system where you aren’t guilty merely because the government says you are. The question of whether we coddle a terrorists must wait until after we’ve actually determined somebody to be a terrorist!

Torture has the virtue, if you can call it that, of undermining one’s ability to tell the difference between a terrorist who we should not coddle, and a civilian who should not be punished simply for being a suspect.

I believe that people have many motivations for wanting to kill and terrorize Americans, but that torture and maltreatment of prisoners helps provide terrorists with concrete means of motivating people to join or look the other way. Abstract religious arguments about our infidel status do not have near the impact of seeing men who look like them humiliated and brutalized. There are actual terrorists who said under interrogation that Abu Ghraib gave them motivation to go after Americans. It surely didn’t help our cause or save American’s lives for Iraqis and foreign recruits to have those images fresh in their minds.

As far as enhanced interrogation techniques go, first let me tell you this: it may not sound like torture to you on first blush, but I dare you to volunteer yourself for that treatment, and see what you say afterwards. These are techniques, as others have observed, which are virtually identical to those used by Nazis and Soviets, techniques whose use we considered war crimes. The Nazi terms for those techniques even literally translates to, yes, enhanced interrogation.

It is a matter of public record that these techniques were reverse-engineered from our SERE training program, which itself was reverse engineered from the torture techniques of our most recent enemies as a means to prepare our troops for the experience of being interrogated by them. You can engage in all the logical rationalization that you care to, but the techniques in question were considered torture by our military, and their use was considered a war crime by our tribunals.

Torture, as we have defined it since WWII has been practiced by our people at Gitmo as SOP.

As for whether people will react similarly to torture as they do to other forms of suggestion enhancing techniques?

Well, people do recall real and valid details under hypnotic regression, and with the use of drugs that increase suggestibility (like Sodium Pentathol). But they also become, like torture victims, vulnerable to suggestions, intentional or unintentional, in the questioning of their inquisitors. There’s no way to get around it, and no clear way to distinquish the truth from the confabulation in a real hurry. If you can manage to get somebody to talk with regular methods, you have a better chance of having them remember things clearly, or at least lie coherently.

Torture them, and you’re crapping where you’re eating, intelligence-wise. You run a high risk of befouling your own information. And because that information was gotten under torture, which even 200 years ago people knew was capable of producing false confessions, the chances of putting somebody on trial with such information is slim. The very nature of the technique, which is compelling people to behave a certain way against their will ensures that there will always be the uncertainty of personal interference.


“Our original system was designed more to your liking, the states and everybody given more leverage, the central government weak, barely able to get anybody to do anything”
That is because that is what our country was meant to be. No huge oppressive overlord govt running our lives, but a small central govt running government. Govt didn’t have to get anybody to do anything because everybody did what they needed and believed in, themselves.

I was talking about the Articles of Confederation, which turned out to be such a fiasco that we ditched it for the strong, centralized government of the Constitution.

“What’s interesting is how you start from this position of individual rights before, but before long are defending the government’s right to act in an authoritarian manner, and implicitly, the conclusion that the government knows best in these situations.”

Then you are not paying enough attention to what is being said. I clearly said I had no problem with our govt doing what is necessary to get info from foreign terrorists, but I would no support those actions being done to American citizens.

Like I said before: You have to establish that you’re talking to a foreign terrorist first, and then you have to get them to talk in a way where you know its them and not the torture talking. The government can make mistakes. The interrogator can be mistaken. If the interrogator is mistaken, but has the subject cooperating, for whatever reason, the cooperative subject can correct the interrogator’s mistaken impressions.

As far as interrogators go, as one interrogator puts it, its very difficult to watch the kind of interrogation you’re talking about. It’s not pleasant, and becoming hardened to it doesn’t make a person very pleasant or unconflicted about what they’re doing.

As far as the people who died on 9/11, their deaths had more to do with the authorities being ignorant of the big picture together, rather than ignorant of the details. We were within two people of intercepting the 9/11 hijackers. Because torture will yield unreliable information, that is information we cannot be certain of at the time, we not only run the risk of being mistaken, but worse yet, downplaying the right information for the wrong information’s sake.

We can get better information, more of the meaningful information by getting people to talk of their own free will. Whether that means bribery, deception, playing to pride, playing to shame, playing to religious values, it doesn’t matter. But if you get somebody to talk of their own free will, they can pull you back when you take them in the wrong direction.

The point is not merely to get information from people, but meaningful information, which in the case of interrogation is helpful information nobody else could provide, and which you don’t know. What procedure can prevent you from fouling up information you don’t know exists?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 29, 2009 6:10 PM
Comment #274552

kctim,

You say that torture has worked…the only time I’ve heard of it being even remotely effective, was AFTER the fact, and when a buddy-buddy approach followed it. Who is to say the buddy-buddy approach would not have worked to begin with? We’ll never know, because torture was the first option selected. You want to leave it to those who selected torture first to control its use? What kind of world do you live in that a perhaps can be followed by a maybe, and then turn into a fact?

It has worked and been effective before…indeed…huh…ugh huh…nope…not true. Someone somewhere SAID it had worked and been effective. I don’t believe it, and I don’t know how something coerced out of another human being by torture could be believed or relied on. It just does not make sense.

Posted by: Marysdude at January 29, 2009 7:21 PM
Comment #274554

PS:

My opinion:

Take five prisoners aside for torture. Two of those prisoners may have knowledge of something, the other three are unlikely to know anything about it.

Their responses will be guided by the questions asked, how they are asked, the method and severity of torture and the types of torture. Each of the five are treated the same and asked the same things, in the same way. Chances are the answers will be close to the same for all five subjects.

Posted by: Marysdude at January 29, 2009 7:29 PM
Comment #274571

Stephen
The terrorist prisoners are there for a reason. Could a couple of them be innocent? Sure, and I think we should, and try to do, everything to make sure the truely innocent are set free. But that doesn’t mean I think we should halt our methods of gathering info from terrorists.

“Torture and maltreatment” of prisoners is nothing but another excuse for terrorists to use. History proves that they will continue to hate and kill us either way and history definetely shows we must do all we can to stop them, or suffer great loss.

“If you can manage to get somebody to talk with regular methods, you have a better chance of having them remember things clearly, or at least lie coherently”

Do you really believe that “torture” is the first and only option we use on terrorists? Let me guess, “Bush and the evil Republicans” this or that, right?
Come on Stephen, its not like you are the only person who knows being buddies and playing nice might work sometimes. If a terrorist is being tortured, it is because he refused the hugs and kisses routine.

“We can get better information, more of the meaningful information by getting people to talk of their own free will”

What if you can’t get them talk on their own free will?
What if you can’t manage to get somebody to talk with regular methods?
Take their word that they know nothing?
Sorry Stephen, I disagree.

Posted by: kctim at January 30, 2009 11:28 AM
Comment #274595

kctim-
I believe that we are strong enough and smart enough that we don’t need enhanced interrogation. The Bush administration basically said “they’re too good at keeping secrets, too good at concealing their activities, too dedicated to their cause to get them to open up in an interrogation” They basically declared defeat on reasonable methods before they even tried to improve them, like the 9/11 commission asked them too.

Non-enhanced interrogation doesn’t need to be pleasant, hugs and kisses, but the point is to somehow get that person to make the choice to talk. Some guys have gone over for something so simple as porno mags. One guy started telling us what we needed to know when we got an operation for his mother. Some will open up out of pride or arrogance, some simply because they came their expecting to get roughed up and tortured and were treated instead with dignity. Some people we deceive, some people we bribe. Point is, this is not some simple distinction between tough and not tough enough. This is a distinction between information, and intelligence, between putting together the puzzle right and throwing it against the wall.

Or consider it this way: when do you think is the best time to ask somebody about the important details: when they’re healthy, rested, and willing, or when you’ve taken them to the edge of their endurance and beyond, and they’re just looking to end the ordeal?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 30, 2009 5:14 PM
Comment #274627

Cheney/Bush opted for torture over common decency because he was too lazy and sleazy to do it the right and honorable way.

Posted by: Marysdude at January 30, 2009 10:16 PM
Comment #274682

The Country First crowd could take in the “What are we going to do with them” prisoners as semi-permanant house guests and bring over their families too. Limbaugh, Lee Raymond and quite a few other billioners could bring in psychological counselers to change the hearts and minds.
And, if any of the ex-prisoners want to use the Bently to visit the mosque, they don’t even have to ask.

Posted by: Stephen Hines at January 31, 2009 2:59 PM
Comment #274719

Bill O’Reily said it far better than I can:

>”I didn’t like the line in the [inaugural] speech about how we didn’t have to compromise our values to protect ourselves. Sometimes we do.”
— Bill O’Reilly

This is (I can’t mention names)’s view on torture…when times get tough, dump your values, you can always get them back when times straighten out.

Posted by: Marysdude at February 1, 2009 11:24 AM
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