Does Torture Work?

One of the biggest points of contention in the torture debate is this:

Does torture work?

Opponents say it doesn't; proponents insist that it does. The truth probably lies somewhere in between: It would yield key information in a few cases, but would prove ineffective -- and decidedly harmful -- in a vast many others. An informative Slate piece on torture includes this line: "Assuming that harsher interrogations can produce valuable intelligence -- an open question -- Congress and the president must weigh that benefit against the enormous strategic cost of operating a facility like Guantanamo."

So let's stipulate for the purposes of this post that the reliability argument is a wash -- that is, neither side is going to win it. Torture might or might not work as intended. Working under that assumption, the most logical question to ask is, what is the best method to extract key information from terrorism suspects? And do Americans -- should Americans -- consider that method morally acceptable?

Building trust is the best method, says Anthony Christino III in the book Guantanamo, as related in the Slate piece. But what if there isn't enough time to build trust? What, for example, do the Israelis do when faced with the so-called "ticking-bomb" scenario?

In the comments, Steve notes that Israel's High Court of Justice has ruled that torture is illegal in all circumstances, in spite of being under the constant, immediate threat of terrorist attacks. It speaks well of the Israeli supreme court that the justices were willing to take that stand (though they did leave some loopholes.) So how do the Israelis extract information from terrorism suspects?

Post reporter Glenn Frankel wrote this excellent piece last year on Israeli interrogation techniques, and it doesn't exactly suggest Israeli treatment of prisoners is torture-free. However, it does say that the techniques have moved away from the physical and toward the psychological. Arguably, that's still torture. According to the Convention Against Torture (1984):

For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

In the Dean's World blog a couple years ago, Dean wrote about his qualms with physical torture, then added, "On the other hand, who could object to the use of, say, sleep deprivation techniques, annoying music, severe boredom, drugs, or other less-than-inhuman means to break someone's will?"

Along those lines is this fundamental question, raised in Frankel's article: "Where is the line in a democracy between coercion and torture?" Take sleep deprivation, for example. Is it torture? Is it cruel? Inhuman? None of the above? How about shackling? Exposure to extreme temperatures?

Alan Dershowitz is known for arguing in favor of torture. But, he says, "If torture is going to be administered as a last resort ... to save enormous numbers of lives, it ought to be done openly, with accountability, with approval by the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court justice." (Did Dershowitz really mean to say that just one justice's approval should be required?) Once torture has been committed, John Quiggin argued in his blog last year, the person should turn himself in "and plead guilty to the relevant criminal charges. ...If the situation is grave enough to warrant resort[ing] to torture, it's certainly grave enough to justify losing your job and going to jail."

Regarding Abu Ghraib, Frankel reports on one Palestinian detainee's view that there is "a significant difference" between the abuse there and the methods used by Israeli interrogators. "The Israelis have rules, he said, and their techniques for breaking down prisoners are far more sophisticated. 'What the Israelis do is much more effective than beatings,' he said. 'Three days without food and without sleep and you're eager to tell them anything. It just shows us the Americans are amateurs. They should have taken lessons from the Israelis'."

Some human rights groups, however, have said that torture is being used in Israel. Frankel writes of one report from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel that determined based on 80 affadavits and court cases that "torture in Israel has once more become routine, carried out in an orderly and institutional fashion."

What's the Israeli side of the story? Frankel writes:

A government lawyer designated to discuss the questions raised by this article insisted that internal safeguards protect Palestinian detainees from random abuse, and he characterized Israel's treatment of suspected terrorists as a matter of self-defense. "The first priority of the government is keeping people safe," said the lawyer, who insisted on anonymity. "That's the basic social contract between a government and its people."

That would fit one definition of the social contract: that the individual surrenders liberty in exchange for protection. But here in the United States, we don't believe in surrendering our liberty to the government. Therefore, the more common -- and more apt -- definition of the social contract applies: an agreement between the people and the government that defines the rights and responsibilities of each. Have the American people given their government the right to torture? Is there a better way?

By Emily Messner |  November 15, 2005; 4:29 PM ET  | Category:  Misc.
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The 'ticking time bomb' scenario of torture gets mentioned a lot. Does anybody out there know an actual, real life occurence where there was a ticking time bomb (or similar situation) AND somebody was tortured AND that torture lead to an avoidance of the time bomb going off? Otherwise, it seems that such a scenario is mainly a hypothetical one, and it should not be so prominent and common within the torture debate.
As for Emily's question whether the American people have given the government the right to torture, I would have to say no. For the answer to be 'yes', I feel that there would have to have been some sort of election or campaign wherein the candidates discussed torture, and then the pro-torture candidate won. I don't recall torture being much of an issue in the 2004 election.
On a side note, I commend President Bush for emphatically stating 'we do not torture'. I think that statement is also an acknowledgement by him that torture is not on his agenda and not something mandated to him by the American people. Quite the opposite. I just hope Bush is being honest with us.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 15, 2005 06:20 PM

Emily and all,

I received my latest issue of The New Yorker today and like most issues, this one is a very interesting read. It is disturbing, too. In the Reporter at Large feature, writer Jane Mayer details the evidence of an Iraqi man, Manadel al-Jamadi, who died suddenly in custody and who was wrapped in ice to hide the time of death.

If we Americans allow our government to torture people in the name of 'national security' or 'protecting the homeland,' it shreds our national soul. America used to be the light of the world. Not any more. Are we going to allow George W. Bush and his ghoul Vice President Dick Cheney to drag our country into the mud of historical barbarism?

They're doing it right now all over the globe, and they're doing it in your name.

Here's the link to Ms. Mayer's story:

Posted by: Roger Dier | November 15, 2005 07:44 PM

Errin - Does anybody out there know an actual, real life occurence where there was a ticking time bomb (or similar situation) AND somebody was tortured AND that torture lead to an avoidance of the time bomb going off?

In the fall of 1994, the Filipino authorities arrested an Ara in Manila after a fire started in his bomb factory. His boss, a man named Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, barely got away. Police found enough chemicals to construct 25-30 powerful bombs and maps of Pope John PaulII's motorocade route for his Jan 15th visit.

Over the next 2 months, Abdul Hakim Murad stayed true to Allah and mostly resisted - taunting the infidels he would kill thousands of them or his brothers would. He went through beatings that broke all his ribs, rubber hoses, cigarettes stubbed out in his ears. He finally broke when he was kept up for several days and continually slapped to keep him awake. He was also threatened to be given to the Jews. It was Jan 6th, 1995. Murad then freely talked over a day or so -and revealed his boss, KSM, his computer diskettes on bombmaking and airline security weak points still hidden in another safehouse, his Muslim confederates in Manila and in 3 other airports - and revealed links to the 1993 WTC bombers and the assassins of Meir Kahane in NYC. Until that point, NYC thought the WTC bombing was home-grown, but Ramzi Yousef was also involved in the Manila activities.

The main goal of the Bojinka Project was the mid-air bombing and destruction of 11 large body airliners over the mid-Pacific, hopefully killing 4,200-5,000 infidels, using bombs Murad was supposed to make and timers KSM would procure. That was supposed to happen on Jan 11, 12th 1995. The Pope was supposed to be killed on Jan 15th by one of three massive car bombs laid on his route.

When Khalid Sheik Mohammed was caught, we got the man responsible for thinking up and implementing the Bojinka Project, the embassy bombings, Jew bombings in Tunisia, the assassination of US diplomats in Jordan and Pakistan, the beheading of the Jew, Daniel Pearle....and his "Masterpiece" achievement, the concept, planning, and operational control of the 9/11 Project. We also tried the carrot approach with KSM for months and got nowhere until the CIA was authorized to go hardass - thus we stopped his Singapore Project (simultaneous bombings of US naval vessels, Singaporean port facilities, and 3 crowded Singapore shopping malls), a plot involving 6 airline planes crashing on the US West Coast, and his Heathrow airport plan that involved both native Pakis and Brit-born ones. The Singapore Project was about a month away from implementation when the CIA's techniques finally got KSM singing, according to the Singapore state security ministry, which arrested 21 and beat their roles and assignments out of them, and got them to finger their financiers in the UAE.

KSM and Binalshibh, Atta's roommate, have been induced to sing well, and we know their coerced info in truthful and not lies because it cross-checks with what each other said and with the people they snitched out, helping roll up almost 100 additional Al Qaeda, who are also being "convinced" to ID more in the network.

BTW, the intel provided by the duressed, poor KSM and Binalshibh has been credible enough to Senate Intelligence Committee 9/11 investigators and the 9/11 Commission in establishing what happened and how the plot progressed to success, and who did what on the Jihadi side that what the two said runs through both reports.

What I would really like to see is the Vietnamese Gov't authorize publication on how effective their torture of POWs was. And the US to say how well they did in getting NVA and VC to squeal. Vietnam was the last war in which both sides did a lot of dark stuff.

Going forward, I hope DARPA and DOD contracts are going out to projects to improve on the 50 year old lie detection technology. We are learning that lying causes involuntary minor eye movements all or part of the time. That the brain uses more energy to tell a lie than to tell the truth, and this shows up on prototype scanners. But I suspect that anything past the 5th will cause "toooooortuuuure!!!' claims regardless of what we do, because the Left wants Bush to go down more than they want the radical Islamists to fall.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 15, 2005 10:21 PM

Thanks for posing the interesting question, Ms. Messner.

I have to say, I think Dershowitz's position is seriously flawed.

First, although perhaps, as you say, we don't know how effective torture might be in extracting information, we _do_ know pretty well how destructive it is to our national moral standing in the world. And the thing is, no matter how limited it was, legalized torture would still be 'US Legalizes Torture' on the front page of newspapers around the globe. It wouldn't matter, as far as our national image was concerned, how much approval was required in order to engage in torture, or how urgent the case had to be. If we had a law on the books explicitly authorizing torture by our government, the damage, from a public diplomacy point of view, would be incalculable.

By 'damage', I don't just mean US tourists pretending to be Canadian in order not to get yelled at or something. What I mean is that on several levels, economic, military, security, intelligence, cultural, etc. we would receive less cooperation from other countries. Since we count on such cooperation to detect and preempt terrorist plots in the first place, we would be shooting ourselves in the foot.

Second, just as law reflects society's principles, so it also in turn has an effect on them. When something has been made legal (in any circumstances) it has the effect of making people think that it is acceptable. And that, in turn, would lead, over the years, to a widening of the originally narrow scope of 'legal torture' (may the quotes always remain on that phrase!).

I know this is a slippery slope argument, and I don't always think such are justified. Here, though, I do. That is because the urgency of an emergency, the fact that officials don't have all the information in front of them, and the fact that they know they will face recriminations if they make a mistake, all often lead to irrational decisions. If torture were legal for, say, a terrorist who knew where a bomb was hidden, how big would the bomb have to be, before it would be legal to torture him? Would it have to be likely to kill thousands? Hundreds? (And how could such an assessment even be made in advance? Perhaps only the terrorist would even know the scope of the plot? But could you torture him first, to find out whether it was a plot that you could torture him to find out about??) But the thing is, if you have a law that says, say, that you can torture a terrorist whose plot might kill hundreds, and you think his plot is smaller, so it only kills forty, still: how do you tell the relatives of those forty people that they weren't important enough to stop a plot that could have been prevented, if only more people had been in danger (_assuming_, for argument's sake, that torture might work)? When we saw the grieving relatives on TV, I'm sure there would be calls for an inquiry, for why officials didn't use "all options available to them". Over time, this would inevitably lead to a broadening of the law. Once you make torture acceptable in some situations, everyone who is afraid of someone like, say, the Washington sniper, will want to know why you won't use torture to protect them in that situation, since you will use it in other situations. What if some people thought that torture could help us to find a kidnapped child? If it's an acceptable technique at all, why isn't that child's life worth its use? Once you make it legal, there is no realistic way of limiting its use over the longterm, as Dershowitz thinks we could.

Third, a related point, not specifically in reference to Dershowitz, but in reference to the general idea of making torture of detainees legal. Torture needs to be illegal because once it becomes legal, it becomes, for many people, mandatory. If a captain in Iraq thinks he is allowed to use torture, and he doesn't use it, and his soldiers are attacked and some are killed, he may always wonder whether he could have prevented it by torturing a captive. And his soldiers may well think he could have. Then there will be pressure on the captain (at least internally, if not externally) to torture next time, whenever it might make a difference. In a difficult, gruelling conflict like the one in Iraq, I'm sure that officers feel that they have a duty to do everything legally permissible to protect those serving under them. If torture of detainees is legal, they will feel obligated to use it.

This is one of the reasons for the rules of combat under which the military operates. They take certain, difficult, morally wrenching choices, choices that may torment a soldier for a lifetime, out of the soldier's hands. Capt. Fishback's comments, and those of others, make clear that in Iraq, when soldiers believed that torture was permitted by the military hierarchy, they then had to make the choice of whether to apply it. Many of those people will have to live with the memories of what they did for the rest of their lives. War already takes a terrible toll on soldiers; this is one burden that we shouldn't place on their shoulders. (A similar principle applies for law enforcement personnel.)

_Assuming_ for the sake of argument, that there might actually be situations so disastrous, so catastrophic, that torture was the right thing to do, it should still remain illegal. I cannot imagine a jury convicting (or if so, a judge sentencing, or, if so, a president not pardoning) the person who just prevented a nuclear device from destroying all of Atlanta.

We try hard to frame our laws well and we do a pretty good job, but laws still can't be a perfect fit for every situation. That means that sometimes it is right to break the law. It is right to run a stoplight to get a badly wounded person to the hospital. But if we made a law that said so, soon there would be other exceptions added, legislatures being what they are, and eventually our traffic system would be an utter mess. So we leave it illegal to run stoplights for any reason whatsoever. But if you have a good enough reason, a) you should be willing to take the mandated punishment anyway, in order to do the right thing, and b) you can always explain to the judge why you did what you did.


Posted by: Beren | November 15, 2005 10:37 PM

Beren - You seem to be saying that you can have an absolute prohibition against excessive coerced interrogations as determined by lawyers reading tea leaves on the hasty and nebulously defined UN Convention Against Torture, to salve liberal consciences - but in extremis you can always count on a patriotic American willing to destroy his life in doing what it takes to save others. That is your hope. That we make laws to make us look good against a foe that obeys no laws, but when it comes down to an actual ticking bomb, some self-sacrificing FBI agent will step forward, destroy his career, lose his pension, serve jail time, and have his home and life savings taken by ACLU lawyers representing the aggrieved terrorist against the rogue agent. But the agent will have the satisfaction of helping strangers, get attaboy letters, and maybe will get a pardon years down the road.

Sorry, that doesn't sound like a risk many would take.

I remember a few days after 9/11, Congressional testimony revealed that the supervisor of the counter-terrorism task force called all his employees into an emergency meeting. He did not focus on failure to stop the radical Muslims. Instead the meeting was called due to inquiries of highly concerned employees thinking they might be fired or might be getting personal lawsuits filed on them by NYC's famous dollar-chasing lawyers. The supervisor said his review showed everybody did it exactly by the book. And he noted that to the assemblage, saying the FBI would not suffer a single firing or discipline or lawsuit, though some Bush political employees might go, because "the book was followed to the letter, so we are all safe".

Later, I asked someone I knew who was in a civilian agency that would have the lead in certain types of chemical weapon and incendiary terrorist attacks, but he came from the DIA before that. What would he do? His answer I should have guessed. If there is a bad law, he would still follow the law, even if many people died. He mentioned things besides ticking bombs in cities, like a radical Islamist driving a gasoline truck into an elementary school or sports event, or having a job in food prep where he could introduce ricin into the meals of thousands. He said if he was dead certain that the Muslim knew, he might do an illegal 5th degree...but likely not! Because if he was wrong his life would be destroyed. And said that such an attack would be hugely regrettable for the lives that could likely have been saved by people like him, but they would not expose themselves. And said the three exceptions he could think of that would not be his call...but he would do what it took with the Muslim...would be if he knew a personal family member was endangered, a nuclear bomb might be involved, or the President was targeted.

Otherwise, he said the blame for thousands of dead would not be on him for doing his job, but the people that made the laws, and his conscience would be clear, and that course of action would be the best in ensuring he wasn't fired, imprisoned, or sued.

Perhaps you know of Colonel West, who pulled a gun on a radical Muslim and threatened his life to learn where an ambush was waiting for his men, and who lost his career for doing so. When that was discussed on a few military blogs, some very cynical NCOs and officers opined. One opinion is that nothing was worse and more stressful than communicating to the troops that the "rights of the enemy terrorist" mattered more than the lives of the men. Another said his CO would follow the book regardless and not care too much. Another said he would counsel against anyone getting in the trouble West got in, but would try to ensure that if anyone was in the ambush that it would be the least popular people in the unit assigned and that the Iraqi would accompany them so as to share in the risk. Another NCO said assigning the least popular to possibly die so careers were saved was sick as hell and totally unacceptable, and that he would lead the convoy himself and personally take the risk with the non-interrogated Iraqi terorist by his side. But a junior officer pointed out that bringing the terorist along was a violation of law because he would be used as a human shield, something the Lefties push as a "war crime". The NCO said he'd bring him along only to execute the terrorist if an ambush started so he'd have at least that satisfaction, he wouldn't care..

Ban all coercive interrogation and threaten any American with the severest legal consequences if they do - don't be surprised if they say OK, step aside, and let citizens die to prove their point that the law protects the unlawful enemy combatant over the citizen.

One such group of contented agents telling the TV audience how they were forced to let hundreds or thousands Americans die rather than risk their careers getting the truth out of a Muslim terrorist would probably take care of the "No Torture, Ever!" laws quite readily.

America has a tendency to have to learn their lessons in blood, and spilled blood drives political and cultural change.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 16, 2005 12:52 AM

Chris Ford,

Thanks for your post. You slightly misunderstood my position, but for the most part you got it right. It's a misunderstanding where you say, "but in extremis you can always count on a patriotic American willing to destroy his life in doing what it takes to save others. That is your hope."

No, I didn't say that we could count on it. I said that if a person did that, there's no way that person wouldn't get a presidential pardon. Probably a medal too, for that matter. I said that to address the fear that even if we knew for sure that a given terrorist knew exactly where a bomb that would kill millions was hidden, and we knew that only torture would get it out of him, the person who decided to engage in torture to save millions would be severely punished (as you also claim, without addressing my point). This is in reference to Dershowitz's argument specifically. He thinks that in such situations there should be a legal procedure we can go through as a standard part of our system. I'm arguing that we still shouldn't have one. His argument is about very extreme cases - not about _all_ cases. Both Dershowitz and I (and maybe even you if you think about US criminal law) agree that there exist situations in which, even if torture would provide useful information, it still shouldn't be used. (Gosh, I mean it could provide useful information on tax evasion by US citizens or something, if it's actually an effective tactic. But probably you also agree it shouldn't be used in such an insignificant case.)

You quote people you know who have said they would always play by the book, and wouldn't risk their careers, even to save many lives. Were you asking them about Dershowitz's catastrophic sort of situation when they said that? I don't know of course. And I don't know these people and won't judge your friends. But if you were asking them about such a situation, then I am very surprised by their answer. I don't think torture is an effective technique, or worthy of our country, so it doesn't really work for me to use myself in this hypothetical situation. But certainly, if the issue involved doing something else that I'd be fired and severely punished for, I'd do it in a heartbeat to protect millions of people from being murdered. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't any decent human being risk his job to save that many lives?

But you misrepresent my position, if you claim that I think we can _count_ on a person taking such a risk. Perhaps the person in that position wouldn't do it. I acknowledge the possibility.

It's just that I think we should be willing to take that extremely, extremely small risk. (Think how many 'if's it involves. _If_ there is a terrorist plot to kill millions, and _if_ they actually manage to obtain the means with which to execute it, and _if_ we manage to capture someone who knows enough about it to have information that we could use, and _if_ we can't get the information out of him using legal techniques, and _if_ torture, on the other hand, actually would get it out of him, and _if_ the people who could decide to break the law for the sake of the millions of people whose lives were at risk decided instead to put their careers first, then, and _only_ then, would a refusal to adopt Dershowitz's suggestion of a legal option for torture in catastrophic cases actually cost us anything.)

Look, let's be reasonable here and admit what we know: there aren't any great options in front of us. This is going to require a balancing act (as Emily rightly asked us to consider). All threats do, from mugging to skin cancer, if we don't want to react with complete and utter paranoia. On the one hand, there is the risk of terrorism; on the other the certainty of damage to our national identity and international moral standing, a likely corresponding rise in terrorism against us, and a drop in cooperation from other countries in fighting against terrorism, and damage to our soldiers and the professionalism and morale of our army. What I'm saying is: take that very small risk (the one that involves so many 'if's) and then weigh it against all the negatives that I described in my earlier posting (to which you haven't yet had time to reply). If you still think that the benefits of torturing outweigh the costs, explain how you reach that conclusion.

Thanks for posting.

Posted by: Beren | November 16, 2005 02:50 AM

Arguments that defend American barbarism as a mean to justify an end, promulgated by leaders who have led us into a ground war in the Middle East until false pretenses, and who know say they need torture in the name of "National Security" should not be trusted by the people they say they are "protecting."

Such arguments are right out of Nazi Germany.

Bush, Cheney, et al, have removed the soul of human decency from this country. That anyone could site a television show, of all things unreal, as evidence that torture needs legitimizing is adolescent in his thinking.

When the history of the G.W. Bush Administration is written and all the American torture camps and that are hidden around the world are exposed, George W. Bush will be remembered as a man who disgraced both his country and the memory of Jesus Christ, whom he claims to love. Hitler, too, believed that Providence was on his side.

Posted by: Roger Dier | November 16, 2005 05:18 AM

Does torture work? Of course it does, because otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion. Torture also causes collateral damage. For every person tortured there are 10 in the populace that are cowed because they don't want to be tortured. They also hate your guts.

The "ticking bomb" scenario could be used to justify torture under the Golden Rule. If I had planted a bomb, and was caught, it wouldn't be unreasonable for someone to torture me to save other lives. If they had just assumed I had planted a bomb, then no.

Posted by: Turnabout | November 16, 2005 10:42 AM

Allow me to cite Godwins Law :

Godwin's law (also Godwin's rule of Nazi analogies) is an adage in Internet culture that was originated by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states that:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.
Although the law does not specifically mention it, there is a tradition in many Usenet newsgroups that once such a comparison is made, the thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress.

It is considered poor form to arbitrarily raise such a comparison with the motive of ending the thread. There is a widely-recognized codicil that any such deliberate invocation of Godwin's law will be unsuccessful.

Posted by: Deus Vult | November 16, 2005 10:45 AM

Where is the line in a democracy between coercion and torture? One line is the battlefield. If your prisoner is an enemy combatant, then you can expose him to what he'd see on an average battlefield. So noise and sleep deprivation, up to a point, waterboarding and shackeling, no.

Posted by: Turnabout | November 16, 2005 10:49 AM

My opinion, for what it's worth, is that torture does little to yield any useful information, especially from a combatant that (in the case of our current enemy) is ready to accept death. Instead, torture should be viewed for what it trully is, a means of intimidation, both of the person in captivity and to his/her fellow combatants still on the field.

Posted by: D. | November 16, 2005 11:00 AM

Oh Roger Dier, thank you.

In 1996 I tutored a family member on her Social Studies homework "WWII and Fascism". When I asked her why all those people "heiled" Hitler if he was so evil, it really got interesting, and the teacher learned as much as the student. (It was, by the way, much farther than her textbook went, which was basically tying fascism only to the Nazi regime and not even addressing how people get sucked in by it). Then I watched in horror over the next 8 years as the "fringe" far right fascists took over the mainstream Republican party and our government.

Fascist regimes are quite diabolical in the way they create their support - and while they are getting established they do have lots of support. They paint themselves as the true patriots and the true defenders of the faith - God is on their side and only they can protect us. They cultivate disdain for the "elite" intellectuals - discrediting the people who can see through them and could "out" them. They gain control of the media and the message first by covert intimidation then by overt propaganda. They encourage a xenophobic nationalism and cultivate scapegoating of our problems. They are obsessed with national security and fearmongering threats against it. They have disdain for human rights. Cronyism and corruption are the coin of the realm.

This adminstration has fed Americans a steady diet of fearmongering and xenophobia until otherwise good and decent churchgoing Americans have responded to Abu Ghraib or Dick Cheney's torturemania with "good, they're terrorists and they're trying to kill me, there are no bounds of decency for them". Except that, well, the Red Cross said 70-90% of the inmates at Abu Ghraib were innocent, and indeed we let at least 2/3 of them go after the scandal broke. We let a large proportion of prisoners at Gitmo loose after we abused them. Turns out, they not "all" terrorists. Some of them were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of them were doing what we would do if Canada or Mexico invaded us to free us from the fascist Bush regime, and then hung around and raped our natural resources.

The cultivation of this fascist "righteousness" and fearmongering deliberately encourages a xenophobic failure to see life from an outsider's perspective. Americans are shocked when (if) they finally get it that the way we felt when we watched 3000 innocents die on 9-11 is exactly how Muslims felt watching almost 6,000 innocents die in the rain of American bombs in the initial invasion of Baghdad.

George Bush and Dick Cheney do not speak for me. The followers still "heiling" them onto a path of xenophobia and cultivation of disdain for human rights of "foreigners" do not speak for me. Wake up America, this Cheney-esque "ticking time bomb" stuff is smoke and mirrors thought control. You don't accept "but he did it first" from your kids to justify immoral/illegal/wrong behavior, why on earth would you accept it from your government?

We will never get through to the Cheneys in our government. What we need to do is to get the good and decent people of the country to grasp how they've been duped and used so they can throw the bum out and re-dedicate us to being the nation that does it right.

Posted by: patriot 1957 | November 16, 2005 11:11 AM

Look. Torture does not work. Here's why:

The terrorists are not stupid. They--like us--take great pains to keep their own secrets. Does anyone really believe that any one terrorist has anything other than what he precisely needs to carry out his own little piece of the plan?

In the final analysis, they are no different than we are. They have very limited information even at the highest levels. Information is diffuse, just as it is with our own combatants.

The interrogators are the same as well. Each interrogator goes about his task looking for that one silver bullet of information that puts it all together and believes that if he just gets the prisoner to that point where he can't take anymore, he will give up that silver bullet.

The truth is that in almost every case, the prisoner, the detainee, the enemy combatant, the pow or whatever you want to call him, does not have that silver bullet but will convince you that he does have as leverage to stop whatever you are doing to him.

Torture does not work. Al it gets you is more hate. More anger. More thirst for vengeance. More terror.

Of more importance is what it does to us as a nationa and as a people. It diminishes us. It sullies us and marks us forever as a people devoid of human values.

Posted by: Jaxas | November 16, 2005 11:22 AM

They had online discussions in 1990? I don't think I even had a computer yet. Had Al Gore invented the internet yet?

A student of American history ought to be able to write a convincing essay that Roosevelt's government had some concerning elements of fascism alive in it. The discussion of fascism always seems to end at Hitler because he was so successful at using fascism, but he is just one example.

Understanding the tenets of fascism and, in the case of this thread how it affects our national beliefs about human rights and torture is key to understanding where we are and where we want to go as a nation.

The media control in this country has prevented an honest and thoughtful discussion of fascism. Just scorn me for comparing Bush to Hitler and shut down the discussion before people get wise.

The people are getting wise to Goodwin's law and the media control that has prevented us from grasping the extent to which a growing fascist American movement has prevented us from really examining them.

Posted by: patriot 1957 | November 16, 2005 11:27 AM

The left will always compare Bush to Hitler even if the only issue open to debate was drilling in ANWR.

Posted by: | November 16, 2005 11:39 AM

Jaxas -

Evidently you didn't read the 3rd posting, in which I gave Errin her examples of two major examples of where harsh questioning, definitely torture in Abdul Murad's case - works.

In both cases, Murad and KSM, the man who devised and implemented 9/11, copious information and names and future infidel-killing plots were divulged, and info was cross-checked with other unlawful combatants captured and used extensively by the House, Senate Intelligence Committees and the 9/11 Commission as a basis for their findings and recommendations.

Just saying "Torture never works!" as a brainless Lefty slogan like "War is never the answer" "America is evil" "It's All About the Oil" - doesn't make it so. Keep your comforting mantras - but don't expect an American of normal savvy to buy them anymore than the old Lefty Peace slogans from the Vietnam era generations ago.

"Torture does not work. Al it gets you is more hate. More anger. More thirst for vengeance. More terror. Of more importance is what it does to us as a nationa and as a people. It diminishes us. It sullies us and marks us forever as a people devoid of human values."

Yeah, sure. Abraham Lincoln is forever dishonored, the Brits are monsters, the Israelis are diminished, and the Russians & Japanese are forever marked as a people devoid of human values. And cops and prisoners who put fear into kiddie sex killers only generate more hate, more anger, more thirst for vengence in kiddie killers...Oh, boo hoo! What about a little more respect for the human dignity of terrorists or kiddie sex killers!!

You miss the whole reason why groups of spies, saboteurs, and terror implementation squads and Islamic support networks are arranged in cells, with a contact time and a cutout man. The assumption is that people end up squealing under duress in under 3 days. Many are trained that they simply must hold for two days so interrogation allows the cell members they eventually end up naming, a shot at escape and to allow the cell's monitor time to ensure only cell members are rolled up, and the larger organization is not entirely compromised. But the capture of more than one or two allows their stories to be cross-checked, and this allows interrogators a reliable tool for checking what is truthful or not.

When you get a premium one like the man who did 9/11, KSM and who knew all names and operational details, the information flow goes well past one cell to really damage the whole organization. And, to KSM's credit and religious fanaticism, he held out through all the standard interrogation techniques without breaking and went weeks, some say months fighting the CIA's authorized escalated interrogation methods before he broke and began squealing like a pig (our spooks prefer using the word "cooperative"). Getting all the details of 9/11 and future plots underway like Singapore from KSM was helped by also nailing Ramsi Binalshibh, another in the key 9/11 leadership, and cross-checking the two men's cover stories then ripping the truth from them.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 16, 2005 05:57 PM

The premise of this debate seems flawed in that torture can work, but doesn't work all the time. To emphatically say torture never works or torture always works does not seem realistic.
Another question should be asked: Do alternatives to torture work? I feel the answer to that is exactly the same as the torture question. Both torture and techniques that do not include torture have the possibility of succeeding in extracting necessary information in a given situation, information that can save lives and bring terrorists to justice.
So to me, it continues to come down to how our choices define us as Americans. I personally believe that interrogation techniques today are advanced enough to succeed without having to include torture. I think many might agree with this but still not want torture taken off the list of options in the war on terror because they feel it can work.
Whether or not torture works, our Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Although our opponents are not American citizens, we as Americans should still want our values to apply to other people not of this country, especially when it comes to rights we consider inalienable. So, cruel and unusual treatment should not be part of interrogation. Torture, in that it inflicts pain, is cruel, and should therefore not be included in the interrogation of our enemies.
We should also keep in mind the importance of us staying the good guys in this battle against terrorism, both for our own national wellbeing and to actually win the war. If being pro- torture comes with the price of losing the higher moral ground which puts us on the side of what is good, then we should not be for torture. In fact, we should be against torture. Good people don't torture their fellow human beings.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 16, 2005 07:53 PM

You amuse me Chris Ford. Whenever someone disagrees with some proposition that you support, they automatically become "lefties".

Hurling out meaningless labels gets us nowhere. Look. If all of these revelations you claim as a result of using such harsh treatment of prisoners has really had such a positive impact in the war on terror, why is it that the level of terrorist activity has increased since 9-11, not decreased? We all remember the study released last year that reflected that unwelcome reality.

Which begs the question: What are the costs of using such loathesome tactics when weighed against any incidental successes? How do you measure that cost? If you save 20 lives as a consequence of stopping one terrorist act because of information retrieved by means of torturing an individual, but increased the level of terrorist acts perpetrated in revenge for such acts that result in the deaths of thousands, what then have we gained?

Which is my point. There are other costs as well that are no so easily measured because they diminish our status as rational human beings or as practicing Christians. We lose our right to preach to the world the moral superiority of western values. We lose our very souls. And that is a cost too high to bear.

Posted by: Jaxas | November 17, 2005 11:09 AM

One other thing Chris. It isn't only the left that applies the soothing balm of "comforting mantras". The Bush-Cheney administration flimflammed us with comforting mantras in the runup to the war. Every single one of those mantras has turned ouyt to be false.

And as for absolutist statements, isn't it the cultural right that is forever condemning the moral relativity in the post-modern world? Isn't it the right that is most comforted by blathering incoherently a goblolley of moral absolutes from the making of war to our sexual preferences? Wasn't it George W. Bush who made the patently silly comment: "You're either with us or with the terrorists!"?

Anyway, my point is that there is no shortage of brainless righty slogans to counter the brainless lefty slogans. "We just want to let people keep more of their own money..." to justify tax cuts for the rich; "America--Love it or Leave it!" to rationalize the squelching of dissent; "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns!" to beat down sensible gun control legislation, some of which might actually have an impact on violence in our society.

No Chris, brainless sloganeering isn't a monopoly on the left.

Posted by: Jaxas | November 17, 2005 11:27 AM

Jaxas - The observation the Right has brainless slogans as well does not diminish the insipid nature of your orginal remarks, which all clearly come from the Left. Now, you may want to deny being a Leftist as Errin does with her term she is a "libertarian progressive" just as certain creatures on the Right deny they are Right-wing, merely "supply side free-traders" or similar code - but for the rest of us, Left-Right still works quite well.

And the old axioms still apply. The Left is where the hate-America crowd clusters, along with gun banners, the notion that the rights of the criminal or terrorist is more important and outweighs the rights of the innocent, and the usual knee-jerk quest to find moral equivalence between enemies of a civil society and that society. And the Right still seeks to enrich a few at the expense of the majority, and still sees a military solution for any idea that clashes with our values - such as radical Islam or communism.

So it is unsurprising you return to the old Lefty slogan that the more we defeat an enemy, the madder and stronger we make the foe. And link the slogan to meaningless metrics like "terrorist activity" which does not measure the scale of human destruction and economic harm, nor insurgencies like Iraq or the 2nd Intifada, but bins it all together as "incidents". As if insurgencies and acts of mass terror are the same and the sheer number of incidents is the number we care about.

The fact is that in war, killing and strategically outmanuvering the enemy does make them mad and wish to strike back. Sometimes the enemy prevails after they counter. But the idea that the more you hit the enemy the stronger they get, is pure fatuous Leftism under the "war never solves anything" pacifist mantra. As for people hating us, I have been in Cambodia and Vietnam and found friendly people interested in America and us and doing business while proud they stood up and fought us off. Yet we killed over a million from 1963-1973. We haven't come close with the radical Muslims, and hopefully they won't make us escalate to Vietnam or WWII or worse levels....

And as for your love of "sensible gun control", I see little linkage. The UK now has a higher rate of felony crime than the USA, and only the thugs and the cops have hangun weapons there. Same in Washington, DC; Detroit, and other crime and murder centers. We have plenty of laws that say a violent thug from the underclass is barred from owning a gun, but a gun ban law on top of other laws is meaningless as long as we refuse to enforce the law or bow to "root-cause" Lefty criminal lovers. We reduce crime when we enforce those laws and lock the thugs up.

The fact is even the CDC is backing off the bad science it once embraced that guns are a grave risk from abuse by normal law-abiding Americans. Studies show that firearms are used to prevent between 400,000 and one million crimes against person or property a year as law-abiders meet the underclass thugs in interactions. That firearms ownership only poses a slight risk, similar to risk incurred if someone chooses skiing as a recreational activity. And firearms ownership is a right of the people enumerated in the Constitution and the Lefty version that only government in the form of military, militia under their control, or various uniformed government employees may enjoy the right to have a firearm is as nonsensical as saying only owners of presses and those peacefully gathering to petition government when given the priviledge by apparachnik-issued permit -have free speech rights.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 17, 2005 01:28 PM

Chris Ford writes:

"Beren - You seem to be saying that you can have an absolute prohibition against excessive coerced interrogations as determined by lawyers reading tea leaves on the hasty and nebulously defined UN Convention Against Torture, to salve liberal consciences - but in extremis you can always count on a patriotic American willing to destroy his life in doing what it takes to save others. That is your hope. That we make laws to make us look good against a foe that obeys no laws, but when it comes down to an actual ticking bomb, some self-sacrificing FBI agent will step forward, destroy his career, lose his pension, serve jail time, and have his home and life savings taken by ACLU lawyers representing the aggrieved terrorist against the rogue agent. But the agent will have the satisfaction of helping strangers, get attaboy letters, and maybe will get a pardon years down the road.

Sorry, that doesn't sound like a risk many would take."

If you really think this than you truly are a coward.

We don't have to "count on" or hope that an American servicemen, FBI agent, or CIA agent will do the right thing and sacrifice their career (christ could you just shut up about the ACLU already? We get the point) to save millions of lives... because we DEMAND far more from all members of the military each and every single day. If you are willing to ask a soldier to die to save one of his friends, or to die just trying to cross a road or ensure a checkpoint or any countless non-life saving missions, than you can make damn sure I would expect these people to sacrifice their PROFESSIONAL careers to save Atlanta from nuclear threat.

I am very proud that your voice does not speak for the armed services or for the nation. Over 2000 dead Americans were presented a far less threatening scenario and sacrificed far more than anything you mentioned.

The fact that you assume good, moral Americans aren't willing to sacrifice their careers (they must hate the ACLU as much as you) to save the lives of millions of Americans, but are asked to risk their real lives to save few or none, shows just how morally destitute you really are, and how much of a coward you really are. This might explain your current position on torture.

Posted by: Will | November 17, 2005 01:38 PM

Whoa! Look how Chris obsessively sticks to the Left-Right view of life no matter what. Even if you're somebody like me (a male by the way... I could point out that Chris is an androgynous name too), somebody who thinks the Left/Right thing is outdated and needs to be PROGRESSED past (making me progressive... Chris probably thinks I mean some sort of 1910 supporter of socialism when I say progressive), he will lump you into his limited view of the world, where you're either correct, good, and on the Right, or wrong, evil, and on the Left.
Pathetic. An inadequate debater with a childlike view of politics. A partisan extremist that only wants to hear what he wants to be told, you know, the typical Rush Limbaugh/FOXnews fan. Clowns like him don't even realize how counterproductive they are, which is fine by me, as his viewpoints are way out and wrong anyway.
Keep up the bad debating work, Chris. Implode like the rest of the Right is currently. What good is your conservatism if you are too incompetent to make it succeed? The answer is: It isn't any good. It's a flawed belief system from yesteryear that is too simplistic to be effective in the present, much like it's sister belief system, liberalism.
Try having a free thought for once in your life, Chris, instead of just subscribing to somebody else's dogma. Free thinking might even make you a better American.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 17, 2005 06:38 PM

So let me get this particular red herring correct: the reason gun control doesn't work is because of the left?

Wasn't it some Reagan conservative apartnik (aka Brady) who put forth a gun control ban that included language indicating a seven year period during which assault rifles would continue to circulate thanks to then present supply?

Of course, we shouldn't listen to some conservative wing nut who tells us the reason that guns continue to circulate is partial bans or pre-existent supply. That would be giving in to the luny right, which would be the left according to some. I am so confused.

2. Define stronger. If Chris Ford means they come back with bigger better guns, well then yes. The Hizbollah went from alarm clocks and fertalizer to Semtex, mortars, mines, and missiles in response to Israeli occupation. The Palestinians have managed to build rockets and mortars (and adapted Hizbollah tactics and munitions).

If Ford meant numbers, then the numbers, sadly, are wholly against him. Look to the steadily rising number of terrorist attacks in Palestine and Israel or the steadily increasing number of suicide bombings. In either case, I hardly see a weakening.

Within Iraq, we could also look at the sheer number of people killed (in the ever greater number of attacks). Odd, the numbers of deaths seem to be rising over time! Perhaps it has to do with the increasing sophistication of terrorist and guerilla attacks or the use of armor piercing shaped charges and remote detonators.

Odd, it is almost like they are getting numerically and physically stronger. . .

Posted by: chris | November 17, 2005 10:28 PM


Terrorists don't organize as cells to enable partners to flee. All you need for that is a modicum of loyalty.

No, terrorists organize in cells so that if you catch one individual, they can only implicate members of the same cell. We here in the developed world originated this tactic, which we now call compartmentalization (though we also use compartmentalization to protect bureaucracies from each other). Cell organization leaves the rest of the terrorist structure in place for future use, as the Spanish cell survived 9/11 to wreak havoc in Spanish subways.

Or the al-Qaida operative caught in Seatle attempting to smuggle in nitro-gel and detonators. His next contact was an unknown operative in LA, presumably the bomb assembler. See, member 1 of cell A has no knowledge to give about a member of cell B. No word that I have heard on whether the gov found the Canadian cell either. With 9/11 only one member of the team, Atta, knew the composition of the cells. Thus if one were compromised or unable to complete the mission (as occurred), three planes would still fly (al Qaida cell structure during the 1990s seems to have broken down at higher levels with managers knowing each other. Jamait al-Islamiyya may have brought cell structres to al-Qaida when these organizations merged in the early 1990s. Cell structures have enabled Jamait al-Islamiyya to survive the brutal tactics of one of the worlds great torturing regimes, Egypt, for decades).

During the 90s, capture of an al-Qaida manager may have allowed implication of a large section of the infrastructure (either with or without torture). Now, however, al-Qaida seems to have learned its lesson and instituted fuller degrees of cell structure. In current and future incarnations neither interrogation nor torture will likely prove successful methods for safeguarding the U.S.

Posted by: Chris | November 17, 2005 11:09 PM

Will, let me get this straight...

1. You support crafting laws that will destroy the career of any intelligence agent, law enforcement professional for doing ANY torture in ANY circumstance - no exceptions. You support laws with hefty jail sentences and opening up the "guilty party" to ACLU lawsuits that will strip away everything the person owns or simply ruin him/her in legal costs while the "aggrieved" terrorist uing in US courts gets free pro bono work from Leftist attorneys.

2. Then you say after you get these zero tolerance laws - "you can make damn sure I would expect these people to sacrifice their PROFESSIONAL careers to save Atlanta from nuclear threat."

Wll, that's special and all, Will, but how stupid is that? Society makes laws to mainly make themselves feel morally clean, aimed at the people they expect will defy the law.

But we know a few things:

A. From the 9/11 aftermath, we saw careerist people at the CIA and FBI mainly worried about whether they had followed the book so they would not be destroyed by the ACLU or the Chuck Schumer-like politicians looking for heads.

B. From experience we know that cops and FBI will not beat the location of a kidnapped little girl out of a suspect. Better the kid dies than they end up in jail and sued as a felon and lose everything. A nuke bomb is the other extreme. Most would consider at least doing anything to get knowledge of a nuke bomb danger out of a radical Muslim - but the inbetween stuff also involves CYA. No soldier is prepared now to torture names and locations out of some Sunnis or foreign fighters they find running an IED factory. Soldiers grudgingly will let other soldier's lives be sacrificed because torturing a terrorist and being caught doing it currently gets you 10 years and a dishonorable discharge. I don't think any civilian officer would risk destroying himself over getting info from a radical Muslim for any attack that only kills a few hundred or a few thousand people. They, like the soldiers letting other Americans die, will properly say it is the lawmakers fault if people die, not theirs.

C. And the professionals know the risks more than we do of starting on torture and being unsucessful.
1. The radical Muslim could resist. They are deeply fanatic and motivated. It took months to crack a few of the Big Boys. If the ticking bomb goes off before the Muslim breaks, you can be sure Lefty lawyers will be writing up the civil damages torts that you "needlessly tortured" the Jihadi, given the bomb went off despite your efforts.
2. You could start torture, but given others know about the Muslim, one could snitch and then you risk being rushed by a pack of ACLU lawyers with a court "cease and desist" order before you crack the terrorist and find, say, where the rest of the Anthrax is and who else is involved.
3. The Muslim could outwit you and give bogus information and stall until the elementary school being massacred by radical Muslims is a fait accompli, then burn you for "violating his human rights".
4. The intel could be wrong. What if the Jihadi is on a mission but not a nuclear bomb that the port rad sensors and Lebanese intel indicated that could kill millions but just blowing up a small radioactive source that kills no one? Then you get screwed by 20-20 hindsight for beating the fact he only had 60 millicuries of Polonium-120, and the ACLU sues you and seeks your 20 year prison sentence for "torturing a member of the Religion of Peace" for a "trivial danger to America".
5. And even 9/11 shows a risk of incomplete info in a cell group member. If you picked up any of 15 of the 19 hijackers, we know now those men, the Saudi muscle, were only told they would participate in a mission of holy jihad, possibly a hijacking. KSM ensured that none knew that the pilots were going to crash the planes. Binnie even joked about it, saying the Saudi Muslims had no idea they were to be martyrs. The Saudis were apparantly only told they would kill the pilots on the way to the Flights that they didn't know the numbers of, the airlines of, or the destinations until they were on the way to the airport. If you had found one the Saudis, knew that Al Qaeda was striking America, and knew the saudi was part of it, you just ended your career and years in jail by risking torture because the Saudi would lack the operational knowledge only the pilots had, but you'd only know that from harshly interrogating them. Even if you got lucky and got one of the pilots, you could still have ended up doing jailtime and having the ACLU shysters get your home and give it to say, Mohammed Atta, if 9/11 was stopped and he convinced the court that he was only going to stage a hijacking as a political protest against American imperialism for publicity and not harm anyone. If 9/11 had been stopped, chances are any Muslims involved would be finishing up their jail terms in 2004-2006, and the dumb FBI torturer would still be in jail.

No, Will. If it isn't an actual nuclear bomb, the CYA mentality will most likely ensure that the soldier or civilian agent will let other Americans die - and toss the matter back in the laps of moralizing legislators and the media nannies.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 17, 2005 11:24 PM

I thought we had laws to protect the weak from the predators. All this time, I have been wrong. Really we did it to feel morally clean, which implies that murder is not, in fact, immoral. Bonus. Lets kill Ford! It may not be legal, but it sure is moral.

Ford also seems to think that only professionals in the CIA or FBI can tell what is correct behavior for themselves. Cute, Ford just invalidated his own perspective (unless he is a CIA/FBI interrogator). And what if, Ford, The CIA decided that killing your family was in the interests of national security? No arguing with those professionals, especially since murder is, apparently, moral.

I would argue more of this last post, but it really doesn't make much sense. Mostly it seems Ford has an irrational and overblown fear of the ACLU lawyers. I generally have nightmares about moral murderers hunting me down. Ford, ACLU lawyers. . .

Posted by: Chris | November 17, 2005 11:54 PM

Chris writes - "So let me get this particular red herring correct: the reason gun control doesn't work is because of the left?"

No, its more a function of the "owner groups" not listening to the wisdom of the Left that gun bans will turn DC and such into safe paradises - inner city thugs, gang-bangers, white trash, career criminals. Hey, if only the Left could convince those stakeholder groups they care so much about to obey the law, then gun control would work.

Alas, they don't obey the law. That's why the rest of us call them thugs and criminals and use that knowledge as one basis, besides being law-abiding citizens that do not want the Bill of Rights eroded, why we think the freedom to own firearms is worth fighting for. It's the same as other things - don't believe in free speech, abortion, 4th Amendment, smoking, or parental control of minors? Fine, then live your life that way, but don't try to foist your beliefs on others through laws trying to control their behavior.

Because once one Bill of Rights Amendment goes down by actions of one political Party, it is easy seeing others fall.

"Wasn't it some Reagan conservative apartnik (aka Brady) who put forth a gun control ban that included language indicating a seven year period during which assault rifles would continue to circulate thanks to then present supply?"

The Reagan guy was made into sort of a silly boy via a bullet in his frontal lobes. It was his wife that became the useful, Cindy Sheehan sort of tool for the special interest groups already established. Of course the "assault weapon" ban (Lefty for the semi-automatic rifles American consumers have bought since the 1900s) expired in 2004 to the cries of the usual meddling shits like Diane Feinstein, Babs Boxer (the bare winner of "Stupidest Senator" over Mel Martinez)and Chuck Schumer (hands down winner as the smarmiest media whore) that the "pent-up demand" of killers for "assault weapons" would cause waves of gun carnage and violence.

What happened? Law abiding people got the semi-auto they wanted to buy for a while, put in in their rack, and crime and violence continued to drop outside the inner cities.

"Of course, we shouldn't listen to some conservative wing nut who tells us the reason that guns continue to circulate is partial bans or pre-existent supply.."


"The Hizbollah went from alarm clocks and fertalizer to Semtex, mortars, mines, and missiles in response to Israeli occupation. The Palestinians have managed to build rockets and mortars"

So your gun ban would not work here anymore than the Israeli one did if the American people determine they must defend themselves. It is easier to build a HE bomb than a gun, but not much.

"Odd, it is almost like they are getting numerically and physically stronger. . ."

Only due to restraint by the Israelis and Americans for not using quick, efficient, tried and true ways of ending an insurgency. James Pinkerton in the Nov 17th Newsday reminded readers that if the bleeding hearts force the Americans out, the Sunni killer's goose will soon be cooked as Shiite militias and Pesh Merga forces head in to take care of the insurgency in a few months in the traditional Muslim fashion, something they have waited generations for.

Just as Gandhi could only mount a peaceful insurgency under a humane nation like Briton operating under rule of law vs. being shot or dumped into a Gulag death pit after freezing to death with 1,000 of his followers under a Stalin. And, the only reason Hezbollah and the Palestinian terror groups have a chance is Israel operates under constraint of law and also the rest of the world won't let Israel use it's full military might and purge it's territories of hostile civilians.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 18, 2005 12:57 AM

Chris Ford-

I won't speak to A or B because I think this is more in your head than in the real world. On a related note I should hope our law enforcement personel are concerned about NOT BREAKING THE LAW.

1. This is a reason torture is ineffective which, in my mind, is one more reason not to institutionalize it. There is tangible damage we do our country by admitting torture in the form of increasing our enemies and alienating our allies who are fundamental to our pursuit of terrorists. Even if you want to ignore morality here which you seem so willing to do, we have a safety concern in exempting agencies from torture laws.
2. The longer torture takes the more I am opposed to it, and this scenario seems to imply that the torture takes a good amount of time. Furthermore... why would someone "snitch"? Are suggesting that a member of the Central Intelligence Agency might find the behavior of his coworkers immoral/unnecessary? Shouldn't we heed that judgement?
3. Are you arguing for or against torture? If muslims can outwit us when we torture them and give up false information, wouldn't this be an indictment of the intelligence gathering abilities of torture?
4. Yes I think it is wrong to torture someone based off of poor intelligence. Rethink the scenario only instead of him having merely a paltry amount of Polonium-120, he's actually innocent. I absolutely think any and every CIA agent who tortures an innocent person should be brought to justice.
5. Compartmentalization is one more reason why torture is ineffective which is one more reason why we shouldn't torture.

You've spent pages and pages explaining to us why torture is effective and now you've done a complete 180 and spent 4 of 5 points explaining why it is not.

I apologize for calling you a coward. I read your earlier post in the context of the nuclear bomb threat to Atlanta and I took it to mean that you are more interested in avoiding the ACLU than you are in saving the lives of millions of people. Obviously we all have a common ground here we are just disagreeing about the method. No one you are debating with here is anti-American or wants Americans to die. I was out of line calling you a coward and I regretted it after I posted. Cheers.

Posted by: Will | November 18, 2005 10:38 AM


SO you do call the conservative Brady a liberal. Interesting.

As for the Hizbollah, Palestinians, and Iraq, you once again appear confused. Those paragraphs were in response to your critique that these groups did not get stronger in response to aggression. Gun control has nothing to do with those sections.

And your new critque offers little. You should read up on the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon. I can assure you, the IDF followed VERY aggressive tactics and displayed very little care for international outcry. And yet the indigenous resistence strengthened numerically and strategically until the Hizbollah managed victory.

No amount of torture (of which there was plenty on both sides) or bombing was able to turn pull in a victory for the IDF. They lost Lebanon.

Posted by: Chris | November 18, 2005 11:19 AM


Ok, here's the lowdown... Why are we using bronze age tools, perhaps slightly dapted to modern days but still the same, to gather information from people?

Have we learned nothing recently about the brain that could be used to avoid physical punishment?

It's amazing, that people have died while US authorities were getting information from them. I think these people are incompetent and probably sadistic at heart for haveing to resort to such methods.

Again, have we learned nothing? Or is th human just too complex that simple brute force will make him talk? Of course as has been said, they will tell you anything even lies to stop the pain...

So why do it?

Posted by: Kurt | November 18, 2005 01:52 PM

Will -

I stand by my statement that if you wish to pass laws guaranteeing that any agent involved or knowing of coerced interogation loses all their money, careers, and even freedom for guessing wrong, they will sit back and let Americans die - then talk about how they are as safe as the FBI was post-9/11 from career repercussions, civil damages, and criminal charges because they "went by the book of regulations". Those "by the book" discussions happened after 9/11.

And now you are saying that even if the FBI or others honestly think the radical Muslims have a nuclear bomb and it turns out to be the intercepted intelligence about a "nuclear device" is only a "paltry amount" polonium-120 source --that because the agents were not 100% without a doubt certain a nuke bomb was going to go off that all those agents should be prosecuted for being wrong??? Yeah, a terrorist who only is involved in a combat operation to set off a teeny-tiny dirty bomb is "innocent" - in Will's eyes.

OK, if we set the law the way you want -that would pretty much guarantee that many agents wouldn't risk their fate even for what they honestly thought was stopping the menace of a nuke bomb. It would be a situation to call family, friends, and brown nose a bit by extending the courtesy to high-ranking connected people - to evacuate the city, and save the terrorist captive as well for the Inquiries. A city gets nuked? BFD. Not worth the personal risk if you say the law must burn anyone for any mistake. And the LEOs or intelligence people would justly say that they followed the law protecting terrorists, and if anyone is to blame it is the people that made the law that put the welfare of the enemy above that of the American people. They would be the cowards who took the morally convenient easy way out - not the people tasked with security threatened with unacceptable personal consequences if they flout the "terrorist rights" law.

Even on a smaller level, all the FBI and CIA agents careers and lives were safeguarded after 9/11 by strictly following the law. That they bumbled made no difference. Not a single reprimand, let alone sacking could be done under our law.

Posted by: Chris Ford | November 18, 2005 03:03 PM

Chris Ford writes "Even on a smaller level, all the FBI and CIA agents careers and lives were safeguarded after 9/11 by strictly following the law." Except for Valerie Plame, who's career and life weren't safeguarded thanks to an administration that was not strict in following law. The cowards that leaked the name of a CIA agent to the press are the same type of cowards that promote torture.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 18, 2005 04:38 PM

Chris Ford-

You're going to have to start referencing these "by the book" conversations. I can't possibly gauge their true effects from your posts because you are an advocate. Maybe you know something I do not, but give me that information so I can make an intelligent decision as opposed to just taking your word for it.

"And now you are saying that even if the FBI or others honestly think the radical Muslims have a nuclear bomb and it turns out to be the intercepted intelligence about a "nuclear device" is only a "paltry amount" polonium-120 source --that because the agents were not 100% without a doubt certain a nuke bomb was going to go off that all those agents should be prosecuted for being wrong??? Yeah, a terrorist who only is involved in a combat operation to set off a teeny-tiny dirty bomb is "innocent" - in Will's eyes."

I absolutely never said that. The only two things I said that could have possibly led to your strange diatribe is that I agreed that law enforcement officers should be concerned about BREAKING THE LAW (fairly uncontroversial premise). I never said the FBI should be prosecuted for being wrong, I said we shouldn't torture people based off faulty information. This ties into a more general claim I've made countless times, THAT WE SHOULD NOT TORTURE PEOPLE AT ALL.

I think you've painted my position disingenously as well. Just because I feel like FBI agents and CIA agents can be guilty of crimes against enemy combatants, that doesn't mean I think those enemy combatants are "innocent". Painting me like that smells like a weak attempt at painting me an anti-American. The fact is I don't shed a single tear for DEAD enemy combatants. Kill them all, won't bother me. What worries me is that the United States is going to seriously threaten its own safety and ability to combat the global war on terror by alienating its allies and exponentially increasing the amount of enemy combatants by institutionalizing torture. There's a REASON our President gets on Television everyday and vehemently denies that America tortures; because he knows (even if you do not) what kind of pervasive effect that fact would have on the wellbeing of the United States of America. You can take that issue up with George Bush if you'd like, though best of luck painting him a liberal (he sure spends like one)

"A city gets nuked? BFD. Not worth the personal risk if you say the law must burn anyone for any mistake. And the LEOs or intelligence people would justly say that they followed the law protecting terrorists, and if anyone is to blame it is the people that made the law that put the welfare of the enemy above that of the American people."

To whom exactly is it a BFD? To whom is it not worth the personal risk? Is that your personal position? This is an important question: would you not risk your career, your money, your personal wellbeing to save a city from being nuked? Please answer that.

Personally I'd do virtually anything to save a million people, including die, if that's what it takes. I don't have much of a career to lose but I'd lose it gladly if American lives were on the line.

My point earlier was that we demand that our servicemen and women risk their REAL lives everyday just in the line of duty. So for me to request that they risk their careers to save millions of lives doesn't feel as ridiculous to me as it does to you. Only a coward would fail to do the right thing, and I certainly do not think our armed forces and intelligence branches are cowards.

In your earlier post you inadvertendly explained why torture is not a viable option because you presented 4 (of 5 points you offered) that showed why it is INeffective. This needs to be addressed by you at some point if we are to continue this discussion.

I'm about as much of a liberal as John McCain and plenty of other Republicans/Military personel when it comes to torture so you can save the bit about painting me a scary ACLU supporting liberal. That's just not my gig.

Anytime you want to attribute my position "- in Will's eyes" you better damn well make sure I actually suggested that to be the case. My post is close enough to your response for people to check it themselves for accuracy.

I apologized about calling you a coward, but if you don't check that garbage at the door I won't hesitate to call you a liar and parade out the quotes to prove it. Cheers.

Posted by: Will | November 18, 2005 10:45 PM

Hear, hear, Will. I have no qualms labelling Chris Ford a coward, but it is a credit to you that you took the higher ground. I think you will discover from his response to you (if he responds at all), that he is indeed a coward who lacks the valor and honor to take you and your arguments straight on, and will instead run from any valid point you've made, and then hide behind empty Right wing propoganda, attacking you unfairly the entire time with baseless accusations and labels. That to me is cowardice. Regardless of what that crackpot says, you have made your arguments quite well. I look forward to seeing if the cowardly Chris Ford adequately responds to your challenge.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 19, 2005 02:31 PM

Torture is highly useful and necessary, but only in extremely limited circumstances, e.g., the ticking bomb situation, vitally important and knowledgeable prisoner situation, and etc. We must always be free to practice torture to protect the homeland and its people; but its practice should never be enshrined in law. Torture should remain an ocassional but vitally necessary sub rosa practice.

Posted by: David Brockett | November 22, 2005 08:25 AM

"Torture should remain an ocassional but vitally necessary sub rosa practice"

The difficulty is determining which cases are the ticking bombs and which cases are jay-walkers, neh Brockett?

In your rosy sub rosa world, I would be very careful to always legally cross the street.

Posted by: Chris | November 23, 2005 09:44 PM

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