Monday, April 20, 2009

We Didn't Torture

Check out David Rivkin and Lee Casey, "The Memos Prove We Didn't Torture" (via Memeorandum):

The four memos on CIA interrogation released by the White House last week reveal a cautious and conservative Justice Department advising a CIA that cared deeply about staying within the law. Far from "green lighting" torture -- or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees -- the memos detail the actual techniques used and the many measures taken to ensure that interrogations did not cause severe pain or degradation.

Interrogations were to be "continuously monitored" and "the interrogation team will stop the use of particular techniques or the interrogation altogether if the detainee's medical or psychological conditions indicates that the detainee might suffer significant physical or mental harm."

An Aug. 1, 2002, memo describes the practice of "walling" -- recently revealed in a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which suggested that detainees wore a "collar" used to "forcefully bang the head and body against the wall" before and during interrogation. In fact, detainees were placed with their backs to a "flexible false wall," designed to avoid inflicting painful injury. Their shoulder blades -- not head -- were the point of contact, and the "collar" was used not to give additional force to a blow, but further to protect the neck.

The memo says the point was to inflict psychological uncertainty, not physical pain: "the idea is to create a sound that will make the impact seem far worse than it is and that will be far worse than any injury that might result from the action."

Shackling and confinement in a small space (generally used to create discomfort and muscle fatigue) were also part of the CIA program, but they were subject to stringent time and manner limitations. Abu Zubaydah (a top bin Laden lieutenant) had a fear of insects. He was, therefore, to be put in a "cramped confinement box" and told a stinging insect would be put in the box with him. In fact, the CIA proposed to use a harmless caterpillar. Confinement was limited to two hours.
And in case you missed it, see Scott Shane, "Torture Versus War":

WHEN the Central Intelligence Agency obliterates a dozen suspected terrorists, along with assorted family members, with a missile from a drone, the news rarely stirs a strong reaction far beyond Pakistan.

Yet the waterboarding of three operatives from Al Qaeda — one of them the admitted murderer of 3,000 people as organizer of the 9/11 attacks — has stirred years of recriminations, calls for prosecution and national soul-searching.

What is it about the terrible intimacy of torture that so disturbs and captivates the public? Why has torture long been singled out for special condemnation in the law of war, when war brings death and suffering on a scale that dwarfs the torture chamber?
I'm guessing anti-Bush hysteria, for starters ...


rbosque said...

The damage is done none-the-less. No thanks the the lying left. They don't care what the truth is, they just want power.

AmPowerBlog said...

The "lying left" ...

That pretty much sums it up, Raul!

Dave said...

The lying left?>

Hell, I wasn't even aware there was any other kind.


Tim said...

Because we all know about the "righteous right"! They would never lie. Nope. Not ever.

I love how conservatives can turn every negative into a positive...Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, clear evidence of torture...

This is the same derangement used by the likes of Ann Coulter when it comes to her support of McCarthy, one of the most despicable Americans ever. Take something that is clearly wrong or evil as defined by the left, and own it. Great strategy.

I am so glad your party is now in the minority in this country. And ever dwindling, by the sounds of your desperation.

sek said...

Concerning the quote of Scott Shane on "Torture vs War", you may want to consider this.

How do you react when US soldiers die in combat? Most will regret the losses but will consider that this is a risk inherent to engaging troops and will therefore accept it.

Now, how would you react if the enemy had captured US soldiers and had decided to torture them? Would you say it is cool because (as the author argues) torture is a lesser evil than death???

Somehow, I pretty much doubt it and believe you would be extremely upset and would ask for action to be taken to avenge this.

science fiction writer said...

These interrogations prevented more than one-hundred terror attacks and hundreds, possible thousands of lives. If you disagree with their use (for the purpose of saving innocent lives), volunteer your families lives and your lives to the terrorists.

Tim said...

Rick: That is total B.S. Most intelligence experts will tell you this is unreliable information. They talk and say what you want to hear.

But, believe in everything your side says. Because it makes reality so much more simple than it is.

The fact that the religious right wing extremists in this country are saying that torture is a good thing does not surprise me in the least. Add it to the list of hypocritical stances across virtually every moral issue you can name.

science fiction writer said...

Tim--you are 100% wrong.

Sek said...


The fact of the matter is that what you are saying should be serioiusly studied to be in a position to see whether it provided or did not provide valuable intelligence.

But the problem remains that if we state that we can take such measures, how can we then go and tell other countries that they should not use such methods (which is what the US has been doing over the past half century)?? How do you then explain to other States that they should copy our system and adopt our values because they are superior/better (what the host of this site keep stressing)?

Seriously, how do you square this??

Tim said...

OK Rick, then the end always justifies the means.


Good philosophy. Worked so well for every major dictator in the history of the world.

You seriously need to bone up on this subject. Instead of just relying on the oh-so-annoying "the left just lies" mantra.

We have what some would call values, i.e. things that are not mutable.

You cannot preach to the world that America is great because it uses torture.

science fiction writer said...

Enhanced interrogation techniques provided one-half of all our intel on al-qaeda, prevented more than one-hundred terror attacks, and saved hundreds (possibly thousands) of lives.

Fraternity hazing and some tribal initiations for adulthood, i.e. the Thonga, are far more severe than our enhanced interrogation techniques, and they are not torture. In fact, they are rites of passage.

The enemy in Iraq did capture and torture United States soldiers. So did Viet Nam, Germany and Japan. Maybe someone needs to bone up on reality.

How about the torture in Chechnya, Sudan, Somalia, Russia, Iran--and Saddam Hussein's terror state? None of that bothered you? I guess you think it is okay.

Your references to the religious right have no meaning to this atheist. It wouldn’t bother me if religion disappeared from the face of this earth (beginning with Islam). This is strictly a matter of national security.

My position is that terrorism must be stopped. Your position is diametrically opposed to mine, so you must think it ought to continue.
Your means is that innocent lives are lost while we are being kind to terrorists. Great end, huh? You like dead innocents.

How much did you enjoy seeing the 9/11 attacks, the Madrid bombings, and the London massacre?

Maybe you enjoy seeing the several hundred thousand innocent victims of Sudan's Muslim-Arab government being killed while the UN sits idle, failing to live up to its constitution and bylaws, or enforce its resolutions.

Are you ready to volunteer your lives and your families' lives to terror? A simple yes or no is an appropriate answer.

sek said...

1) Do you have serious studies to provide to back up your claims that these interrogations enabled the US to obtain such worthwhile intelligence??

2) There is a blatant contradiction between your statement that the techniques used are very mild and the outcome, the intelligence gathered, so important.

2)Nazi Germany and facist Japan, Iraq under Hussein..., that it precisely the point. I don't want the US to stoop to the levels of those States whereas it seems ok for you to do so. The fact that we are not willing to use the same methods and uphold different values is what makes us better than them.

4) Where did anyone say that he/she was supporting terrorism. I, for one, simply believe that in the long term such an approach is detrimental to our own security.

Tim said...

Rick. Obviously, I disagree. We have no figure on what we are known to prevent, only supposition. The best weapon against prevention is legal surveillance and vigilance.

Torture is also guess work. The resistance of the individual is the key. Some break instantly, some never. The information obtained under torture is a grab bag, and can even lead to wrong information that implicates others who are innocent. The CIA will be the first to tell you that a person who does not have the information they want can represent a danger in itself.

I too am an atheist, but I truly believe that a Christian perspective does not support torture. Would the Catholic church support it? I only ask because they are the biggest Christian institution on Earth. And all the right-wing nuts say they are Christians too. If so, then they should have no issue that Jesus was beaten (he was, after all, a political prisoner) and suffered.

This would make the people who tortured Jesus on the same level with the U.S. government!

My point remains, and comparing to hazing rituals is about choice, and tribal rituals about tradition. Not that I agree with it as it is probably not by choice.

science fiction writer said...

The information is available; it's not my fault you chose to ignore it.

There is no blatant contradiction. The analogies are appropriate yet inconsistent with your beliefs; thus you reject them. I know it’s difficult.

If you are not willing to do everything within your power to stop terrorism, then YOU ARE A TERRORIST, because your mindset allows terrorism to prosper, leading to the deaths of thousands of innocent people. You prefer to “be kind to terrorists,” and allow them to continue killing.

You seem to have little understanding of this insidious enemy. These fanatics are a transnational NGO, with 2 -3 million (Wahid) jihadis willing to kill infidels, and they have the backing of more than 100 million Muslims (Gallup). They would kill just as soon as look at you. Further, they no allegiance to any civil government, only Sharia Law. One recently commented, “Islam does not allow democracy.”

And you both ignored my question. Are you ready to volunteer your lives and your families' lives to terror? A simple yes or no is an appropriate answer.

Tim said...

Rick: Your "question" is a zero sum argument. It warrants no response. I put my family in a car every day. They are far more likely to die in that car, than ever in a terrorist attack on US soil. You are conflating things to skew your perspective. It is a logical fallacy you should avoid.

There are reams written about the counter arguments to torture. I get your points. But by that logic, we should just carpet bomb large swaths of the middle east and be done with the "Muslim problem."

It's tough, I don't argue. I hate fundamentalism of any stripe, and would gladly see the Taliban wiped from the face of the earth in one fell swoop. But that ain't gonna happen, is it.

Like any issue, education if the key. For the record, I can't support something that is fundamentally morally wrong, when that point of view would also "make me a terrorist."

It's also why I do not support the death penalty. Murder is murder.

Of course, I'm condensing my points. But there is "torture" and then there is "coercion" and interrogation too.

science fiction writer said...


Your mindset (as well as the rest of the liberal ideology except Lieberman) allows terrorism to exist; you are in denial.

Tooth Fairy Hypothesis: If we don’t call it war, and we don’t call terrorists terrorists, then everything will be wonderful. They will stop killing innocents, make peace with the world, and afford innocent peoples, globally, their human rights.

My view: It is ethical to do whatever is necessary to protect innocent people from terrorism. My priority: protect innocent people form extraneous attack as the constitution requires. I can live with that.

Your view: It’s more important to protect the rights of terrorists.

I hear Conyers and company are staging tea-parties around the country to promote “Be Kind to Terrorists Week.”

Studies have shown that strong threats provoke immediate compliance, but not long-term commitment; however, we are not seeking to acquire long-term commitment from these terrorists; the goal is to obtain immediate actionable intelligence that will save the lives of innocent people.

This enemy has long-range goals to eliminate democracy (in progress in Europe, and beginning in America with the Obama administration), and to establish a global caliphate. They will do anything, torture and/or kill anyone that stands in their way. This is where education might help, however, these terrorists are educated via a catechism-like process, and changing them is exceptionally difficult.

They will leverage Obama’s weak national security policies and outrageous declassification of our interrogation techniques to conduct more terror attacks against the United States and its allies.

Now, Obama and his constituents are responsible for any deaths that occur—and I hope that when the next terror attack occurs, it affects only those who support these weak and blatantly political meanderings, i.e., political investigations and persecutions, and oppose enhanced interrogation techniques. Then maybe they will understand.