Democrats & Liberals Archives

Anyone For A Little Torture?

Folks, please excuse the fact that this posting is merely a link, but this is important. After my last post on torture there was some healthy debate over whether waterboarding is in fact torture. I suggest that anyone who has an opinion one way or the other watch this videoclip of right-wing talk-show host “Mad Dog” Mancow, who volunteered to give it a try.

Once you've had a look, consider the circumstances. This is a guy who has an EMT on standby. He can control when and how the water is flushed up his nose, and he can stop the procedure at any time. He knows that this will never happen to him again.

Contrast that with the guy lying flat on his back who does not know what is happening to him, or when it will stop. He is powerless to change his situation. Nothing he says or does will stop what these Americans - Americans!! - are doing to him. He has no idea when or if it will happen again.

Now, define torture.

Posted by Jon Rice at May 24, 2009 7:22 PM
Comment #281984


I’m still waiting for Hannity to make good on his boast about being water boarded, and that it’s not torture.

I guess Olbermann will get to keep his money.

The fact that America might have done this to “only” 3 people is beside the point.
Water boarding is torture, and perhaps we all misheard President Bush when he said America didn’t use torture.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 25, 2009 1:57 AM
Comment #281985

Let’s put this in perspective: A plane crashed into a building full of innocent people. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters incinerated, some slowly, some immediately, many jumped to their deaths to avoid the inferno. I can still hear the sounds of their bodies hitting the pavement in a video I viewed. Now we have the mastermind in our custody, smirking and cocky and we know he has another attack planned. What would _____ do?
I agree with David that we do need to “govern” our reactions with laws. But in this instance everyone, including atheists, Christians, liberals, or conservatives, is going to stretch that law as far as it will go. Not out of vengeance, but justice and protection from the danger of immanent attacks.
It is a tragedy when some try to claim moral superiority by implying they didn’t (or wouldn’t) succumb to the same passion as everyone else. We did have committees that governed how far our interrogators could go. They justifiably (according to passions) allowed excesses and both parties reigned it in according to the law. The issue of torture is a dead horse except for sanctimonious politicians (and bloggers)wanting to make political hay from it.

Posted by: Kruser at May 25, 2009 2:21 AM
Comment #281986

Rocky Marks,

Olbermann gave up on Hannity. After Mancow had his comeuppance, Olbermann said Hannity didn’t matter anymore and gave ten thousand to the military family relief fund in the name of the guy that poured the water up Mancow’s nose.

Hannity ‘irrelevant’ what a wonderful word, and how true. Hannity is only relevant to those others who are fast becoming irrelevant…

Posted by: Marysdude at May 25, 2009 6:21 AM
Comment #281987


I hold those in my party who went along with this crap in the same contempt that I hold Republicans who initiated it. If you find out who mugged your son, and buy a gun, find the perpetrator and kill him, many would feel empathy and understand your actions. But you would have broken the law, and should suffer the consequences for that. The people we elected to govern us, under the law, failed to do so. They don’t need an apologist.

Posted by: Marysdude at May 25, 2009 6:28 AM
Comment #281992

Well said, Marysdude.

Posted by: ray at May 25, 2009 9:13 AM
Comment #281993

The ticking time bomb scenario has already happened. And the people who did the torturing were put to death for it. They found out that two cities were going to be nuked. But which ones? If they could find out which cities were being nuked, they could evacuate the people. So they water boarded any prisoner who they thought might know where the attack was going to happen. But no matter how many Americans they tortured, no one would say—Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Here’s another stupid ticking time bomb scenario.
There’s a bomb we know will kill all sorts of people and this bastard knows where it is. We’ve water boarded him 182 times and he won’t tell us, so we decide to cut off one of his fingers every hour. Then his toes, an ankle, a knee, and so on. With modern medicine we could keep him awake for all of this. Of coarse every time we get ready to cut off another body part he gives us bad information, so we have to run out and check if there’s a bomb there.

Torture is wrong it always has been, it always will be!

Besides some people are missing a big part of the picture. The war on terror is not a real war, it’s the moral equivalent of war. (You can’t have a war if you can’t find the enemy.) Sending a message to Al Qaeda is stupid. These people are religious fanatics, they won’t listen to any thing we say. But PR is a very important part of the war on terror. we need to send a message to the 300 million Arabs that are not terrorists, the 150 million Persians that are not terrorists, and especially the one billion Moslems that believe terrorism is in contradiction to their religion.


Posted by: Mike the Cynic at May 25, 2009 9:20 AM
Comment #281994


Revenge is revenge is revenge.

This is a country of laws.
Since WW2 we have all “taken the moral high ground” by saying that we weren’t like Mao’s China, or Stalin’s USSR. We agreed with the rest of the “civilized” world and made a pact with them that the abuses perpetrated by Nazi Germany and Japan during WW2 were unacceptable.

To take Marysdude’s senario a step further, if you planned the death of the mugger, in some states you could be facing the death penalty for first degree murder.

The difference between those that chop off people’s heads, and those that torture is only a very slight matter of degrees. The excuse that ” they did it first…” is something that you wouldn’t accept from a 5 year old.
Regardless of how we are treated by the rest of the world, if we would stoop so low as to torture, we are no different, morally, than those that chop off people’s heads.

You, and those like you can call me sanctimonious for my opinions, I can live with that, but my conscience is clear.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 25, 2009 9:43 AM
Comment #281997

The concept of vengeance I am talking about is where there is hatred and rage and a desire to hurt with little evidence of wrongdoing. Lynch mobs and liberal Bush haters would be good examples. This type of behavior is something to be ashamed of. The last thread concerning Christians would be another, (with the hurt confined to reputation loss).
The concept of justice is when a heinous crime has been committed, you have an admitted perpetrator who proudly admits fault and you want him to pay. Our responses are something to be proud of. The fact that we went back and examined our laws shows our civility in the matter. The law obviously wasn’t clear and we were justified in pushing it. We clarified that waterboarding wouldn’t be continued. Where’s the issue?

It is the morally superior attitude you are portraying that I am addressing. Given the same circumstances, you would have done worse. Your party did what anyone else with good ethics would do.

Posted by: Kruser at May 25, 2009 10:05 AM
Comment #281998

What would I do? I would do my honest best to get good information out of him. I would play on that smirking bastard’s pride. He wants to tell us about what he’s done, what he might do. I might trick him into thinking that somebody in his organization has already given up the plan. I might play on his organizational rivalries, perhaps goad him with the idea that a rival’s plan is finding favor.

We can talk about what people feel they might want to do, or we can talk about the procedures that both work, and represent America well.

We still, though, have zealots like Dick Cheney out there claiming that these methods saved lives. They’re still confusing the “toughness” of the technique with the effectivenes. You don’t waterboard a person hundreds of times because you’re getting accurate information from the previous sessions. If you go in there with an agenda with torture, if you go in wanting a particular answer, you might very well get it. But will it be the right answer because you want it to be, or because it is?

That’s the key to torture’s unreliability, especially in situations where you’re desperately seeking a ticking time-bomb answer. The person you’re interrogating is in no position, maybe even in no mood to correct your mistakes.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 25, 2009 10:06 AM
Comment #281999

I had great respect for Colin Powell for several years. That respect was tarnished when he went before the UN and helped lie us into Iraq, I’ve excused some of it because he was working at the President’s behest, and may have been a little mis-led himself, but some of the tarnish remains none the less.

The tarnish was dissipating a little as Powell was being interviewed by Bob Scheifer yesterday morning…until he said the part about the timing of the decision to torture was soon after the towers came down, the administration was in a tither, and some things were done that were later regretted. Powell was being just another apologist for Cheney/Bush. He likely just wanted to sweep his own plate clean, but he, of all people, should understand that elected officials, and others in high office, are there because they are deemed better to handle the hard situations than the rest of us…it’s their JOB to make decisions under duress. It is NOT their job to fold in panic or to be swayed by public clamor. As sheriff, they can’t allow the lynch mob access to the prisoner, because it’s their JOB to protect him.

As much as I wish to continue my admiration for him, the luster will not return. He has lost much of his honor…what a shame…

None of them remember that their oath was to protect and defend the CONSTITUTION, not each other…

Posted by: Marysdude at May 25, 2009 10:14 AM
Comment #282000

>It is the morally superior attitude you are portraying that I am addressing. Given the same circumstances, you would have done worse. Your party did what anyone else with good ethics would do.
Posted by: Kruser at May 25, 2009 10:05 AM


Apparently I AM morally superior…if you base that on whether or not torture is an acceptable practice. And, you don’t know me or my history…I take it kind of personally your aspersions on my character.. given the same circumstances I would have done WHAT worse?

Posted by: Marysdude at May 25, 2009 10:22 AM
Comment #282001


“The concept of justice is when a heinous crime has been committed, you have an admitted perpetrator who proudly admits fault and you want him to pay.”

In this country we claim that all people, regardless of their crime, have rights.

The ethics of what you speak are those of a people that would put people in a cage and have them beat the crap out of each other and call it entertainment.

Have we truly pulled ourselves back from the brink when the former Vice President goes on TV repeatedly and defends our practices as “saving lives”?
Not one life here in America was saved by torture.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 25, 2009 10:23 AM
Comment #282002

“If you find out who mugged your son, and buy a gun, find the perpetrator and kill him, many would feel empathy and understand your actions. But you would have broken the law, and should suffer the consequences for that.”

you’re kidding right? this is what you compare to a known terrorist who masterminded the worst attack on US soil in history, and who planned to do it again. sorry unacceptable.

were those 3000 plus that died mugged first? please enlighten me. maybe we should have made him wear his underwear on his head, maybe that would have gotten the information needed to save the lives of 1000s. oh wait we’re not allowed to do that either. sorry, my bad.

the moral superiority argument eminating from the left is a complete joke.

Posted by: dbs at May 25, 2009 11:52 AM
Comment #282004

“the moral superiority argument eminating from the left is a complete joke.”

dbs you seem to miss the point here, time to take off the partisan blinders and realize what torture of “terrorist” leads to. The authoritarians you side with are saying it is alright with them for the same government, bound by the constitution, they find so abhorrent to go outside of the constitution to use such force on others. If you think the Bush administration lawyers that justified the water boarding would hesitate to justify its use on fellow Americans then it is time to read your history books.

Posted by: j2t2 at May 25, 2009 12:11 PM
Comment #282005


“the moral superiority argument eminating from the left is a complete joke.”

So are we “morally superior” to those we fight or not?
Yes or no answer.

Theoretically we are supposed to be a morally enlightened society, so where do we draw the line?
We don’t let our police use enhanced interrogation techniques so why is it ok to use them elsewhere?

Where in the Constitution does it allow us to do this?
Our Constitution either applies to all of us, or it applies to no one.

There is no “ticking time bomb” senario. Jack Bauer is a figment of a Hollywood writer’s imagination.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 25, 2009 12:20 PM
Comment #282006

It is unnerving…but not surprising, that the right still feels morally superior while condoning and initiating torture. It is that mirror again…you know the one, right? The mirror they use to perform a bad act, then call the other side on it? Damn, that gets old…enslave people, free them but keep them under your thumb, hold out on educating them, hold out on allowing them to improve their lot by joining your neighborhood, be sure they are the last to be hired for the best jobs…then hold that mirror up to blame them for being ignorant criminals…capture some suspected criminals, call them terrorists, put them in confinement without legal representation, torture them…then hold that mirror up while vilifying the so-called ‘morally superior’ attitude of those who disagree with those morally inferior policies. Who’d a thunk it…

Posted by: Marysdude at May 25, 2009 12:58 PM
Comment #282007

Guys just like you felt like it was the right method to use at the moment. It had nothing to do with right wing agenda or attitudes. Democratic members of congress and Clinton holdovers in the CIA agreed to it at the time.
There is no need for anyone to apologize.
The attitude that I am addressing is the armchair generals we see all the time who claim they wouldn’t have twisted any arms according to the limits of the law and according to their own passions. I think posturing is the word.
You seem to have a confusion of thought about guilty perpetrators and innocent bystanders. Most of the gitmo tenants were captured while in the process of killing Americans.
I also don’t buy into the relativism being added to the debate. We are protecting innocent lives and therefore “are” morally superior to a terrorist or thug. A man who stands by and does nothing is a coward.
There really isn’t an issue here since we raised the bar. A president who continues to campaign after he has been elected by stirring worldwide passion with the release of targeted information for pure partisan purposes deserves everyone’s contempt. That is the reason for Cheney’s response. Emphasis on “response”

Posted by: Kruser at May 25, 2009 1:56 PM
Comment #282008


I agree wholeheartedly that we are ‘morally superior’ to terrorists and thugs. I’m not an idiot. However, it is precisely because we *are* morally superior that we should not stoop to their level. Terrorists are evil, and should be subject to prosecution to the full extent of the law. I mean American law, which forbids torture. Muslims across the world have been disgusted by our treatment of prisoners, just as we have been disgusted by the terrorists’ treatment of our troops and victims. It doesn’t matter to what extent the torture is pursued (and I do not mean to be flippant with that statement - I understand that beheading is a far worse fate than waterboarding) because the effect is the same - contempt, anger, and a strongly-held belief that the opposition is evil.

I don’t know whether torture has saved Americans here in our homeland, but I do know that it has endangered those troops who are captured by the enemy in Iraq and Pakistan. Retribution for the torture we have inflicted on Muslims who are either confirmed or suspected terrorists, especially in the hands of fanatics, can only be a terrible, terrible fate. I don’t even want to think about it.

So please understand, I think you’re half-right. When we do not torture our captives, we ARE better than them. When we torture them, no matter to what degree, we become them.

Posted by: Jon Rice at May 25, 2009 2:07 PM
Comment #282012

So you are saying that terrorists are sweet misunderstood people that we provoke to violence? Logic is missing there somehow.
Equivocating peaceful Muslims with terrorists is bigoted isn’t it?
Can’t quit equate Dipping someone under water for information with someone beheading people after incinerating thousands either.
Revisiting this subject after six years was done by whom?
It is having what effect on our troops?


Posted by: Kruser at May 25, 2009 3:07 PM
Comment #282014


I said: “Terrorists are evil, and should be subject to prosecution to the full extent of the law.”

You said: “So you are saying that terrorists are sweet misunderstood people that we provoke to violence?”

How exactly do you make that particular leap of faith? If you can deliberately misinterpret a simple statement like that, how can we place trust in your opinions?

I’ll happily argue the facts with you - but you have to stick to them. I suggest you read my words, not read into them.

Posted by: Jon Rice at May 25, 2009 3:35 PM
Comment #282016


Apparently the only folks who are worse than terrorists are those folks who would not torture them?

Or are you saying that because YOU would torture them, by extrapolation I would do so as well?

I’m sorry, but your words defy logic or sense, and seem to be based on wishes and fantasy.

Posted by: Marysdude at May 25, 2009 4:14 PM
Comment #282017

I think the problem is many on the extreme right, and more so even on the religious right have lost the ability to use common sense. This holds true to people on the far far left also.

Here are some things people that support torture forget.
1. Innocent until proven guilty. Just because you said you did something doesn’t mean you did it. Now it can be used in a trail against you. On the other hand, if it was beaten out of you to say it (which as far as i know didn’t happen) then I would hope you agree that is not right.
2. Torture information is almost always useless. We wasted millions of dollars chasing around people and plans that didn’t exist. I hate to say it, but the people on the planes for 9/11 attack could of prevented most of that death and destruction if most of the people on that plane would of stood up and fought.
3. You really cannot stop a Terrorist attack from happening. You or any American that gets mad at the government can go to their walmart and make a bomb and kill thousands of people’s lives. It’s really not that hard. It’s scary though, but that is why it is important that we teach in our society moral values, and RESPECT for others.
4. When you hold a suspected terrorist for a week let alone years. Do you not think the terrorists have any brains at all? Sure they can still go with their same plan, but they could change it a billion times over. This is not a video game where people have to follow a scripted event. Even if they do tell you want building or structure they WERE planning to blow up, what are you going to do? Increase security there for 20 years? 100 years? 1 billion years?
5. It has proven that torture is the least effective way of getting information out of suspects. That is why the FBI does not do torture. That is why Most CIA investigators do not do it. (It was a private CIA investigator who started torture btw.) That is why Most Military investigators do not do it. People who believe in torture not only ignore the moral implications, but they ignore facts also.

I do not know where kuzzer gets his “facts” from. but “You seem to have a confusion of thought about guilty perpetrators and innocent bystanders. Most of the gitmo tenants were captured while in the process of killing Americans.” is just flat out WRONG. Most people who are sent to gitmo did not kill anybody nor were they in the process of doing that. Most people at gitmo are believed to have information on terrorist organizations Please look up your facts. Most people in the process of killing soldiers end up dead. You should see all the videos of terrorists getting blown to chunks if you want to feel good. A little sick maybe, but makes you feel good that a terrorist was stupid enough to attack troops and suffered the consequences of his actions.

If you truly want to reduce terrorism. Help build up governments that supports morals, business, and the people. If you miss even just one of those 3, forget about it.

Posted by: kudossupreme at May 25, 2009 4:50 PM
Comment #282018

well said kudossupreme.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at May 25, 2009 6:32 PM
Comment #282019

Marysdude and others

We all agree that enhanced techniques should never be used for punishment, revenge or in order to get a confession for prosecution. Kruser talks about what might be done in anger and passion. It is wrong, but explainable by the passion. Explaining is not the same as justifying.

We disagree that we might find it a regrettable necessity in cases where we were reasonably certain it would save lives, perhaps many lives. I would not rule it out in order to save lives; you guys would allow thousands to die in defense of your principle.


The Japanese example is silly. Could you point to a documented case where the Japanese waterboarded an American where they had a reasonable expectation that he might know something about where a atom bomb would be dropped?

Re the billions of people who consider terrorism against their religion, maybe more of them should speak up. You admirably (if incorrectly IMO) declare that you would not condone torture even if it meant sacrificing thousands of lives. We might expect the billions you speak about to make a similar declaration – i.e. that they would reject terrorism no matter what.

Please see above to Marysdude. I doubt anybody here believes that harsh techniques should be used for revenge or because they did it first. The mugger example you both use is flawed. The correct example would be injuring a mugger as he pointed his weapon at innocent victims or was helping his accomplice do so. You might break a law, but I doubt if a jury would convict.


I have never interrogated anybody, using harsh techniques or otherwise. I suspect you have not either. I assume that the professionals who carry out interrogation of terror suspects have thought about what they are doing. They may be wrong. Maybe they learned that they were wrong. Let’s declassify the documents that indicate the success or failure.

Jon Rice

The terrorists beheaded and tortured captured Americans before they heard about any torture. If we could be reasonably certain that the terrorists would treat captured Americans with the same respect we treat captured enemy combatants, we would all feel a lot more secure.

We also have the definition of torture. I think most captured Americans would feel relieved to know that they would be tortured by having sexy women make suggestive comments, or by being threatened with a caterpillar. They might feel comforted that they would have enough good food to eat, be given reading material and access to medical care. Even the mastermind or 9/11 is still alive with his body parts intact and his head still attached.

Posted by: Christine at May 25, 2009 6:40 PM
Comment #282020

Nice arguements, My intention isn’t to rehash what exactly is torture and at what point you can officially call someone guilty, apprehendable or worthy of imprisonment. We can digress on each point all day long.
My question to all of you is why are we rehashing this before the world again? Weren’t our standards tightened in 03? If it was damaging to our image then, why endanger our citizens and soldiers again by showcasing old information before the world? Any new cases? Can you give conclusions other than what I gave?

Posted by: Kruser at May 25, 2009 6:46 PM
Comment #282022

I have a request for someone on watchblog to write aboutthe new climate legislation. I am very disappointed that the bill doesn’t seem to do very much except reward cronies and raise the cost of living for average Americans.

We talk and talk again about torture, which is the past. This subject is the future. We should sometimes talk about what we should do in the future rather than who is to blame for what happened in the past.

Another good topic is Social security. It is rapidly going bust. The Democrats have the power to make the changes they want. What can we do about it? The wrong answer will mean many American suffer deprivation much worse than terror suspects sufferd in their “torture” cells.

According to the blog archives, you used to talk about these kinds things a lot more.

Posted by: Christine at May 25, 2009 7:03 PM
Comment #282023

Or how about the North Korean nukes? Wasn’t it George Bush who pushed them into being agressive? Why are they doing even worse to the great Obama?

And what about the French saying that Obama is not experienced enough to lead the world out of the economic mess, so they have to step in.

Maybe these forward looking topics are just too painful for those who want to dwell on five-year-old torture accusations.

Posted by: Christine at May 25, 2009 7:08 PM
Comment #282024

Christine… I’m sorry but I had to laugh! When was the last time a right-wing Republican listened to anything the French had to say? I’ve got two words for you: Freedom Fries! Made me chuckle…

Posted by: Jon Rice at May 25, 2009 7:13 PM
Comment #282028


I am a libertarian. I go with whoever I think will bother me the least. That used to be the Republicans. They did a decent job 2004-2001, but overreached after that. The Democrats have been working on it since 2006 and now this year with the whole government. I am not encouraged.

I love the French, BTW. They believe in a strong response to terror in thier own country. They are strong advocates of nuclear power. Paris is a beautiful city and the French countryside is delightful. I don’t think we want their system, which ensures low growth and high unemployment in good times, but in a time of crisis they might have some good suggestions.

My point was not about the French, however. I would appreciate some of you guys writing about tomorrows challenges instead of yesterdays sins.

Posted by: Christine at May 25, 2009 8:00 PM
Comment #282029


The Republicans did a good job 1994-2001

Posted by: Christine at May 25, 2009 8:02 PM
Comment #282030

Christine, Those all sound like good subjects to talk about. You should apply to the watchblog manager to write for the red column. then you could write about whatever you want.

By the way I never said that I would not condone torture even if it meant sacrificing thousands of lives, because I don’t believe torture is a good way of getting information. Matthew Alexander wrote a piece on torture that might explain how I feel about the ineffectiveness of torture.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at May 25, 2009 8:07 PM
Comment #282033


We would agree that if it doesn’t work to save lives, we shouldn’t do it. I think most U.S. authorities agree, which is why it is so rarely used. I don’t believe it is never effective and I can envision urgent situation where it could be necessary.

BTW - I would love to write, but cannot do so in a regular column because of some peculiar family reasons. Besides, I wonder if some people really can move on to something that didn’t happen 5+ years ago. I suspect they prefer the past where they could judge the performance of others and to the future where their guys have to perform. It is easier to find fault and make hypothetical plans than actually achieve.

Climate is a great example. The talk has changed, but the climate bill avoids all the hard choices. They will give away most permits to politically well-connected polluters and try to make sure the prices don’t go up. How does that do anything at all, except create more corruption? They are taking on climate the way they took on GM or Chrysler. They cannot blame Bush much longer.

Posted by: Christine at May 25, 2009 8:39 PM
Comment #282034

Maybe that is one of the reasons for revisiting this subject. I am not criticizing Jon’s subject matter. Introspection is good.
I am just curious as to why the administration is showcasing an old previously dealt with subject, threatening to prosecute people and forcing denials out of even their own people. Kind of reminds me of how republicans act, killing their own over nothing.
I am a non apologetic republican (in principle).
Republicans originated as the party of preserving every one’s interest while Democrats get power by inciting majorities or as our founders called it the “passions” of the crowd. Someone has to stand up for minorities such as business owners, individualists and those with little media support.

Posted by: Kruser at May 25, 2009 9:09 PM
Comment #282038

Christine, I think we could agree on a lot of the energy bill coming out of committee. It started out good, but then special interest and their money got a hold of it. They tell me there’s more money in it for clean coal than all the renewables put together.

I wish torture was a thing of the past, but when I turn on Fox News Sunday. Bill Kristol and Brit Hume are all over Obama because he let our enemies know what the limits we will stoop to. Those torture memos are way over the top, but until some one is held accountable for the torture, they are a part of what our government will do.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at May 25, 2009 9:50 PM
Comment #282039

Christine - I take your point that this is a debate that has gone on for a long time. I will refrain from discussing it again in my posts unless some significant development manifests itself. Thanks for all your comments… and we have at least one thing in common: I also love France. Especially its cooking, unfortunately.

Posted by: Jon Rice at May 25, 2009 9:51 PM
Comment #282040


Presumably with Obama in power and Democrats in control of virtually all parts of the government, torture will not be a problem. In fact, it didn’t seem to be much of a problem after 2003.

You can be sure that if it becomes an issue again, it will be for a different reason with different players.

One of the disservices of dwelling too much on a particular time and set of circumstances is that we take the wrong lesson and are not ready to apply it to difference circumstances. It is like studying the horrors of the holocaust but missing the genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia or Darfur until after they were in action because Nazis or people who looked like them were not involved.


It is not so much the talk of torture, but more the lack of something future oriented. As I said, we have the challenges of SS, climate change, Korean nukes, Iranian nukes, water shortages etc.

My personal favorite this week is neo-colonialism in Africa. The Chinese and rich Arabs are buying up farmland and establishing 19th century style plantation economies. How will that change the world?

Re France - we Americans have a love-hate relationship with the French because we are alike in thinking that we know best and others should copy us. Our PRACTICAL cooperation with the French is very good. We just like to complain about each other.

Posted by: Christine at May 25, 2009 10:07 PM
Comment #282041


“The Chinese and rich Arabs are buying up farmland and establishing 19th century style plantation economies.”

If you are speaking about the Saudis, back in the ’70s they realized that, in retaliation for the oil embargo, a grain embargo could take place.
They didn’t want that to happen so they drilled as they would for oil, into an ancient aquifer. They have been raising grain, so to speak, ever since.

Unfortunately that aquifer is now virtually depleted, and they are worried about a grain embargo again.

This was on NPR last week.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 25, 2009 10:36 PM
Comment #282043

The right has a franchise on what is written in the red column. If you feel uncomfortable about what is being written on the left…go right. When I lost interest in what was being written on the right, I quit going there. I haven’t been over therre in several weeks. Simple problem…simple solution.

Posted by: Marysdude at May 25, 2009 10:53 PM
Comment #282045


I read about it in the “Economist”, but it is probably a the same story. It is probably a good idea not to try to grow grain in the middle of the Arabian desert. I don’t doubt the Saudi or Chinese logic in buying up poor country land and converting it to service their homeland to the exclusion of others. It is the same logic that drove the British & French in the 19th Century. Colonialism isn’t always all bad, but we should call it what it is and think about what it might mean in the future.

Posted by: Christine at May 25, 2009 10:58 PM
Comment #282046


You imply that only the right side should be interested in future oriented subjects. Are you really content just to hash over old news?

Posted by: Christine at May 25, 2009 11:02 PM
Comment #282048

“Presumably with Obama in power and Democrats in control of virtually all parts of the government, torture will not be a problem. In fact, it didn’t seem to be much of a problem after 2003.”

Christine why would you think that? Do you also believe the unitary executive theory will disappear because the dems afre in control?

How do we as a nation of laws let these types of crimes go without retribution and expect to remain a nation of laws? Do we declare a separate set of laws for those in government and executives positions and decide to give them a get out of jail free card whilst incarcerating others for crimes committed in 2003 yet not brought to justice until 2009? How about Bin Laden since his crime was in 2001 do we forget about it now should he have an Afghani lawyer with a position paper declaring the attack on America was not an attack on America?

Posted by: j2t2 at May 25, 2009 11:11 PM
Comment #282049


“It is the same logic that drove the British & French in the 19th Century.”

I don’t know that this is necessarily about conquest or colonialism.
The British and French didn’t have 1.3 billion mouths to feed.

If I remember correctly the program was “Science Friday”, and the subject was fresh water, or the lack of it.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 25, 2009 11:18 PM
Comment #282050


If the justice Dept, now run by Obama appointees, wants to bring charges, let them do it. I don’t think the charges would hold up in an actual court of law, any more than Fitzmas. I suspect the lawyers at Justice know that too.

What many people want is NOT an actual court case, but just a political show trail where there is lots of talk and recriminations w/o actual result.

They want to look back, not forward. They want to have the issue, not resolve it. It is childish and indulgent.

Posted by: Christine at May 25, 2009 11:32 PM
Comment #282051


They used the same kind of logic. They were supposed to protect and provide for their growing populations.

The water issue is imporant too, but it is a different issue than the one I was reading about.

The 1.3 billion, BTW, makes it more dangerous to the rest of the world.

Re water, I read that some high percentage of Chinese surface water is not fit for industrial uses, much less drinking or agriculture. This is what others may expect. We can argue that they need to do this etc, but it doesn’t diminish the ecological disaster at hand. We cannot ignore the potential consequences and should think of how we might adapt or respond.

Posted by: Christine at May 25, 2009 11:43 PM
Comment #282054


Healthy, just listening to your own point of view…

BTW, I like the waffling on ‘respect’ for Powell, it’s like ‘as long as he says what *I* want for him to say I’ll respect him’. That’s really not how respect is supposed to work…

Posted by: rhinehold at May 26, 2009 7:48 AM
Comment #282058

Torture- move it to the courts.

Republicans- they don’t matter.

Can we discuss the Supreme Court nominee now?

Posted by: George at May 26, 2009 10:02 AM
Comment #282062

it really doesn’t matter what YOU BELIEVE about whether or not torture works.
The FACTS and DATA have shown that it NEVER works.
It is so tainted by all the bogus information that you don’t KNOW what is good and what is not.
B) it HAS BEEN SHOWN BY FACTS AND DATA that MORE RELIABLE INFORMATION is obtained QUICKER by legal and humane methods.
C) THESE “INTERROGATION” METHODS were promoted by a psychologist WITHOUT ANY INTERROGATION EXPERIENCE NOR TRAINING and the methods were based on methods DESIGNED to obtain FALSE CONFESSIONS from US SOLDIERS (and for religious reasons in the Middle Ages against peasants, et al)
This idea that it is “sometimes effective” is pure BS and unsupported by the FACTS — something y’all like to avoid discussing.
and as for the ticking time bomb scenario — LAME — if it takes 183 times and a month to get the “right answer” — how many bombs could have gone off in that time frame???
it seems like your 24 hour scenario rational, excuse apology or whatever did get blown out of the water by REALITY.

Posted by: Russ at May 26, 2009 12:29 PM
Comment #282063

I can’t help but feel there is a connection there somewhere, between the top three headlines: torture, credit cards and slavery.

Posted by: gergle at May 26, 2009 12:37 PM
Comment #282065


Tipical Republican response (I know…you are not a Republican, you just sound like one)…it’s the only way respect CAN work. Earn it or lose it. Lockstep cannot work with regard to respect, else no matter how one acts, i.e., Cheney/Bush, Hitler, et al, one would continue to respect even after knowing the respect was misplaced.


Like you, I don’t write for this column, but I accept what the writers write about, because it is of interest to them. I’m not sure I want them to write about what they have little interest or expertese in, as that is what happened (IMO) over on the right column.

Forward depends on backward in the course of life.

Posted by: Marysdude at May 26, 2009 12:52 PM
Comment #282070

Over the weekend I watched a documentary-“taxi to the darkside.” I would suggest everyone pro and against torture to watch this and then come back to this topic. It clearly covers all the types of torture we used and are probably still using, why, and on whom (or who-whichever is correct).

I have been against torture for a number of reasons and against so called enhanced interrogations for a number of reasons which I won’t go into here. While watching this documentary I was horrified to find out what we did and to whom we did it. This goes way beyond even the waterboarding (which is torture)issue.

Those of you who are ok with torture or enhanced techniques are probably already thinking that the documentary is propaganda and not accurate. I would suggest before you decide not to watch it to give it a try and if you don’t feel the documentary provides accurate information to support everything we did and may still be doing then fine-stick to your position.

Posted by: Carolina at May 26, 2009 4:13 PM
Comment #282073


Where did you witness this documentary of which you speak? TV (what channel?), movies (where located?), internet (have a link?)?????

Posted by: Marysdude at May 26, 2009 5:49 PM
Comment #282075


I found it on youtube.

Posted by: Rich at May 26, 2009 6:50 PM
Comment #282076

Correction. I found “Taxi to the Dark Side” on google videos.

Posted by: Rich at May 26, 2009 6:53 PM
Comment #282078

“else no matter how one acts, i.e., Cheney/Bush, Hitler, et al, one would continue to respect even after knowing the respect was misplaced.”

hitler was a socialist just like obama. after all the nazi party was the national socialist party. anyone for the homeland security force, or should i say the SA, and later the SS.

Posted by: dbs at May 26, 2009 7:11 PM
Comment #282079

I walk a meandering path around a pond in my backyard that is straighter than that entry…

Posted by: Marysdude at May 26, 2009 7:17 PM
Comment #282081

that entry is more direct than you might think.

Posted by: dbs at May 26, 2009 8:34 PM
Comment #282082


With all due respect, it doesn’t matter what YOU believe either. I find experts on all side of this issue. You choose to believe one set. Perhaps you have actual experience with torture. If not, you and I have similar qualifications.

Let me repeat that I cannot think of many instances when harsh techniques are justified. I also repeat my question about what consitutes torture. Since you seem to know everything about it, maybe you can give a proper example of where the border stands. When does the discomfort you might suffer on a long flight in tourist class become worthy of being called torture?


I agree that they should write what interests them. I disagree that any has shown any particular expertise in torture. Rather for the last weeks the argument has just run in circles. No minds have changed because no new information has been added.

Both sides of this debate are appealing to emotion more than reason, perhaps because reason really doesn’t apply. This is a value decision about which we agree on 99+% of the cases.

The rare case we disagree about is one where torture could be reasonably expected to save innocent lives. We disagree about the facts, with one side firmly convinced that torture never works and the other side suspecting it might sometimes have an effect.

Some people want to finish the argument by simply asserting that torture never works. If that is indeed true, we all agree that it should never be used. But then you have to ask why professional civil servants, both Democratic and Republican, members of the military, a Democratic CIA chief (George Tenet), Nancy Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller as well as a hundreds of administration officials, all of whom have more information available to them than we do, condoned torture. Are they all merely sadistic? Even if they are immoral, why would they bother wasting the time?

What we have, in short, is a difficult moral situation, where we are asked to balance pain inflicted on a terror suspect with the pain and lives of terror victims. The difference is that in the one case we are active in the pain and the other passive.
It is a deeply human dilemma. When a person is asked whether he would ALLOW one person to be killed by a train in order to save a dozen people riding in a bus approaching the tracks, most people say they would make that hard choice. When asked if they would PUSH the person in front of the train to save those same people, most people have a lot more trouble with the decision. The results are identical. The logic is the same. The emotion is different.

So we have all indulged our emotions on this debate. We all think we are morally superior and that we would have the courage to make the hard choices that none of us have really faced.

It was gratifying to all involved. I feel more morally couragous than you; you feel more morally couragous than me. Nobody wants to let go, but I think we have wallowed long enough in this mud hole. It is time to move on.

Posted by: Christine at May 26, 2009 9:22 PM
Comment #282084


We have a handful of immoral, sadistic leaders who specialize in selling their notions to the ignorant. Harsh interrogation does not work because the answers are ALWAYS suspect, but even if they worked to save lives, they would have saved those lives at the expense of national honor. Some nations do not exert moral influences on other nations, so they may attempt to make work what does not. Some nations may have aims other than getting honest information from a suspect or prisoner, i.e., Stalin’s USSR and Mao’s China did not want information as much as they wanted the targets of torture to swear to lies. Torture is very effective at that, witness how McCain handled his torture…he lied.

Cheney/Bush wanted the latitude to torture, and he set out to convince and scam enough people in high places to get his way. He was an effective scam artist, and he had several gullible people in high places ignorant enough to go along with him. The Bully Pulpit is a magic wand during a crisis, and Cheney/Bush was a master wizard at wielding it.

Posted by: Marysdude at May 26, 2009 9:40 PM
Comment #282085


Methinks you protest too much. The taste of defending this horrible disgrace has turned bitter on your tongue…as well it should have. But until the dust has completely settled on the subject, and those culpable either exonerated or chastened, it cannot just fade away. If you have your way, and folks stop discussing our national guilt and shame, we all lose. America has to rise above it…else why America?

Posted by: Marysdude at May 26, 2009 9:46 PM
Comment #282088


The “shame” is too widespread. It includes, as I wrote, lots of Democratic elected officials, career civil servants, Democratically appointed CIA chiefs etc. If indeed all these diverse people approved of torture when they knew it would not work, then we have to assume that humanity is rotten to the core and stupid on top of it and there is no hope.

If you believe Bush was smart enough to scam all those people, how stupid must they be?

So I have a simple choice situation. I can believe that you are right and that humanity is just terrible. In which case it doesn’t really matter what we say, since nothing can be done. Or I can believe that these guys made decisions based on what they thought was right and what they thought would save the most lives. This does not preclude that the decisons were flawed in light of future events. All decisions are flawed in the light of future events.

I know you hate Cheney, but he clearly believes that what he did saved American lives. You can say he is wrong and maybe evil for making the choices he did, but his motivations were sound.

Just to be clear, again, I don’t like to hurt anyone, but believing what I do about terrorism and the perpetrators, I still approve of the waterboarding of KSM. I believe that the information obtained helped break up terror networks and save lives. You disagree with this conclusion. That is why we cannot come to an agreement.

I can recognize the evil of torture, but still think it would be immoral NOT to save those lives. When you have captured a terrorist like KSM, you will have to make some hard moral choices.Of course, if you believe he will not answer your questions, you may be better off to just “find him dead” and save the country the moral dilemma. That is why I hope we don’t take Osama bin Laden alive.

BTW - I am also glad that they messed up his hair before taking his picture. I am glad that the enduring image of the man is a dissheveled slob.

BTW (2) - I love America very much, but I do not believe we are such a superior group of human being that we must live up to super human standard all the time and I refuse to be judged by the likes of the Chinese, Russians, Arabs and others whose average day includes more human rights violations than five years of Guantanamo.

Posted by: Christine at May 26, 2009 10:26 PM
Comment #282090

Christine said: “The “shame” is too widespread. It includes, as I wrote, lots of Democratic elected officials”

Sorry, that is factually wrong, Christine. Elected Democrats in the Congress were bound by LAW to not reveal to the public, fellow Democrats or Congresspersons, what they learned from these top secret briefings regarding torture. Doesn’t matter what they were told, they were legally powerless to do anything about without subjecting themselves to prosecution by Bush’s Attorney General. So, there is no shame in what they knew or when they knew it under the Bush administration.

The shame belongs ENTIRELY upon those who authorized the ILLEGAL use of torture. And that means elected Republicans, and ONLY Republicans. Those are the facts, and they are indisputable, regardless of the political Bullcrap the Republicans put up as sophistry to convince dullards they WERE NOT solely to blame, which of course, they factually were.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 26, 2009 10:40 PM
Comment #282091


CIA director George Tenet and hundreds of civil servants (who tend to be Democrats). And Nancy Pelosi and Jay Rockefeller are completely powerless? I understand the Nurenburg defense doesn’t really work. Besides, all these guys take an oath to defend the Constitution. you would think they would take it seriously. And I didn’t know we lived in a country were the executive could rule like an absolute monarch. How is it that Democrats can now say that Republicans are holding up any of Obama’s programs?

I know the idea here is just to blame Republicans. that is why we are still discussing this old news, but if what you say is true, Democrats and others are so abysmally stupid and craven that we can never trust them. If you take an oath to defend the Constitution and then just don’t, what does that say?

I don’t believe that, BTW. I believe that these others thought that they were doing what was necessary. Remember what Feinstein said. It is wrong to judge decisions made in 2002 by 2009 logic.

Posted by: Christine at May 26, 2009 11:17 PM
Comment #282092


I believe the point is that we need to draw a line that will never be crossed again.
What people knew is irrelevant, that Cheney continues to defend the actions of a few is unfortunate, and I believe it is purely political.
A civilized people don’t torture, and no we cannot begin to compare torture to an overseas flight.
I spent 17 hours from San Fransisco to Shanghai on China Eastern Airlines, in seats designed for Chinese butts, and I survived to fly again.

Let America purge itself of this tawdry episode and move forward.

We need to grow up and understand that the terrorists don’t care if we torture them. They have already made their peace with their God and are prepared to die for their cause anyway.
When we torture the relationships we damage are with those on the fence, those that we need on our side if we are ever to bring this “war on terror” to an end.
If this is truly a “war” we need to also understand that, in war people die, and some die needlessly, and torturing people isn’t going to stop this from happening.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 26, 2009 11:28 PM
Comment #282093


Just as an aside.

Just because you don’t see something as torture doesn’t mean it isn’t torture to some one else.

The pictures from Abu Ghraib for instance, may seem humorous to some in this country, but are repulsive to many other cultures.

If you don’t get this fact we have much further to go in this than we think.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 26, 2009 11:40 PM
Comment #282102

I went through SERE training. At the time it was simply called ‘Survival School.’ Despite the military’s fondness for acronyms, it was always just ‘Survival School.’ My experience was not the same as the experience of John McCain, who underwent real torture. Nevertheless, I can speak about the subject with some expertise.

At the time, everything abbout it was classified. I’m amazed to see so much discussed opently.

Waterboarding was not a part of the curriculum. I don’t think the word even existed. It was called ‘water torture,’ and it was too extreme to take place in a training environment. It most certainly is torture, and it most certainly is a war crime.

Torture works. Now, it’s a little more complicated than that, as the debate in this thread shows. It is possible to kill a person with torture before they break. Some people will be unable to resist at the mere threat. Others will lose their will to resist because of the exploitation of phobias, such as claustrophobia. Most people fall in a middle ground. They will break. They will give up everything and everyone they know.

However, the information may be unreliable.

The subject of torture can be completely broken. Take a look at the film of Sheik Khalid Mohammed at his show trial. That was a good example of a person who had been tortured so much, they had been utterly broken and put back together again. Most likely he was the real mastermind of 9/11. His torturers took their revenge. The rest of us will never see him subjected to justice.

The people who conducted the torture are war criminals. I’m sorry if that creates low morale in the CIA, but the fact is, there are no excuses of ‘just following orders’ when it comes to the commission of a war crime. History is full of war criminals who committed crimes because they loved their country.

Having said that, I’m sorry to see this issue raised. Obama made a mistake. The people who committed these war crimes- Cheney, Addington, Yoo, Bybee, and others- do need to brought to justice. But it’s a terrible distraction from issues such as single payer health insurance and the need to address the ongoing economic depression. I don’t want to see the next few years spent rehashing the evil of the Bush administration. It shames our country. It blackens our honor and our reputation. Guess it’s necessary, though.

Posted by: phx8 at May 27, 2009 1:28 AM
Comment #282104

So what those posting here in defence of torture are saying is that it was morally acceptable when the N. Vietnamese tortured John McCain and other pilots because it might have saved lives. That is the exact arguement they are making. I,for one,am quite uncomfortable with that notion.
The Isrealis facing terrorism all the time, maintain that torture is against the laws of God and man. When circumstances dictate the necessity to gain information quickly to save lives, a very rare occurance, they do what they have to do and hope for forgivness. Torture is NEVER ok.

Posted by: bills at May 27, 2009 5:51 AM
Comment #282105

“When does the discomfort you might suffer on a long flight in tourist class become worthy of being called torture?”

When I am stripped naked, not allowed to use the bathroom and forced to stand up on a frigid flight with my ankles shackled to the floor and my wrists shackled to the ceiling at chin height so that I cannot fall asleep as this flight continues around the world for over a week. I guarantee that after a day on this flight, you would find it more than discomfort. After a few days of this treatment, you would might even begin to think of it as torture.

Posted by: Rich at May 27, 2009 7:36 AM
Comment #282106


What you say re torture being in the eye of the beholder is exactly true, which is why it is so hard to define. You can easily envision terrorists using lawfare against us, claiming that almost anything we do violates their particular norms.

You have to also account for Islamic supremacists. The terrorist believe that they are better than we are and so almost anything we do is disrespect for them. A woman interrogator is also an insult to them, in their minds. Sometimes we have to draw a reasonable line.

Abu Ghraib, BTW, was a crime by our standards and theirs. Nobody has tried to justify what went on there. Those involved were punished. We are not talking about Abu Ghraib here. We all agree that is something that should not happen.

According to the “torture memos” most of the incidents are much more like your Chinese flight experience than the dungeon scenes torture brings to mind. I can envision the definition stretching to include almost anything that makes anybody uncomfortable. That is a danger.


What information do you think John McCain had that could have saved lives five years after he was captured. Beyond that, John McCain cannot even raise his arms above his shoulders. He was tortured in the real sense. They didn’t threaten him with a furry caterpillar or march sexy women in front of him – they tortured him.

I am willing to stipulate that I am less a “good” person than you are in respect to this. I would use violent means against terror suspects if I believed it would save innocent lives. Evidently nobody else here agrees with me.

I am unwilling to let you guys exaggerate my position. I believe that the circumstances would be very rare. Torture should never be used for revenge or punishment. In 2002, Nancy Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller, George Tenet and many career civil servants agreed with me. Now some claim they didn’t.
I have great respect for true pacifists. I doubt many really are. It is very easy to be against harsh methods when we are living in a world made safe by violence carried out in our names. IMO the moral position is to minimize violence and pain. This may mean some hard decisions.

I am one of the few willing to admit I would make them. Others here just say they would never torture, although nobody here will tell me where that line sits. Rocky says that 17 hours is an uncomfortable position is not torture and I respect him as the only one here who has given an example. I bet many here would claim it was torture if Bush did it.

So I am glad all you brave men feel safe and I respect your self control in the face of hypothetical threats. If someone grabbed your kids or was raping your wife, you would not consider violence agaisnt his accomplice to get him to tell you how to stop it. You are stronger than I am, more civlized. I guess I would do something less civilized, but then I am not a liberal.

Posted by: Christine at May 27, 2009 7:54 AM
Comment #282107

“However, the information may be unreliable.”

Indeed! The case of the senior al-Qaeda operative, al-Libby, illustrates not only the unreliablility of information obtained through torture but the dangers of using the information for national policy purposes. It was his false information, extracted only after torture, of a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq on biochemical weapons that formed a significant part of Powell’s presentation to the UN on the case for war against Iraq.

Posted by: Rich at May 27, 2009 8:10 AM
Comment #282108

I checked out “Taxi to the Darkside” from Netflix. It is an award winning documentary so you may find it at your local library if you have a good, well stocked DVD section.

Posted by: Carolina at May 27, 2009 8:18 AM
Comment #282109

“According to the “torture memos” most of the incidents are much more like your Chinese flight experience than the dungeon scenes torture brings to mind.”

That is absolutely not true. The various “enhanced interrogation” techniques were used in combination. Sleep deprivation, stress positions, cold, nakedness, lights, etc. were brought to bear on a subject simultaneously for extended periods. In some instances, sleep deprivation with accompanying techniques went on for more than a week at a time. If you were to read the actual descriptions of the “enhanced interrogation” sessions, you would be less inclined to think of them as only mildly discomforting. In fact, they were torture. Pure and simple.

Posted by: Rich at May 27, 2009 8:30 AM
Comment #282113

1. the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.

ad. L. tort{umac}ra twisting, wreathing; torment, torture; f. torqu{emac}re, tort- to twist, torment

1. The infliction of severe bodily pain, as punishment or a means of persuasion; spec. judicial torture, inflicted by a judicial or quasi-judicial authority, for the purpose of forcing an accused or suspected person to confess, or an unwilling witness to give evidence or information; a form of this (often in pl.). to put to (the) torture, to inflict torture upon, to torture.
1551 Acts Privy Counc. (1891) III. 407 Assisting to the sayd Commissioners for the putting the suche tortours as they shall think expedient. 1593 SHAKES. 2 Hen. VI, III. i. 131 You did deuise Strange Tortures for Offendors. 1608 D. PRICE Chr. Warre 21 To punish the bad, and to prouide some sharpe and fearful tortors for them. 1653 H. COGAN tr. Pinto’s Trav. iv. 10 We put the Captain and Pilot to torture, who instantly confessed. 1708 Act 7 Anne c. 21 §5 After [1 July 1709] no Person accused of any Capital Offence or other Crime in Scotland, shall suffer, or be subject or liable to any Torture. 1769 BLACKSTONE Comm. (1830) IV. xxv. 326 They erected a rack for torture. 1838 THIRLWALL Greece III. xxv. 393 Pisander moved that the persons..should be put to the torture, that all their accomplices might be known. 1849 MACAULAY Hist. Eng. i. (1871) I. 16 According to law, torture..could inflicted on an English subject. 1882 GARDINER Hist. Eng. (1884) VI. lxv. 359 note 2 Torture had been allowed [in England] by custom as inflicted by the prerogative, but not by law… Torture was inflicted as late as 1640 by prerogative.

Posted by: ohrealy at May 27, 2009 10:33 AM
Comment #282116

David, and Christine,

Sorry I don’t buy the bound by law argument. You are never bound by an immoral law. It fails the common sense test. A senator is not powerless, nor unable to rouse support.

The notion that no one knew torture was happening is simply not true. It was reported in the press.
While the details and extent were not known, rendition, for example, has been around quite a while before Bush. The overt use and acceptance as legitimate seems to be the outrage here.

Americans have never shown a reluctance to be brutal when they feel empowered by their government to be brutal. Be it mass slaughter of Indians, Lynching of Blacks, or Killing of Mexicans in Texas during that particular phase of Manifest Destiny.

The American people knew it was happening and failed to show outrage. There was no massive march on Washington. That rage is building and there may yet be consequence. We’ll see. I’m expecting to be underwhelmed. Regardless, I don’t buy the ticking time bomb arguments. Sadism is never right. Equivocation is what it amounts to.

One could certainly make the same arguments for Abortion. I find it odd and a bit hypocritical that both sides of that debate seem to be on opposite sides of the other. I am pro choice, but not pro torture of a fetus. I think that a life of being unwanted is more torturous than ending it, prior to it being sentient. It’s cruel fact of life. The late term abortion argument is largely false,IMO, since it rarely occurs and is mostly performed to protect the life of the mother. Sedation is used.

To me there is a huge difference between tough personal choices and sadism.

Posted by: gergle at May 27, 2009 11:56 AM
Comment #282117

Gergle, what Platonic Idealistic world are you speaking from? If you think Republicans are being hard on Nancy Pelosi now, what would they be doing to her if she had outed the information she received in those classified briefings? She would no longer be Speaker, she might not even be a Representative. She might even be in prison. Remember that Republicans were in control during those briefings.

And if it is true, (we don’t know yet), that the briefings did NOT state that we had already used torture, then what motive would there have been for Pelosi to jeopardize her freedom and career?

I agree with your rational argument in principle, that citizens have an obligation to defy unjust laws - but, what if that defiance comes with the potential price of imprisonment? Realistically, there are precious few Gandhis or Aung San Suu Kyis in the real world.

And in Pelosi’s case, why ruin a career when the potential of being able to change the unjust law lies just around the corner? The calculus was such that if Pelosi had spoken out about torture last year, or in 2007, the Democrats may not have won sufficiently in Congressional races to actually end torture in our government.

There is often a Grand Canyon between the ideal world and the real one.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 27, 2009 2:00 PM
Comment #282118

Christine said: “CIA director George Tenet and hundreds of civil servants (who tend to be Democrats).”

Civil servants were following orders from the CIC. They are in reality, under the Obama administration, immune, right or wrong. And for purely practical reasons, would have been immune under a McCain presidency as well. It is the elected officials and cabinet heads I addressed because they authorized the torture.

Our government is hierarchical in the executive branch, and it is from the executive branch that torture was authorized and carried out. There is no escaping this reality and fact. The executive branch that tortured was run by Republicans. NO Democrats.

Pelosi neither tortured, nor authorized torture, nor had any legal power to deter the executive branch from torturing. You can continue to try to fabricate Democratic scapegoats, Christine, but,
the facts remain, torture was a Republican idea and carried out by a Republican administration. No elected Democrats were involved in the decision or the execution of torture.

And the fact remains today, that the majority of those supporting torture are Republican supporters, and the majority of Democrats oppose it and won’t defend the practice. Republicans own this torture issue, just as they own their own demise at the polls in 2006 and 2008. Trying to blame Democrats for Republican actions is a really desperate attempt at political spin and sophistry.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 27, 2009 2:13 PM
Comment #282124


My point was not to blame Pelosi, I think that IS a canard. It is a weak defense, however, to say she was restricted by a disclosure law. That is eerily reminiscient of the Nazi claims of following orders.

My point was that it was not a secret that torture was likely being used well before today. The sudden declarations of outrage seem a bit like the scene of the Vishy policeman in Casablanca. Shocked! Shocked, I tell you. ALL Americans, me included, share in a collective guilt for not marching on Washington when it became evident of this rogue regime’s tactics.

Seymour Hersch and 60 minutes publicly disclosed the tortures in Iraq in 2004. Nancy may have been informed in 2002. This is 2009 there has been no marches on Washington. No general outrage. I think it speaks to the American psyche. Here’s a timeline:

I’m not being idealistic, just stating that there really isn’t outrage in America over this. We still do nasty covert things. I think America accepts this, sadly.

I would love to see a real truth commision look at this stuff. America needs to confront it’s own bad behavior in the world. I just think we’re a bit busy with dealing with our debt and current crises to get too deep into this. The 911 commission swept past rather obvious references to torture in it’s report, I don’t expect much more out of a truth commision. Americans don’t like dwelling on the genocide of Native Americans, the horrors of building our economy on slavery, or the forays into central and south America, some in the very recent past. Sadly, that may be prescient of more nastyness to come.

Posted by: gergle at May 27, 2009 4:54 PM
Comment #282125


Just following orders. The head of the CIA, the minority leader in the Congress etc helpless. I don’t recall that people feared to speak out against Bush. In fact Pelosi, Reid etc spoke out, sometimes recklessly. But not about this. Strange.

To others

I am going to give up on this debate, however. It has clearly reached the point of autoerotism. You guys can continue to play among yourselves if it helps you avoid more urgent issues. You don’t need me to continue with your outrage and moral supremacy. You can feel better than me. I can live with that, although I suppose the mental anquish is a form of torture.

Posted by: Christine at May 27, 2009 6:52 PM
Comment #282127






Posted by: Russ at May 27, 2009 8:10 PM
Comment #282128

Bullcrap to your whole speal about you being the only “honest one here”
Others here just say they would never torture, although nobody here will tell me where that line sits. Rocky says that 17 hours is an uncomfortable position is not torture and I respect him as the only one here who has given an example. I bet many here would claim it was torture if Bush did it.

I will tell you that torture is NEVER justified, and NEVER works — so your whole “only rarely when it is REALLY needed” arguement is BS


It does not work, and if you cannot see that AFTER the examples where people were tortured for months to no avail — plueeeeese.
what does it take
experienced interrogators testify that it does not work
experienced interrogators got MORE INFORMATION QUICKER without using those techniques

Posted by: Russ at May 27, 2009 8:24 PM
Comment #282129

I concurr with your position, and thank you for providing an expeienced knowledgeable statement to the discussion
however I disagree with you re: the need to go after these guys
It is unfortunate that it could be a distraction — but it is an unfortunate distraction, for without this effort, the possiblity exists that this could happen again
it needs to be made clear that NO ONE is above the law, and the law about torture in this case is very clear, and it was violated.

Your arguements are Bull — My definition of torture is contained in the law, and in the Geneva Convention
It is not up to me to define it — the law defines what constitutes torture and we are supposed to be a country of laws — that is the strength
it is not up to any one individual to decide
What is torture
who is guilty
who is innocent
what is just punishment
what is considered a crime
It is when these things are allowed to be decided by any one individual (“the decider”) that our system breaks down, and these abuses occur.
for just the reasons you state
What I consider torture, others would not — and hence the danger.

The people you mentioned that allegedly condoned torture — even if they did — that is NOT any indication nor evidence that torture works
They have been MISLEAD to believe that “torture works”
it does not matter
As I have said there are numerous intelligence interrogation EXPERTS that have testified that torture does NOT work (to obtain useful intelligence)
There are Army, Air Force and Marine Generals, Navy Admerials and many others that have testified against the use of torture — because it is wrong and does not work
If they have the Balls to openly state this position, what are YOU afraid of??
However you are somewhat right, Torture DOES work:
to obtain false confessions
to break an individual to prevent them from rising up against the authority
to provide an example to others to ensure their compliance to the authority

there are many things that torture WORKS for — but obtaining useful information, ensuring our national security, and our safety are NOT things that torture provides.
so go ahead and continue your macho posturing and chest puffing
It just demonstrates your moral position or lack thereof.
(and don’t give me the “do anything to keep America Safe” line — not after all the evidence that THIS DOES NOTHING TO KEEP AMERICA SAFE, NOR SAVE LIVES)

Posted by: Russ at May 27, 2009 8:40 PM
Comment #282131

thanks for your position
I would like to add
When we torture we damage ourselves more than our enemies
We lose our souls, while they might feel they gain.
Our very souls are tarnished

consider the reverse perspective
Look at who we look to as heroes
Those who survived torture and fought back
Nelson Mandela
Steve Bikko

In what regard are the people that conducted the torture now held??

When we conduct torture do we not provide such ammunition and reason for the “oppressed” to continue the fight?
How can you win if you only do things that prolong the fight?
and should you DO win, what is the cost to the soul and the psyche — is it worth living after such a “victory”
Can such a “victory” truely be considered “victory”?
and how can anyone possibly call God as being on their side who lowers themselves to such horrendous actions against another human?

Posted by: Russ at May 27, 2009 8:51 PM
Comment #282134

Christine made the following dense comment: “Just following orders. The head of the CIA, the minority leader in the Congress etc helpless. I don’t recall that people feared to speak out against Bush. In fact Pelosi, Reid etc spoke out, sometimes recklessly.”

What part of “secret by law” do you not understand, Christine. Sure Democrats criticized Bush openly. Why not about torture? This question has been answered for you multiple times, now, yet, your question seems impervious to any answers. That Christine, constitutes prejudice, holding to a belief in the wake of contrary evidence. The law prohibited Peolosi, Reid, etc. from speaking about top secret matters like torture.

Your conversation on this topic appears to have run its course, as your comments evidence a resistance to any facts that might change your position on the matter. One cannot persuade a believer with facts and reality. Your continued insistence on lumping critique by democrats on matters not prohibited by law, with matters prohibited from speaking of by law, demonstrates there is nothing more to be gained from your comments on this topic, but a prejudiced view.

Thank you though. It has been an interesting conversation and debate up to this point.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 27, 2009 9:25 PM
Comment #282136

I personally believe Waterboarding is torture, but it’s effective & has saved Americans. What I don’t like is the rumors of American Soldiers spitting, pooping, pissing, & just horribly abusing the detainees. If this stuff is true the soldiers need to knock it off & represent America the right way. Waterboarding should be done with dignity & respect for human rights. All the extra crap needs to cease. Waterboarding is torture, but it’s very safe compared to some of the things other countries do, at least people aren’t beaten within an inch of their life. National Defense’s job is to protect Americans, in life or death situations actions that may seem harsh & that may be unpopular are sometimes gonna have to be used.

Posted by: Jamal Chevis at May 27, 2009 9:35 PM
Comment #282139

If you are going to have a discussion about whether the US engaged in torture and if so, whether it was justified, then I would suggest that commentators spend a little bit of time and read the OLC memos, the released excerpts of the CIA IG report, International Red Cross reports and documentaries such as “Taxi to the Dark Side” before commenting.

It seems to me that most of the commentators on this blog are actually ignorant of the techniques; how they were applied; the extent of their use and the number of detainees subjected to the techniques. Back and forth discussions of long plane rides as exemplars of the “enhanced interrogation” techniques are ludicrus. Does anyone actually think that the CIA and its contractors were simply making detainees uncomfortable? Read the Bradbury memos describing how sleep deprivation was actually practiced. You will not only give up the “long plane ride” analogy in a heartbeat but be very concerned, as the CIA IG was, about sleep deprivation as torture. Waterboarding is not the only issue.

There also should be some concern and discussion of the extent to which these techniques were applied in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and Iraq without any reasonable “justification.” It seems increasingly clear that the practices were widespread and applied to detainees for whom there was little direct evidence of terrorist activities. The fact that almost 70% of the most dangerous of the detainees transfered to Guantanamo have been released or transferred to other countries should give one pause.

Posted by: Rich at May 27, 2009 10:10 PM
Comment #282142

I was sad to read this story on CNN”>”>CNN.

Neighbors, friends, the men and women who the victims went to mosques with… now torturers and murderers. If ever you wondered whether torture dehumanized brutality and cruelty, read this.

I’m not saying it’s just us, you see. I’m saying that anyone, anywhere, who tortures for any reason, is evil and worthy only of the most draconian penalties we can impose.

Assuming that such penalties do not simply continue the spiral into ever more egregious pain, suffering and evil.

We must be bigger than this. We must set an example to the world. We must renounce this evil and show that justice can be done without the need for torture.

We must be the United States of America.

Posted by: Jon Rice at May 27, 2009 11:40 PM
Comment #282148


Good for you. I am speaking for myself, but apparently also the majority of Americans, as you confirm. Shouting (all caps) doesn’t really make your argument more forceful, however.

Posted by: gergle at May 28, 2009 4:33 AM
Comment #282152

Rich, I agree re: “taxi to the darkside”. This is an excellent documentary that provides support for each point it makes. To try and discuss torture from one perspective, waterboarding, is pointless. Our gov’t under Bush/Cheney approved so much more that I can’t believe anyone watching this documentary could support what we have done. I suggested earlier in this topic that everyone check out this documentary and then come back to discuss torture. It is clear from many of the responses here that people clearly do not understand the extent of what we did. And to have a discussion on torture one needs to have a very clear and complete picture of the horror the we visited on people.

Posted by: Carolina at May 28, 2009 8:30 AM
Comment #282155


The belated and muted outrage over torture is understandable. Even the tortious justifications for it are understandable. Torture is, after all, incompatible with our self concept of American values. There is, therefore, a strong element of national cognitive dissonance at work. Under such circumstances, our defense mechanisms kick in to reduce or avoid the dissonance. Hence, it was only a few “bad apples” not national policy. It wasn’t really torture at all, it was moderate discomfort. If we did torture, it was only to a very few bad actors and for good reason. Finally, lets not discuss or confront the actual facts at all.

Posted by: Rich at May 28, 2009 10:54 AM
Comment #282156

Gergle —
sorry but I was yelling — — if you note, my later posts were lower case, and more reserved
But for the protests, the objections — it called for yelling!!
We yelled and objected and protested and were called traitors
now they are saying — but nobody objected — everybody went along, just like “everybody thought Sadaam had WMD’s”
Bull crap
Apologists and the weaklings who refused to stand up to Bush and his Bullies (and that is exactly what they were — and Cheney is STILL trying to bully and frighten people — the sure sign of a weak, cowardly little man.)

those of you clamoring or worrying about personal safety or “preserving America — “they need to violate the law — but don’t worry it will only be done on “them” (you know, “the terrorists” — “them”) in order to “preserve America”
you really don’t get it — that by these actions, “America” is not preserved — it is destroyed more thoroughly than the two planes that hit the twin towers — or any Nuclear Bomb.
America is not the buildings, not the citizens, not our “infrastructure” — America is all that and much MORE — it is an ideal, that prior to it’s institution NEVER EXISTED PREVIOUSLY
The idea of the common people having rights — of the Govt being at the service of the citizens and not the other way around — that was NEW and is STILL the example
When you dismantle that system — you have dismantled America, without destroying one building or killing one citizen — America will cease to exist.
We came close under Bush and his henchmen
I would like to see them all in jail — as an example to leaders of the future
Your job is to protect and defend the Constitution — not individual citizens, not the buildings, and not our need for oil
and if you violate the Constitution — for your own political/personal/warped Agenda — you will be held accountable.

And to those of you who say — send someone to jail “just because” you disagree with their “policy”???
this is not about “policy”
they appear (based on the evidence coming to light) to have PURPOSELY VIOLATED the Constitution
they devised ways to PURPOSELY GET AROUND the law, whether it be the Constitution or the Geneva Convention
if it were merely “opinion” or “Policy” there would have been no need for secrecy, nor for convoluted ways around the law and the Constitutional provisions.

and Shame on all of us that may have allowed FEAR to allow them to trounce on the Constitution
(I still need the “Patriot ACT” totally recinded and sent to the shredder)

To Jamal
Please provide whatever evidence you have the Waterboarding (or any other torture device) is “effective” (or explain “effective for WHAT?”)
and that it “saved lives” ????????
Again, the evidence that has come to light is that the waterboarding that they have TOLD us about — was used 183 times NOT to get vital information about an attack — it was used to get the victim to say that there was a connection between IRAQ and Al-Queda — and this was AFTER we had already invaded IRAQ — now, just HOW did THAT save lives???????
and even then — just getting the guy to admit to a falsehood — where he had NOTHING AT STAKE — and it took over 183 times to do it (and I believe even then he NEVER DID — did you say something about “effective”????)
What is the basis for your assertion???

and that you are ok with Waterboarding but not spitting on them
and that the soldiers are “representing America the “right way” by waterboarding but not by spitting, etc”
and the statement
“Waterboarding is torture, but it’s very safe compared to….”

SAFE??????? people have died during Waterboarding
it is DEFINED as TORTURE, TORTURE, by definition is NOT SAFE??????

Posted by: Russ at May 28, 2009 12:38 PM
Comment #282177


I’m all for your cause. I don’t agree outrage or yelling will get you what you seem to want. Rich gets it. There is a national dissonance about it. When middle America began marching against Vietnam, the war was over. I’m wondering if you were outraged before 2002?

My point is that you’ve still got a lot of convincing to do. It’s an uphill battle to make Americans confront their acceptance of torture. When confronted with the realities of war and the realities of torture, Americans recoil, shocked by the brutality. Yet as the drums of war sound during CNN’s graphic headlines, on their HD TV’s with surround sound, they cooly accept it as OK because there was a ticking time clock. 180 times for one guy, the time clock ticked.

Then there are those shaky Al Aqaeda head lopping videos. How can a Bush miss with this image and the Drum beat of Victory and no coffins coming home? A facist would have been proud. I was just waiting for the Reichstag Eagle. Stephen Colbert stole that eagle idea from either me or Watchblog.

Posted by: gergle at May 29, 2009 2:01 AM
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