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On the Abomination, Myths, and Dangers of Sanctioned Torture

Original post made by Winslow Arbenaugh, Barron Park, on Feb 21, 2008

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Comments (29)

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2008 at 2:55 am

As I have written elsewhere, the same arguments can be used against imprisonment. Given a choice between a year in prison and having my arm broken, I would chose the break.
The protection of the public often requires interfering in one manner or another with he life of another. Sometimes that interference is a tax bill, sometimes it is a bullet. We want the interference regulated, but we need to understand the mission. An error or sin of omission can be as egregious as a sin or error of commission. If you believe someone has vital information you are duty bound to ask them about it, even to the extent of discomfort.
Sometimes you have to consider a practice close enough for government work.


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Posted by perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Mr. Arbenaugh, Uberoi, Singh etc

yawn. can't you find new sources and wording?


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Walter,

Ummm, the Bill of Rights ring a bell with you or not? That proscription against "cruel and unusual punishment"?

Your rationalization of torture is old--but the Founding Fathers didn't buy it and neither do I.




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Posted by cure all
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 21, 2008 at 11:10 pm

So it's OK for the United States to torture people because we do it in the name of freedom?


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 4:12 am

So, OhlonPar, you oppose any restraint on anyone's freedom of movement? You cannot grasp the concept that critics of waterboarding are over broad in their definition of torture? You deny or fail to understand my assertion that denial of freedom of movement is the penultimate torture? You torture the very concept of rational debate.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2008 at 11:35 am

Walter,

Did you even finish reading the articles before you posted?


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Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Reed College Professor Darius Rejali (from the the links, above) says that toruture doesn't work, or at least that its effectiveness is so low as to be next to worthless. Yet, he starts off his argument with a curious statement, about waterboarding: "probably didn't give the CIA any actionable intelligence". How would he know? The former CIA agent said it was like flipping a switch, and it produced hugely productive information.

Rejali's central point, based on historical torture methods is that relatively stupid people are assigned to do it, and they wouldn't know the truth from the coerced lies.

Well, if waterboarding works, and it is done by smart guys, and it results in significant information that can be triangulated, and it leads to major arrests of al qaeda leadership, then waterboarding must not be torture...becasue (again!) it WORKS. Where is the flaw in my logic?

Could it possibly be that Rejali is wrong?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:40 pm

"Where is the flaw in my logic?"

Your flaw is that you assume every victim of torture knows something of worth. That simply isn't true.

You engage the Scalia fallacy that every terrorist - or suspected terrorist - knows what's going on. That's also not true.

Thus, the generalization of your argument, based on a faulty assumption that can't be shown.

Next....


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Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Mike,

If waterboarding is done by smart guys, and they are able to triangulate, it is a very effective method. Your flaw is that you assume every victim of torture knows something of worth. The smart guys don't think that way, Mike. They already know something that they can use to triangulate.

From the public record, it looks to me like the smart guys start with the gentle approach, then use waterboarding, if Mr. al qaeda decides that he is just too tough to be dealt with by Western wimps. Thus far, it has not taken more than one treatment to get them singing like a canary. The simple question, stated ahead of time, is: "You, Mr. aq are about to see something different today. It will only take a short time, then we will give you 30 minutes to tell us what you know. We will verify everything, that we can. If there is one single thing that is wrong with your statement, we will be talking this different (and decidedly non-wimp) way everyday for quite a while. We understand that you are strong in your beliefs, as we are in ours. However, even our toughest guys, like the US Nay Seals can only last about 25 seconds. We have all day, and you have less than a minute. Just in case you ever escape the hell that you are now in, there will be no marks on your body, just your crazy ravings about mistreatment, all denialbe by us. Feel lucky?"


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Posted by Come on Mike
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Mike, waterboarding is not used on every terrorist. It is only used on a very, very small number of terrorists. Those that are known to have the kind of connections in the terrorist network who can reasonably be expected to possess the knowledge needed. - (This isn't air port screening after all.)
BTW, Gary was actually pointing out the logical flaw in Rejali's reasoning.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:48 pm

"waterboarding is not used on every terrorist. It is only used on a very, very small number of terrorists. "

How do you know that? Because someone said so? Oh, you mean the same people who tried to cover up Abu G.? I have a bridge for sale.


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Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2008 at 3:08 pm

I only wish that it had been used more often, Mike. OBL might be dead by now, if it had. That is probably the best evidence that it was not used very often. Too bad.

If Barak wins on the "hope" propaganda campaign, and then he is faced with some serious stuff, what will he do? Make another speach on televison about about hope? Didn't we already have a version of that with Clinton ("I feel your pain")? That is what brought 9-11 to our doorstep. Instead of firing a few cruise missles, Bill should have had his guys waterboard our enemies.

The next al qaeda attack will probably be much worse than 9-11. It is best to stop it ahead of time. Waterboarding is an essential tool to do just that.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2008 at 3:51 pm

"That is probably the best evidence that it was not used very often"

There is no evidence, only your speculation, and unsupported assumptions. Case closed.


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Posted by Good For A Laugh !
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2008 at 5:42 pm

I'll bet the prisoners at Abu G. long for the days when torture was defined as having to wear underwear on their heads. Mike your problem is that you bought the bridge sold to you by the liberal establishment, and now you just can't find a way to unload it!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2008 at 5:47 pm

GFAL, How would you know how the prisoners at Abu G. felt, or feel? You only know how you feel, as you project your tragic hatred into the world.


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Posted by Good For A Laugh !
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Gee Mike, I guess it wasn't reported in your bible the NYT, but ever since the U.S. turned Abu G. over to the Iraqis, things haven't been as nice for the prisoners there.
The Iraqis don't have as many qualms as we do, about how they get necessary information from prisoners. They have seen first hand how ruthless the terrorists are and they know what they have to do to survive.
Maybe you should include some more variety in your news sources, Mike, if you can stomach it. It might bring some balance to your perceptions.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2008 at 10:39 pm

GFAL, How would you know? And you get your news from....?


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2008 at 5:44 am

Nonymouse, I read the article before I wrote my response. Did you read my responses? If I define torture, accurately, as the purile drivel of academic reality virgins, will you stop waterboarding logic?


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Posted by what?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2008 at 9:44 am

I recognize most of those words (all of them if you meant to write "puerile"), but I'm not sure there's any meaning to that sentence.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2008 at 2:51 pm

If you define torture as anything that makes the recipient uncomfortable, then your ability to compel behavior is gone. If you define torture by the classic grievous or permanent injury, then I concur with its prohibition. Words,even those I used above, have meaning, even words that do not fit your indoctrination. No matter how often you assert it, waterboarding is not torture.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Walter, not sure how simulating the experience of drowning can not be torture. That goes beyond "feeling uncomfortable" to the reasonable expectation that you are about to die of suffocation. I'm not sure where your "classic" definition comes from, but I think you are out of step on this one.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2008 at 4:54 am

Out of step? Certainly out of step with the liberal cadence. unlike libs, I watch where I step and examine the consequences.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2008 at 9:14 am

I think you give those who disagree on this too little credit, Walter, and perhaps yourself a bit too much. McCain is outspoken on his opposition to waterboarding - does he fall in the "unthinking lib" category for you? With all due respect to your experiences, I can't figure out how simulated drowning is not torture.


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Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2008 at 10:49 am

Hey guys, just call waterboarding torute, then move on. The main point is that it WORKS! Yes, I know that it cannot be torture, since it works but, hey, we gotta a war to fight, and we need to use every tool in the toolbox, as long as it works. The consequences of not using every tool could be an immense disaster, with great loss of life...and worse...the burkha.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 25, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Gary, So "whatever works" is your mantra? If I'm not mistaken, that's one of the tenets of fascism. Everything filters down.


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Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2008 at 2:29 pm

"Gary, So "whatever works" is your mantra?"

Whatever works to prevent a jihadist victory, or even another major attack, Mike. I am convinced that you do not support the jihadists, Mike, but I support real bullets, since I don't see infill housing as a real and sufficient response.

Fascist? That is always the leftist response, when one wants to use real bullets to kill a common enemy. I am not a socialist (anymore), thus I cannot be a fascist. However, you still have real possibilities....


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 25, 2008 at 3:38 pm

Gary, There are no fascists in the class of socialists, so you're wrong about not being able to be fascist, I'm not saying that you ARE a fascist. I know you're not. What I am saying is that taking the stance re: torture that you take sets up a "whatever works" rationale that cannot be contained by firm rules. Thus, the slippery slope to "whatever works, whenever someone thinks whatever works is appropriate". That's where the impulse to fascism starts.

The "known terrorist who one is 100% of harboring knowledge that can hurt others" scenario is exceedingly rare. Hypothetically speaking, I doubt that anyone who had in their control a known terrorist, who they KNEW had access to timed detonation controllers for a bomb that would kill thousands within hours, would be able to resist slapping that person around (of torturing the person) to get information as to the controller's whereabouts. I can think of no human being who could resist this course of action, if perfect knowledge is applied. (This is the Anthony Scalia argument; I tend to agree with it, given the considtions for perfect knowledge that he sets out)

The problem happens when interrogators DON'T have perfect knowledge about a perpetrator, or suspected perpetrator. That's when trouble starts, and abuse happens. That's 99.99% of the time.

So, there has to be set standards of procedure that are RIGOROUSLY enforced, and taught - meaning that we simply don't put people under duress unless we're sure they hold the key to an action that will cost lives in the very near short term.

With that as a given, I can imagine in the heat of battle (hypothetically, because being in the panic of battle is virtually unimaginable) abuses would take place. Human beings will pay attention to a regulation only insofar as they see benefit from it, and they fear no harm will come to them because of it. So, we know that torture will happen in war. We just have to do our best from a policy, training, and consequences (for breaking the law) level to see that torture is not an expected course of action, and that it is clear that our nation does not support torture - and handle deviations from that policy in the courts.

This is what we haven't done, and it makes us look bad - even more so because we think of ourselves as the leaders of the modern world, re: morality, and human rights. We've really shot a big hole in that.


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Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2008 at 4:21 pm

Mike,

How cute. You start with an aburdity, "There are no fascists in the class of socialists..." Having been when you appear to be at this doctrinaire point in your mindset, I can only sigh. The classic fascists WERE socialists! They combined socialism with nationalism and tribalism/racism. I don't see any particular difference between them and Stalin and Mao and Ho (etc.).

Then you talk about 100% perfect knowledge about the intenal mind of our enemies. Another absurdity, Mike. If I had 100% confidence of the internal minds of the nags at the racetrack, I would be a billionaire. We should be satisfied that the thousands/millions of lives saved are worth the hundreds that are waterboarded. In fact, waterboarding is SO effective, and unharmful, that these scumbags will sing like canaries, yet be left alive...hopefully to be shot down the road, as their evil is understood by free peoples.

What we have here, Mike, is a WAR. This war is against fundamentalist Muslims, aka jihadists. They are spreading their religion by the sword, according to the Quran, as usual, in the historical context.

Frankly, Mike, it is surprising to me to see a socilaist, like yourself, refusing to take on the beast that is in front of you. As a former comrade, I would have voted to have you sidelined, for failing to see reality.




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Posted by not surprised.
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2008 at 8:39 am

But Gary, why are you surprised? As a former leftie myself, (not quite full socialist, but very close), socialist ideology thrives on ignorance of human nature. So, of course socialists, by their very nature, cannot see the beast in front of them. They just keep singing Joan Baez songs ( remember those days?) and hoping that reality goes away.

There is a reason for that well worn cliche "A young person who is a conservative has no heart, but an older person who is a liberal has no brain"


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