pageok
pageok
pageok
Dilbert's Doubts on Torture:

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams writes in the Washington Post that he used to believe torture could be an effective interrogation tool, but now he has doubts. If torture is not more effective than available alternatives, he argues, we need not debate whether it can be justified, as the answer would always be no.

The burden is on torture's proponents to produce some evidence that torture makes sense as a policy. I don't rule out the possibility that it can be effective in some cases, but if it's being done in my name, I want some frigging evidence that it works.

Then we can talk about morality.

Mahan Atma (mail):
For most people, whether torture makes sense as a policy depends rather importantly on the specific facts of the situation in which it would be applied.

The usual justification is the "ticking time bomb" scenario in which torture is necessary to save a large number of lives from imminent destruction. Many people would allow it in this situation.

The problem comes in formulating a policy that would afford flexibility when the facts are never as clearcut as they are in the ticking timebomb hypo. The facts are usually much more ambiguous. What if destruction isn't so imminent and clear? Suppose you don't know whether your prisoner has the required info? Suppose you don't even know if he's guilty of being a terrorist at all? There are plenty of people at Gitmo who are completely innocent. Are they simply to be considered "collateral damage", as Yoo would have it?

No broad policy formulation can anticipate all the factual possibilities.

To me, the ideal policy would be to prosecute all persons who engage in torture. Then, if the torturers want to present a defense of justification (e.g. the lesser of two evils, or a necessity defense), they can show evidence to a jury as to why they had a good faith belief that torture was necessary to save a large number of lives.

So let the jury decide on the specific facts of each instance. If there is sufficient evidence that a CIA or military intelligence agent really had an objectively reasonable, good faith belief in the necessity of the act, then the jury can decide so.

But formulating a general policy that sanctions torture in advance practically guarantees that it will get used inappropriately and unnecessarily.
1.7.2007 4:36pm
Mike Buckland (mail):
Anything that has been used for a large number of milennia has some value in certain cases. Every civilization in recorded history has thought it could be used to gain information at one time or another.

Actually I would disagree with Mr. Adams' formulation that anyone should prove that it works. In light of the fact that it has been used throughout history by a wide spectrum of civilizations it should be up to Mr. Adams to show that we have evolved to the point where it's now not useful.

I make no claim that tortue is moral. However Mr. Adams question is around the effectiveness of getting information. Its use during last 50 milennia of human existence should be enough to at least show people tend to use it when necessary.
1.7.2007 5:05pm
Pantapon Rose (mail):
Why doesn't he just study history, and start with the French experience with torture in Algiers?
1.7.2007 5:05pm
Carolina:
Algiers is a good example.

I recall an article from a reputable source (New Yorker, maybe?) somewhat recently that included an interview with a pro-torture interrogator who gave specific examples of when he had used torture successfully.

I will try to find the article.

More importantly though, I have always found it curious that all of the supposed "problems" of torture (e.g., suspects providing incorrect information to get the torture to stop) would apply equally well to non-torture interrogations.
1.7.2007 5:23pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
Anything that has been used for a large number of milennia has some value in certain cases.


I find this premise rather specious. Slavery was around for thousands of years too.
1.7.2007 5:39pm
Carolina:
No luck on finding the article. The article stands out in my mind because the interrogator being interviewed (from Indonesia, if I recall correctly) related an anecdote from his personal experience. He had information a bomb had been planted and had 3 likely suspects in custody. When the suspects refused to divulge the location of the bomb, he picked the one he judged least likely to know and shot him in full view of the other two. The other two were quite cooperative after that demonstration and immediately disclosed the location of the bomb.

Maybe someone else remembers that anecdote and can find the article.
1.7.2007 5:43pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
Mahan Atma,

To play devil's advocate, slavery did have value, to those who did the enslaving. The problem is it was immoral. Which is the premise for my opposition to torture.
1.7.2007 5:47pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Re: Algiers, there's a recent article (perhaps not the one you have in mind) in Salon, by Darius Rejali, a professor who studies torture. (He's against it, but I trust a position on the subject is not a disqualification, to grown-up minds.)

For those impatient of the Salon pass-through ad, I quote a good bit of the article at my blog. Here's the part that Carolina's comment reminded me of:
Actually, there was one case in the Battle of Algiers in which torture did reveal important information.

In September 1957, in the last days of the battle, French soldiers detained a messenger known as "Djamal." Under torture, Djamal revealed where the last FLN leader in Algiers lay hidden. But that wasn't so important; informants had identified this location months before. The important information Djamal revealed was that the French government had misled the military and was quietly negotiating a peace settlement with the FLN. This was shocking news. It deeply poisoned the military's relationship with the civilian government, a legacy that played no small part in the collapse of the Fourth Republic in May 1958 and in the attempted coup by some French military officers against President De Gaulle in April 1961.
As the ultimate result in the Algerian war might suggest, the downsides of torture would appear to outweigh its plusses, if those exist.
1.7.2007 5:47pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Ah, cross-posted with Carolina; evidently not the same article.

Of course, if the interrogator in that anecdote had picked up the wrong 3 guys by mistake, that would be a rather different story.
1.7.2007 5:48pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I have always found it curious that all of the supposed "problems" of torture (e.g., suspects providing incorrect information to get the torture to stop) would apply equally well to non-torture interrogations.

That is (one reason) why non-torture techniques are based on "rapport-building," in which the subject is led to cooperate with the interrogator.
1.7.2007 5:50pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
I say that the penalty for torturing a prisoner should be very high, and that a torturer should suffer the penalty regardless of circumstances. This is really the only way of ensuring that torture is used only in truly desperate circumstances. If you are willing to spend the rest of your life in prison, say, to acquire some information, you really do want it very badly, and even if you turn out to be mistaken about whether the prisoner knows what you're trying to get him to give you, at least there's some assurance that you thought you had no alternative.
1.7.2007 5:52pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
To play devil's advocate, slavery did have value, to those who did the enslaving.


I guess I was thinking overall societal (including the slaves), not just to individuals.

But hey, magic, superstition, astrology, alchemy, etc. etc. have been around for thousands of years too. I suppose you can assert they have some value to someone somehow (psychological comfort?), but that obviously doesn't go to the efficacy of the methods.
1.7.2007 6:08pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Why doesn't he just study history, and start with the French experience with torture in Algiers?

There is no doubt that torture can be used to extract information and some of it will be accurate. But there are also distinct tactical and strategic disadvantages that pro-torture advocates never seem to want to discuss. The use of torture leads to the coarsening of your own personnel and the inevitable atrocities on your own side--e.g. Abu Gharaib--that will result, the loss of status and moral high ground, the creation of martyrs, the hardening of the opposition.

You point at Algiers as a "success" in the use of torture. But three years after the terrorist cells in Algiers were rolled up Algeria won its independence and those tortured terrorists were seen as martyrs and the French as brutal, immoral occupiers. Torture proved to be at best a tactical expediency that led to strategic failure.

In warfare the the strategic failure is perhaps most stark. On the battlefield it is one "ticking timebomb" scenario after another, and sure torturing captured soldiers might achieve short term tactical battlefield gains. But if you get a reputation for torturing and mistreating captives, your enemy will simply refuse to surrender and every battle will become a battle to the death. Suddenly, the tactics designed to save lives cost so many more lives. That is why the military doesn't like to torture. If you want a historical example of this, look no further than World War II and the casualty rates on the western and eastern fronts in Europe.

Finally, as to all this nonsense about torture being used for many millennium, so it must be effective. Torture's purpose is rarely to garner useful intelligence. Torture is mainly used to extract confessions. The truth of those confessions is rarely important to the torturer or the government. Torture is the realm of authoritarian government perpetrating their power. Getting the narrative they want out of the suspect is more important than the truth. I daresay that is the purpose in torturing Al Qaeda suspects.
1.7.2007 6:10pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
Let's assume there are invidual instances where torture resulted in important information saving other peoples' lives.

How does that justify a general policy in favor of it?

Aren't we really talking about whether torture is effective in the aggregate, and as a forward-looking policy, not just in a few examples selected with the benefit of hindsight?

What about all the innocent people who have been tortured for no good result whatsoever -- instances for which evidence is replete?
1.7.2007 6:13pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
he picked the one he judged least likely to know and shot him in full view of the other two

In other words, he picked the one most likely to be innocent, and killed him? And the lesson we are supposed to take from this is what exactly? That the Indonesian police are batshit crazy homicidal maniacs?
1.7.2007 6:15pm
Enoch:
Remind me again why we care what Scott Adams thinks about this?
1.7.2007 6:29pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Carolina-

So you are advocating the execution of suspected terrorists (possibly innocent) without any legal proceeding whatsoever as an intimidation tool? Are family members next? Are you like Mr. Yoo in that you would authorize the damaging of a family member's genitals?

Anderson-

Of course, if the interrogator in that anecdote had picked up the wrong 3 guys by mistake, that would be a rather different story.

No, I for one am pretty confident there would be some "evidence" found of something. Of course that "evidence" would be of dubious authenticity.
1.7.2007 6:38pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Enoch-

Because he's a celebrity.

The Neocons illegally started a hopeless, quagmire of a war with a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. Remind me why anyone listens to them about anything.
1.7.2007 6:44pm
annej (mail) (www):

Anything that has been used for a large number of milennia has some value in certain cases.


For thousands of years people believed that mice, rats and germs came to live sponteneously, so that makes it right? This is about the worst argument on torture I've ever heard, while there is even an explanation why it has been used "thousands of year's: it's tempting. Here you have a guy that might know something but doesn't want to spill the beans. And you think that with a little pressure you can get him to tell you what you want. So the reason why it has been used is because people thought it was useful for all those years.

The problem with arguing about torture is that you always end up arguing about one aspect of it, while it shouldn't be used for a whole set of reasons, which are actually all balancing tests:
- it's effectiveness: I think we all agree that if torture would never be effective, it would be wrong on all levels. If would be effective all the time, the only argument left would be a moral argument. The less effective torture is, the more the practical argument (doens't work) adds force to the moral argument. The mere fact that the protorturers can come up with a case where torture worked is hardly a compelling case for the practicality of torture. If only for the practical part of the equation, the torturer must be able rely on the obtained so much that we can disregard the moral argument. The protorture side will have to show that torture works allmost all the time to tip the particality/morality balance in to there favor. In the absence of a study into this subject I would try common sense: common sense tells you that anyone under duress will tell the torturer something that will stop the torture. He will tell what he thinks the torturer will take for granted, not necessarily the truth. There is a huge possibility for disadvantage. (this balancing test shows why the "disinformation happens in normal interrogation as well" argument fails: the consequenses of disinformation are less dire. You're not torturing the subject).
- innocence: goes to effectiveness as well. The "interrogator" has to be sure the tortured is guilty. Otherwise he is torturing an innocent, which might be even worse than torturing a clear cut terrorist. But if we now a person to be guilty in the first place...
- as explained above: torture is a short term tempation. In the long run in the modern age the torturer's side looses. Right now, the mere suggestion that the US tortures is shaping the US's image in the Arab world and is igniting too the struggle against extremism. By acting more extreme ourselves, we are adding fuel to the flames. Don't forget that, as someone said before, the French lost Algeria and the whole French army was looked down in contempt when it got out they tortured.
- there is no clear cut line between torturing to get information and to get a confession. In the past, torture always ended up being used to get people to confess what they didn't do.
- Don't do it to the torturer. Everyone is always focusing on the pain of the person being tortured, but think about the person that has to inflict the duress on the tortured. They are scarred for live. People who argue that opponents of torture endanger our troups, conveniently forget, that proponents of torture endager our troups by forcing them to torture.
- War is a way of self defense. A soldier is brougt into a situation where is is put into an immediate danger. He has the right to defend him selve and thus to inflict suffering. Once a soldier surrenders, he is no longer putting anyone else in danger and thus the argument of selve defense fails. Of course we can up with scenarios where the torturer is still in danger, but most of the time he wouldn't be.

The list goes on forever and ever. Feel free to add and to argue, but don't try to separate the moral and practical arguments as our Dilbert writer tries to. The moral and the practical side are so intertwined that you cannot see them separately. Torture is a balancing test where moral and practical arguments together weigh against torture. So for people who want to pick my rant apart: go ahead, but address all the arguments as a whole.
1.7.2007 7:02pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
In other words, he picked the one most likely to be innocent, and killed him? And the lesson we are supposed to take from this is what exactly?


Silly commenter! Obviously, the lesson is that it was effective.

You're not playing the game: This thread exists solely to debate the effectiveness of torture, not the morality of it. See what a neat trick that is?
1.7.2007 7:04pm
annej (mail) (www):
@enoch: I agree with you partially. I don't see what the fact that he writes Dilbert adds to anything. It an op-ed by someone who is disturbed about torture, like so many others. I think the WaPo should have left that part about Dilbert out. Like any (legal) argument: it doesn't matter who made the argument, as long as its sound.
1.7.2007 7:05pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Torture's purpose is rarely to garner useful intelligence. Torture is mainly used to extract confessions. The truth of those confessions is rarely important to the torturer or the government. Torture is the realm of authoritarian government perpetrating their power.

Bingo. Matt Yglesias pointed out a while back that this explains the interest of the Cheney club in torture; they already know what they want to do, they're just interested in getting "evidence" to justify it.

See "witch craze." The witchfinders knew just what they wanted to hear, &after sufficient torture, they heard it.
1.7.2007 7:17pm
DK:
We care what Scott Adams thinks because he is a prominent (and quite good) blogger. If you don't accept this criterion, you probably shouldn't waste your time reading the comments on any blog including this one.

IMHO, though, he is wrong to say that you can consider evidence before morality, since the collection of good evidence may require taking morally debatable steps. The anecdotes above have no real evidentiary value -- data is not the plural of anecdote, and citing past torturers who say their methods work has no more logical weight than citing astrologers who say their methods work.

If you really want to know whether or not torture works, the only thing to do is to hold controlled trials, for example by selecting some towns in Iraq for torture-free policies and some for torture. Obviously, you can't do that experiment without making the decision on morality first.

Note I am not in favor of such an experiment or of torture. But IMHO people who are in favor of torture should favor such experiments.
1.7.2007 7:18pm
Josh Jasper:
'Torture worked on this occasion' does not mean it is more useful than other means of interrogation, or even that it's effective in the ticking time bomb scenario that pro torture type keep hauling out after watching too many episodes of 24.

It may well be that torture has worked in the past as a method of interrogation, but interrogation is NOT about what has or has not worked ON SOME SPECIFIC OCCASION.

Interrogation is (according to a professional interrogator I know who's spoken frequently on the subject) about what works BEST. Not what works either on TV, on in one case.

Torture does not work best. It's one of the WORST means of interrogation. People are pro torture because they want to use it as a means of revenge, punishment and intimidation. Not because they want something that works for getting information.
1.7.2007 7:21pm
fishbane (mail):
Actually I would disagree with Mr. Adams' formulation that anyone should prove that it works. In light of the fact that it has been used throughout history by a wide spectrum of civilizations it should be up to Mr. Adams to show that we have evolved to the point where it's now not useful.

Nevermind other counters to this, I would like to add this: please define 'useful'. If it means 'providing useful information', then I believe there are numerous intelligence and interroration experts who believe that it is counterproductive.

On the other hand, if you mean 'useful' means 'a handy tool to intimidate and subjugate the proles', you might be on to something. Ditto for 'display of amoral political strength.'
1.7.2007 7:23pm
annej (mail) (www):
BY the way, the mere fact that all you people can come up with is someone who shot an "innocent" man to get another to talk, shows quite a lot. Seems like a nice challenge to find a neat, clean proper example of torture that worked: find me any ticking time bomb scenario that actually happened, where only people with direct knowledge that could actually prevent the upcoming disaster from happening where injured and where the disaster was prevented because of this knowledge. Otherwise, never ever come up with that deeply flawed hypothetical again.

Maybe an easier task: find us an example where only people with direct knowledge of an harmful event where injured and where the harmful event was prevented because of this knowledge. Now you don't even have to find an example where you can save the people of a major city. I'll bet you, you can't find it. Why? Because these torturers aren't exactly proud of what they are doing. Makes you wonder, no?

By the way, the article that Anderson quotes goes directly against the use of torture: they used torture to get information they already knew about a non immediatly threatening situation (the whereabouts of a FLN leader) and ended up getting important information that they weren't looking for. So in fact they where either just on a fishing trip or torturing the poor bloke for fun. Nice proof of effectiveness!
1.7.2007 7:26pm
Josh Jasper:


If you really want to know whether or not torture works, the only thing to do is to hold controlled trials


Actually, the Nazis did something quite like that. There's a book on one of the most the most successful interrogator they had here

He did not use torture. Can we call this discussion closed yet?

Nope. Because pro-torture types are like moon landing deniers. No amount of evidence will convince them. They feel a moral obligation to justify torture. I å this to be because they want to torture certain people. The impulse towards torture is a provable one, and has been investigated in the Millgram and Zimbardo experiments.

Pro-torture advocates ought to be understood in light of the human impulse to cruelty for the sake of a desire for pleasure in the suffering of others, and dominance.
1.7.2007 7:28pm
annej (mail) (www):
@DK: I didn't mean to imply that mr. Scott Adams opinion was of no importance. I meant to say that his opinion is one because every well founded opinion must count as such, not because it was made by an celebrity.
1.7.2007 7:30pm
annej (mail) (www):
@Josh Jasper: we have winner. This is exactly, why it has been used for thousands of years as a certain someone told us in the beginning of this thread: we do, because we can.
1.7.2007 7:33pm
john davies (mail):
I recently heard an interview with one of two british men who had been tortured in Saudi Arabia after being accused of planting a car bomb. He said that after a couple of days of continuouse torture he broke and admited guilt even thoug he knew he could be executed there. He signed a confesion and said that given long enough a torturer could extract anything he wanted from the victim. Point is these men were inocent . Same as in the middle ages when thousands of unfortunate women and girls were made to admit to being witches even though they knew they would be burnt to death. Torture gets results but how reliable?
1.7.2007 7:36pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Remind me again why we care what Scott Adams thinks about this?

The same reason we care enough to respond to what some semi-anonymous dude wrote in the comment section of a blog.

Scott Adams' opinion is valuable or as useless as his reasoning is strong or weak.
1.7.2007 7:46pm
Josh Jasper:
å = think. I have no idea why that got formated so oddly.
1.7.2007 7:46pm
annej (mail) (www):
@JJ: now the new democrat majority should start looking into that ;)
1.7.2007 7:59pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The Germans used torture quite effectively in following resistance networks.
There was a story, recounted by a college prof and written in a book about the war "Count Five and Die".
The Allies took some resistance leaders out, trained them intensively, gave them a bogus invasion date for which to be ready, dropped them back into France while insuring the Germans got to them first.
The presumption here was that the German torture would work, and the gutsy resistance of motivated men would add credibility.
Vile, if true, but the point is that if the Allies had thought torture ineffective, they would not have bothered.
And why would they have thought torture effective? Probably seeing what happened to their contacts on the continent.
The other thing about torture is to imagine oneself under torture and either holding our or sticking to a consistent false story. In many cases, the interrogator knows enough to make the victim think he knows more and so lying won't work.

Unfortunately, this subject gets poisoned when some folks haul in naked twister and fake menstrual blood as "torture" in order to punch up the numbers and mislead the unwary. That gives their opponents plenty of room to ridicule their position.
1.7.2007 10:32pm
markm (mail):

Anything that has been used for a large number of milennia has some value in certain cases.

Yes, but where it wasn't just revenge or for fun (like many American Indian tribes did with captured enemys), the "value" was in getting a confession, true or false, not true information that the torturer didn't know already. Think of the Spanish Inquisition, witch hunters, Stalinist show trials - none of them would have settled for the plain truth.
1.7.2007 10:37pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Regarding the efficacy of torture, I highly recommmend this article by writer Mark Bowden, of "Black Hawk Down" fame.

Bowden touches on a key point: there's no bright line at which interrogation techniques suddenly and unmistakably become torture. Under some people's definition, even waterboarding isn't torture, because it produces no physical pain or harm to the subject, only extreme discomfort and desperation. Under other people's definition, verbal taunting can be categorized as torture, since it can humiliate the subject.

In discussions of the torture issue, however, I almost never see a consensus definition of "torture", nor a proponent of banning torture conceding that some unpleasant interrogation techniques might not constitute torture, nor a proponent of permitting torture conceding that some forms of torture are morally unacceptable regardless of the circumstances. I can only conclude that both sides are arguing an absolutist position--either that nothing worse than hotel-like conditions is ever acceptable, or, alternatively, that even electrodes on the genitals are acceptable under certain circumstances.

This is, to say the least, a strange state of affairs, given that the debate within government is actually over nuances along the continuum--which interrogation practices are acceptable, and which cross over the line into torture. It's as if public discussions of sentencing guidelines invariably devolved into an argument between capital punishment advocates and opponents of all punishment, however mild.

Mind you, as I've pointed out before, the capital punishment debate itself often takes that form. Perhaps most people are simply incapable of thinking about public policy except in utterly black-and-white terms.
1.7.2007 10:54pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Perhaps most people are simply incapable of thinking about public policy except in utterly black-and-white terms.

I should have included another possibility: that most people who care enough about a topic to participate in public discussions about it, do so because they think about that topic in utterly black-and-white terms.
1.7.2007 10:58pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I know a guy who was tortured (POW in Nam) and his comment, from the consumer standpoint, was that it only could work if you had two of more people privy to the same fact, and could tell them it would only end when their versions agreed. Otherwise the person would tell you anything that would stop the pain, i.e., what he guessed you wanted to hear. He said the POWs loved to cook up stories for them. I.e., when questioned about American pilot training, would tell them it involved daredevil stunts (flying loops at very low altitudes) that were in fact likely to kill off a substantial number of people trying it.
1.7.2007 11:11pm
Enoch:
pro-torture types are like moon landing deniers. No amount of evidence will convince them. They feel a moral obligation to justify torture.

Eh, anti-torture types are also like moon landing deniers. No amount of evidence will convince them that it can work.
1.7.2007 11:24pm
Enoch:
I know a guy who was tortured (POW in Nam)

The North Vietnamese really weren't torturing American POWs in order to obtain useful intelligence. They were torturing them for the hell of it, and to get them to cooperate in various propaganda schemes (denouncing American imperialism on the radio, etc.). So in one sense the North Vietnamese torture was "effective" - they did get US prisoners to "cooperate" - but it was not effective in "providing intelligence".
1.7.2007 11:27pm
JB:
Dave Hardy has it—the only way torture reveals the truth is if either the torturer knows the truth and stops when the tortured reveals it, or if you use the two-tortured tactic. (Alternatively, if you ask a lot of questions, starting with a bunch that you know the answer to, so that by the time you get to the ones you don't the tortured isn't sure if you know, and will torture him if he lies, or not, for any given question. And even if he gets away with one lie, he won't be sure if you know the answer to the next question).

Any extremist worth his salt, when being tortured under a ticking-time-bomb situation, will hold out until he's sure the bomb has gone off. (Imprisonment techniques that disorient the prisoner's sense of time are not neccesarily torture, and I'm generally in favor of them for this reason). Absent such techniques, the ticking-time-bomb scenario fails—torture only works when there's time for fact-checking.

That's what I say about efficacy. As to morality, it's always wrong enough that it shouldn't be on the books. Torture a terrorist and foil a plot? No jury would convict the person who stopped the next 9/11. Torture an innocent and get canned? Sucks to be you.
1.8.2007 12:30am
Twill00 (mail):
That's just silly. The point in any interrogation is increasing the signal to noise ratio. You're right, the intelligence collector needs to have data collected elsewhere to gauge truthfulness against, but it doesn't have to be one person who knows exactly the same thing as the interrogee.

It's just plain ridiculous to claim that "building rapport" works and "torture" doesn't. Depending upon the interrogee, the skill of the interrogator and the knowledge available to them, sometimes either will work. Sometimes both. Sometimes neither.

But the one thing we can be sure doesn't work is having the interrogee know exactly what the interrogator can do, and being totally comfortable with it. Sheesh.
1.8.2007 12:58am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Interrogation is (according to a professional interrogator I know who's spoken frequently on the subject) about what works BEST. Not what works either on TV, on in one case.
No; it's about what works best in a given situation. That's the whole point of the ticking bomb hypothetical; to posit a set of circumstances where torture might be the only option, and to ascertain people's views in that situation. Rapport-building may be more "effective" given unlimited time, but if you need the answer now, it may not be.
1.8.2007 1:16am
jim:
Anything that has been used for a large number of milennia has some value in certain cases.

Absolutely, but what value? If the value is the satisfaction someone gets from another's misery, then that value is irrelavent to us here and now. The fact that torture had value to many historical civilizations does not tell us that is has value to us. That requires further inspection.
1.8.2007 1:45am
A. Zarkov (mail):
“But if you get a reputation for torturing and mistreating captives, your enemy will simply refuse to surrender and every battle will become a battle to the death.”

I think the facts of history exactly contradict your assertion. The Japanese regularly mistreated, tortured, starved and beheaded American POWs. Yet the Americans did not do “battle to the death.” On the other hand, Japanese POWs were not generally mistreated, yet the Japanese did “do battle to the death.” The reason for the contrasting behavior was largely cultural if not genetic. The Japanese soldier did not expect to survive the war, the American soldier did. The Japanese soldier was product of Bushido tradition and was told by his superiors never to surrender. Much the same can be said for the American experience in the Vietnam War. How we treat the enemy, how we conform to the Geneva Convention is irrelevant to how Americans will be treated as captives. All that nice high moralizing buys us nothing.
1.8.2007 2:05am
Mike Lief (www):
I believe this is the passage in question.


I sat in that swank hotel drinking tea with a much decorated, battle-hardened Sri Lankan army officer charged with fighting the LTTE and protecting the lives of Colombo's citizens.

[...]

"By going through the process of laws," Thomas patiently explained, as a parent or a teacher might speak to a bright yet uncomprehending child, "you cannot fight terrorism." Terrorism, he believed, could be fought only by thoroughly "terrorizing" the terrorists—that is, inflicting on them the same pain that they inflict on the innocent.

Thomas had little confidence that I understood what he was saying. I was an academic, he said, with no actual experience of the life-and-death choices and the immense responsibility borne by those charged with protecting society from attack. Accordingly, he would give me an example of the split-second decisions he was called on to make.

At the time, Colombo was on "code red" emergency status, because of intelligence that the LTTE was planning to embark on a campaign of bombing public gathering places and other civilian targets. Thomas's unit had apprehended three terrorists who, it suspected, had recently planted somewhere in the city a bomb that was then ticking away, the minutes counting down to catastrophe.

The three men were brought before Thomas. He asked them where the bomb was. The terrorists—highly dedicated and steeled to resist interrogation—remained silent. Thomas asked the question again, advising them that if they did not tell him what he wanted to know, he would kill them. They were unmoved.

So Thomas took his pistol from his gun belt, pointed it at the forehead of one of them, and shot him dead. The other two, he said, talked immediately; the bomb, which had been placed in a crowded railway station and set to explode during the evening rush hour, was found and defused, and countless lives were saved.
1.8.2007 2:16am
A. Zarkov (mail):
The very essence of war is violence. Soldiers get shot, roasted, gassed, crushed, poisoned, run over, bayoneted and otherwise torn apart. Why is torture such a big deal in light of the general level of violence in warfare? Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq all tortured and mistreated American soldiers. As Rodney Dangerfield said, “Ya can’t get no respect.” And we will continue to get no respect in any of our future wars no matter how well we behave. I suppose if we go to war with Belgium or Norway being good guys will earn our captives the proper treatment.
1.8.2007 2:30am
davod (mail):
The defintion of torture has been diluted to the extent that some legal police interviews are considered out of bounds.
1.8.2007 7:31am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Thomas patiently explained, as a parent or a teacher might speak to a bright yet uncomprehending child, "you cannot fight terrorism." Terrorism, he believed, could be fought only by thoroughly "terrorizing" the terrorists—that is, inflicting on them the same pain that they inflict on the innocent.

And of course this attitude has been remarkably effective in defeating the Tamil Tigers (he also neglected to mention that his unit terrorizes only terrorists but innocent Tamil civilians, including using Tamil civilians as human shields and "disappearing" Tamils). The insurgency has been going on since 1983, and the Tamil Tigers are as strong as ever. The last country we should be looking to for advice on how to fight terrorists is Sri Lanka.
1.8.2007 9:11am
Anderson (mail) (www):
either that nothing worse than hotel-like conditions is ever acceptable

Dan Simon, as the cite above to Mark Bowden's article indicates, the problem isn't that "mild" abuse is torture.

The problem is that once the door's open to "mild" abuse, the slippery slope to serious abuse &torture is difficult to resist. Recall the notorious Stanford "prison guard" experiment, which did nothing more than illustrate human nature towards the powerless.

Prisoners, who are by definition pretty nigh helpless, have to be treated with a minimum of respect to prevent their being abused.
1.8.2007 9:13am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Btw, quoting a psychopathic Sri Lankan officer is not the most ringing endorsement of torture I've ever seen.

Who's the next poster boy gonna be? Reinhard Heydrich? Lavrenti Beria?

Why does anyone want America to admire and emulate such people? How on earth does Richard Aubrey write "torture worked well for the Nazis" without noticing the word "Nazi"?

IOW, morality is not something to be shunted off to the last line of the article. Sorry, Dilbert.
1.8.2007 9:16am
Jeek:
How on earth does Richard Aubrey write "torture worked well for the Nazis" without noticing the word "Nazi"?

Again, the issue here is effectiveness, not morality. The word "Nazi" in the pejorative sense you use is relevant only to morality, not effectiveness. The Nazis did a lot of things that worked well, and we emulated a lot of them after the war. Are we not supposed to use ballistic missiles or jet engines or combined arms warfare because those worked well for the Nazis?
1.8.2007 9:22am
annej (mail) (www):
@Jeek: no. The issue is morality AND effectiveness. You cannot separate those issues. If you say "end justify the means" you are arguing that something is that effective that you disregard the moral complications. You need to now both the moral complications and the effectiveness.
1.8.2007 9:39am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Again, the issue here is effectiveness, not morality.

Hm, maybe that's why I wrote the "IOW" line of my comment.

At any rate, remind me who won the war? How "effective" were torture &atrocity for the Nazis in the long run? Did lording it over subject populations really work out so well for them?

Morality is not separable from effectiveness. Immoral behavior has bad effects.

Do not trust the judgment of anyone who fails to grasp this point.
1.8.2007 9:42am
annej (mail) (www):

The North Vietnamese really weren't torturing American POWs in order to obtain useful intelligence. They were torturing them for the hell of it, and to get them to cooperate in various propaganda schemes


@enoch: This is exactly what we are saying. The line between gathering intel and coercing confessions and punishing isn't there. Glad you are arguing against torture now.
1.8.2007 9:42am
annej (mail) (www):

Eh, anti-torture types are also like moon landing deniers. No amount of evidence will convince them that it can work.


@enoch: The difference is that opponents of torture can't be convinced that "it can work, they are not convinced that it doesn't work nearly well enough to overcome the moral objections (which should not be separated from the practical side - it bears repeating)
1.8.2007 9:45am
annej (mail) (www):
@Twill00: you're being disingenious. JB is not saying "It's just plain ridiculous to claim that "building rapport" works and "torture" doesn't." He is saying that building rapport works so much better than torture, that the lack of effectiveness cannot outweigh the moral objections.


But the one thing we can be sure doesn't work is having the interrogee know exactly what the interrogator can do, and being totally comfortable with it. Sheesh.


No one is suggestis telling the interrogee exactly what the intterogator can do. We are prepared to tell him what the interrogator cannot do. I take it you agree that thee interrogee knows that the interrogator cannot kill him and that even Bush agrees that the interrogat cannot torture him (and the MCA even gives a nice list of techniques that cannot be employed), but the difference is that Bush reinterpretated torture to mean squad.
1.8.2007 9:51am
annej (mail) (www):

No; it's about what works best in a given situation. That's the whole point of the ticking bomb hypothetical; to posit a set of circumstances where torture might be the only option, and to ascertain people's views in that situation. Rapport-building may be more "effective" given unlimited time, but if you need the answer now, it may not be.


@David M. Nieporent: Well, that's the problem with the ticking time bomb scenario. It simple doesn't happen. I refer you to the challenge I posed I posted above.
1.8.2007 9:57am
annej (mail) (www):
@Zarkov: I agree with you almost to the end of your post. Of course complying with the Geneva Conventions does not guarantee the compliance of the enemy to any extent. But it does get you somewhere. If you are fighting an ideological struggle (ie "the war on terror") where you are claiming to be on the moral high ground, spreading the rule of law and democracy you are seen as a hypocrite for violating your own principles. Plus soldiers must be given guidelines on what can and what can't be done. Discipline will vanuish if we disregard "the rules" in warfare. We can argue on which rules are necessary, but I suppose we agree on the need for some rules, because a killing spree will get you know where.

Bu the way, the Nazis for the most part did adher to the Geneva Conventions. True they violated them on occasions, but even these monsters in principle stuck to those "quaint" rules.
1.8.2007 10:06am
Anderson (mail) (www):
the Nazis for the most part did adhere to the Geneva Conventions

One must add "on the Western Front" to that statement.
1.8.2007 10:09am
annej (mail) (www):
@Dan Simon: the reason for the black and white approach seems to be the slippery slope. Proponents of torture begin with a flawed hypothecial (the ticking time bomb scenario) to try to show that there is no moral absolute prohibition on torture. The next step is to grade down the circumstances and keep asking: you agreed to torture then, what about now?

The opponents of torture indeed don't come up with an exact definition of torture. But they do say that you can interrogate. The gray area is left gray for a reason. The administration proposed a minimalist definition in order to be able to use as many techniques as possible. I propose to adhere to the definition of the Convention Against Torture:

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. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.


It's not vague in any way. Coercion inflicting severe pain or suffering is out.
1.8.2007 10:17am
annej (mail) (www):
Sorry for this bit of flooding. But I'm on the other side of the Atlantic and read all your posts at once.
1.8.2007 10:18am
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
The problem is that once the door's open to "mild" abuse, the slippery slope to serious abuse &torture is difficult to resist. Recall the notorious Stanford "prison guard" experiment, which did nothing more than illustrate human nature towards the powerless.

I gather, then, that you're in favor of abolishing prisons, since they clearly lead to abuse and torture?

This is precisely my point--the "slippery slope" argument is just another way of asserting that the issue is entirely black-and-white, and that therefore nothing worse than hotel-like conditions (for any kind of prisoner, I guess, in your case) is ever acceptable.
1.8.2007 10:18am
XON:
A must read for those who think: a) that harsh techniques do not work/aren't reliable, or b) that vague moral assertions of the prisoner's humanity can prevent the prisoner from causing or protecting harms that far outweigh their individual humanity.

The two questions that stood out to me in the article were the relative effectiveness in wartime of the US and S. Vietnamese; and the humanity/sympathy of the prisoner in se and in oficio.

https://www.cia.gov/csi/studies/vol48no1/article06.html
1.8.2007 10:18am
James of England:
Oddly, this is one of the very few areas where public debate is less informed than when the Pilgrims came over. My sense is that no one who has commented has much experience of torture.

St. Augustine did have some experience of life in a society where it was more common and had more experience of it. He felt that a good Christian judge would sometimes torture an innocent man to death. And that a good Christian should step up to the plate to do this. City of God, Book 19, Chapter 6. Available on at all good internets. To my mind, St. Augustine was a pretty moral chap. He's probably revered by more Christian churches than any other post-biblical saint.

Another thinker springs to mind: William Blackstone, father of Common Law, hero to the founding fathers. He felt that torture was an engine of state, not of law. In other words, you can totally get someone (most people) to say whatever you want. You don't learn all that much from some forms of confession extraction. If you don't want them to say something specific, though, you just want to learn what they have to say, it's not so bad. Sleep deprivation, drugs, pain, anything that stops you from focusing, it all makes you a much less good liar.

If you'll say whatever it is that your torturer wants you to say, then it makes all the difference in the world whether you think your torturer wants you to tell the truth or wants you to tell him a specific, preconstructed, statement. Assuming that the torturer isn't starting with a blank slate, that the torturer already knows some true things about the victim, that's not so tough to establish.

This is not an argument for torture's use. The costs, in a variety of ways, are extremely high. It is just an argument that most of the claims of torture's ineffectual nature are either pure wishful thinking or claims that it can be ineffectual in the hands of thugs who aren't really interested in making it effectual as an agent of truth.
1.8.2007 10:21am
annej (mail) (www):
@Anderson: I stand corrected.
1.8.2007 10:25am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I think the facts of history exactly contradict your assertion. The Japanese regularly mistreated, tortured, starved and beheaded American POWs. Yet the Americans did not do “battle to the death.”

Actually, I think the facts of history bear out my point. The battles in the Pacific were much bloodier (they had higher casualty rates even though they involved smaller numbers of troops, especially on the U.S. and British side) than those on the Western Front precisely because the Allied and Japanese forces were less likely to surrender than their counterparts in Europe. Granted, the Japanese reluctance to surrender had more to do with their culture than with fear of mistreatment. But Allied soldiers in the Pacific were more likely to fight more fiercely and to the last man because they knew that surrender to the Japanese was often pointless.
1.8.2007 10:30am
Anderson (mail) (www):
I gather, then, that you're in favor of abolishing prisons, since they clearly lead to abuse and torture?

Okay, you don't want to have a serious discussion, that's fine. (I recalled your notorious trolling at Crooked Timber, but decided to give you the benefit of the doubt. Oops.)

For the record, abuse is common in American prisons, and a brighter line for respectful treatment of prisoners would be a good idea.
1.8.2007 10:33am
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
It's not vague in any way. Coercion inflicting severe pain or suffering is out.

On the contrary--this definition is ridiculously vague. As I pointed out earlier, it's been used to brand verbal taunting as torture.

I'm prepared to listen to torture opponents' choices of where they would draw the line--if they can specify something, anything, that an interrogator might do that might be the slightest bit unpleasant to the subject being interrogated, that they wouldn't therefore ban on the grounds of causing "severe pain and suffering". Otherwise, I'll stick with my claim that torture opponents see the issue in entirely black-and-white terms, and wish to ban everything short of hotel-like conditions.
1.8.2007 10:33am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Yet the Americans did not do “battle to the death.”

J.F. Thomas's rebuttal is correct. At least after the Bataan Death March became known, if not before, Allied troops became much less likely to surrender.

Americans were simply much less likely to have to "fight to the death" than Japanese, because we were better supplied and led.
1.8.2007 10:36am
annej (mail) (www):

I'll stick with my claim that torture opponents see the issue in entirely black-and-white terms, and wish to ban everything short of hotel-like conditions.


Who is making black and white statements now? The reason I am not willing to be more specific than "inflicting serious pain" (which by the way contradicts your dishonest mentioning of "verbal taunting") is that IMHO the grey area must be defined retroactively. I want the interrogator to be scared. If he's questioning the legality of an interrogation method than we should as well. Retroactively a DA can decide whether or not to prosecute for torture or a judge can find him not guilty (or whatever exception American Criminal Law has to find that this particular defendant should not be punished for this particular act.
1.8.2007 11:03am
Jeek:
At any rate, remind me who won the war? How "effective" were torture &atrocity for the Nazis in the long run? Did lording it over subject populations really work out so well for them?

The Nazis did not lose due to being overthrown by their conquered populations. They lost because they were overthrown from without. Torture and atrocity were effective in keeping their conquests quiescent (or more quiescent than they would have been without harsh methods) so the regime could extract labor and wealth from them.
1.8.2007 11:13am
annej (mail) (www):
@Dan Simon: So again I am not prepared to give you a fuller definition of torture other than "inflicting severe pain or suffering". But then again, you haven't explained why a further definition is warranted, but for saying that some people say that verbal taunting is torture.

But I am willing to meet you have way. Name an interrogation treatment and I will tell you whether I think it qualifies as torture under the Convention against Torture. Verbal Taunting? No. If the interrogator start threatening to kill or torture the interrogee or his family and friends, things start to change. Under certain circumstances verbal taunting can amount to inhuman or degrading treatment.
1.8.2007 11:14am
Jeek:
Under certain circumstances verbal taunting can amount to inhuman or degrading treatment.

This theory stands in clear violation of the centuries-old "sticks and stones may break my bones" doctrine!
1.8.2007 11:17am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Torture and atrocity were effective in keeping their conquests quiescent (or more quiescent than they would have been without harsh methods) so the regime could extract labor and wealth from them.

Sheesh, not only is this wrong, but the truth actually contradicts the point you are trying to make. Where the Nazi occupation was the most brutal is where the partisans were most active, while in those areas where Nazi occupation was relatively benign (e.g., Denmark), resistance was minimal.
1.8.2007 11:29am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Torture and atrocity were effective in keeping their conquests quiescent (or more quiescent than they would have been without harsh methods) so the regime could extract labor and wealth from them.

Sheesh, not only is this wrong, but the truth actually contradicts the point you are trying to make. Where the Nazi occupation was the most brutal is where the partisans were most active, while in those areas where Nazi occupation was relatively benign (e.g., Denmark), resistance was minimal.
1.8.2007 11:40am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
But I am willing to meet you have way. Name an interrogation treatment and I will tell you whether I think it qualifies as torture under the Convention against Torture.

It is not the Convention against Torture it is the The International Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Punishment or Treatment. We are a signatory to the convention and it has been codified into U.S. Law.

When the president responds to questions about what interrogation techniques we use and he responds "we don't torture" someone needs to follow up with "so what, the law requires a much higher standard of treatment than simply not torturing".

To discuss whether or not we torture or not is lowering the bar way too much. U.S. and international law requires a much higher standard from us as the title of the convention indicates.
1.8.2007 11:47am
Jeek:
Sheesh, not only is this wrong, but the truth actually contradicts the point you are trying to make. Where the Nazi occupation was the most brutal is where the partisans were most active, while in those areas where Nazi occupation was relatively benign (e.g., Denmark), resistance was minimal.

The primary factor generating and sustaining partisan activity was not Nazi brutality but external assistance and the perception that the Nazis were losing. Resistance was basically negligible when the Nazis appeared to be winning and when external forces (London and Moscow) could not support the resistance to any great extent. Resistance increased when the Nazis started losing and when outside powers could support the resistance.

Danish resistance was small not because the Nazis were "nice" to them but because the terrain did not favor partisan operations and because it was much harder for London to support Danish resistance than French/Dutch/Belgian resistance.

Do you really think over 10 million European laborers would have voluntarily have gone to Germany if there had been no apparatus of terror and repression to force them to do so?
1.8.2007 12:06pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
But I am willing to meet you have way. Name an interrogation treatment and I will tell you whether I think it qualifies as torture under the Convention against Torture.

Great--let's start with the techniques approved for use at Guantanamo:


They looked at 35 techniques, including covering a suspect with wet towels to simulate drowning, and stripping detainees. Only 24 techniques survived, the result of a rancorous debate.

Seven of those approved techniques are not included in U.S. military doctrine, and are listed as: "change of scenery up; change of scenery down; dietary manipulation; environmental manipulation; sleep adjustment (reversal) ; isolation for 30 days"; and a technique known as "false flag," or deceiving a detainee into believing he is being interrogated by someone from another country.

The other 17 techniques are approved in standard military doctrine and carry these names: direct questioning; incentive/removal of incentive; emotional love/hate; fear up/harsh; fear up/mild; reduced fear; pride and ego up and down; futility; "we know all"; establish your identity; repetition; file and dossier; good cop/bad cop; rapid fire; and silence.

Four of the tactics required interrogators to notify commanders in advance of their use. They are: isolating a detainee from peers; pride and ego up or down, which means attacking someone's personal worth and sense of pride; and "fear up/harsh," in which interrogators could yell at prisoners, throw things around the interrogation room and convince a detainee that he has something to fear.

I should add that I'm not expecting, much less demanding, consensus on where to draw the line. Ultimately, the democratic process can, will and should be responsible for deciding what interrogation methods society is willing or unwilling to see applied on its behalf. As far as I'm concerned, as long as serious discussion is taking place regarding where the line should be drawn--thus implicitly acknowledging that there is such a line, and plenty of disagreement over where it should be drawn--then progress is being made.
1.8.2007 12:32pm
MnZ (mail):
I am going to posit something that may be controversial. The definition of torture and cruel treatment depends in part on the reason that a prisoner was subjected to a certain treatment.

Consider solitary confinement. Clearly, solitary confinement can be used as a method of torture. However, it can also be necessary to protect other prisoners and even guards from violent prisoners. Therefore, even though solitary confinement can be torture, it is not always considered torture.

Now, consider sleep deprivation. Clearly, sleep deprevation can be used as a method of torture. However, suppose that the government managed to capture a member of a terrorist cell which had just been activated. If the authorities questioned him extensively over the first couple of days to figure out where his accomplices were (depriving him of sleep), would that be torture? I can imagine circumstances in which it might not be so clear.
1.8.2007 12:32pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
J.F. Thomas

“Actually, I think the facts of history bear out my point. The battles in the Pacific were much bloodier (they had higher casualty rates even though they involved smaller numbers of troops…”

Those battles had a different character, land war versus sea war. The Pacific land battles were fierce because the Japanese wouldn’t surrender. One of the best examples is Iwo Jima. The Japanese held out in their bunkers until the American Marines used flamethrowers and poured gasoline into the bunker tunnels. Even after they were vanquished the few remaining Japanese snuck out at night and slit the throats of the Americans as they slept in their tents. The fierceness of the battle had nothing to do with the treatment of POWs. The Japanese commander Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi was told not to surrender and he didn’t. When battle was lost he committed suicide. At the very end the Americans did a complete sweep to kill any surviving Japanese soldiers. Note today we would charge the Americans with war crimes for the way they fought the Japanese.

The proper treatment of prisoners also bought us nothing in China, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. Can’t you see prisoner treatment is largely irrelevant with a determined foe from a different culture?
1.8.2007 12:38pm
annej (mail) (www):

Seven of those approved techniques are not included in U.S. military doctrine, and are listed as: "change of scenery up; change of scenery down; dietary manipulation; environmental manipulation; sleep adjustment (reversal) ; isolation for 30 days"; and a technique known as "false flag," or deceiving a detainee into believing he is being interrogated by someone from another country.


Let's note first of all that these technical terms do not begin to describe what happens to a prisoner, especially when combine. "Environmental manipulation": oh, you mean where they actually heat up to room to a temperature far above body temperature and subsequently lower it to below ten degrees Celsius? "False flag": Saying that the interrogator are from Egypt meaning that they're going to perform torture? "Isolation for thirty days": you mean like Jose Padilla that was isolated for like 2 years and was transported to the denist like this, because they thought isolation meant sensatory deprivation?

The worst problem of these techniques is that they are used together. Are they torture? Well, let's see. They allegedly turned Jose Padilla into a utter fruit cake. "inflicting severe pain"? Yes and everyone involved should be prosecuted.

In a subsequent post I will look at the proposed techniques individually.
1.8.2007 12:55pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Annej:

“But it does get you somewhere. If you are fighting an ideological struggle (ie "the war on terror") where you are claiming to be on the moral high ground, …”


We should not fight to gain the moral high ground, as that is irrelevant to winning. When I hear people say that I know they don’t want to win. You don’t wage an ideological struggle with war. You wage war to eliminate the enemy or eliminate the enemy’s capacity to do you harm. If your enemy simply won’t give up, then you exterminate him. If you don’t exterminate him he will exterminate you. Which do you want? Whose side are you on?

The war on terror is not an ideological struggle; it’s a clash of culture and religion and a competition for control. It’s not about winning people over to your side by being a moral force. The fence sitters will come over to your side when you win.

“Bu the way, the Nazis for the most part did adher to the Geneva Conventions.”


Read a new book “Masters of the Air” by Donald Miller. Downed American flyers in Germany were treated as badly as the Americans in the Bataan Death March and they perished at the same or higher rates.
1.8.2007 12:57pm
annej (mail) (www):
@Dan Simon: So, now I am answer to your question. But let's not loose side of what you ask me to do. I gave you a clear cut definition of what is torture (and as J.F. Thomas rightly stated, that's the least of wha's forbidden. You weren't satisfied.

You claimed that both side (pro and con torture) were black and white thinking. You weren't satisfied when I said there was grey in the middle. You wanted me to say where the white ended and the black began. Which I declined.

Will you ask the proponents of torture the same? You gave us example that according to the administration do not amount to torture. But answer me now: how far is the pro torture side willing to go: is everything up to death allowed, until mental breakdown, until almost all nerve systems break down, as long as the inflicted suffering might heal in time, as long as the inflicted suffering will heal in time? The opponents only want to say what does not amount to torture in order to avoid drawing a line. We are.
1.8.2007 1:07pm
MnZ (mail):
In discussions of the torture issue, however, I almost never see a consensus definition of "torture", nor a proponent of banning torture conceding that some unpleasant interrogation techniques might not constitute torture, nor a proponent of permitting torture conceding that some forms of torture are morally unacceptable regardless of the circumstances.


I have a theory as to why this is the case.

Torture proponents want the best of both worlds. The want to oppose torture in theory but still practice it.

Torture opponents realize that not defining torture gives them more power. Groups like HRW and Amnesty can accuse governments of practicing torture with impunity. They can also draw specious parallels (e.g., the Guantanamo-Gulag comparison).
1.8.2007 1:08pm
MnZ (mail):
Annej,

Your response at 1.8.2007 12:55pm makes me think that you are dodging the question.

While you are right, the approved practices could represent more insidious activities. However, that would be pure speculation. What is your thought of those methods if taken at face value?

For example, does the "false flag" method amount to torture since the prisoner is being manipulated? Is it unacceptable to provide un-cooperating prisoners with equally healthy but less tasty food?
1.8.2007 1:17pm
annej (mail) (www):

This theory stands in clear violation of the centuries-old "sticks and stones may break my bones" doctrine!


Ah another piece of dishonest quoting. Hones quoting would be
[Is] Verbal Taunting [torture]? No. If the interrogator start threatening to kill or torture the interrogee or his family and friends, things start to change. Under certain circumstances verbal taunting can amount to inhuman or degrading treatment.


That's exactly why "false flag" is disingenious. Why is the interrogator claiming to be from a different country? To make the subject believe he will be tortured. Actually under the Patriot act, this constitutes terrorizing someone.
1.8.2007 1:20pm
MnZ (mail):
Why is the interrogator claiming to be from a different country? To make the subject believe he will be tortured.


Not necessarily. A subject might be more willing to talk to the security forces of another nation. Alternatively, he might change his cover story slightly, which might be useful.
1.8.2007 1:24pm
annej (mail) (www):
Dodging the question? I posed the question!

Pure speculation? You mean sworn affadavits (they amount to evidence, in case you don't know).

But you see at the end of my post I told you I'd be back to answer the individual techniques. And I will, later on the day. When my stew is ready (at least 6 hours time difference).
1.8.2007 1:25pm
annej (mail) (www):
@MnZ: That is not how it was used. Interrogator claimed to be from either Egypt or Israel. Don't have the links available, but might look into it.


A subject might be more willing to talk to the security forces of another nation. Alternatively, he might change his cover story slightly, which might be useful.


In this limited case I don't see a problem. I don't mind lying and I don't think lying under normal circumstances amounts to torture. Come to think of it, lying to criminal suspects is allowed. I'd propose using only what we allow to be used in criminal proceedings. Well, for the heck of it: while we're at it, let's treat captured terrorists like criminal and try them!
1.8.2007 1:30pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
We should not fight to gain the moral high ground, as that is irrelevant to winning. When I hear people say that I know they don’t want to win. You don’t wage an ideological struggle with war. You wage war to eliminate the enemy or eliminate the enemy’s capacity to do you harm. If your enemy simply won’t give up, then you exterminate him. If you don’t exterminate him he will exterminate you.

You know, why is Godwin's law only invoked only when the U.S. is negatively compared to the Nazis? We are almost one hundred comments into this thread and several commentors have spoke in glowing terms about how good the Nazis were at torturing and eliminating those pesky eastern European partisans (not to mention the Jews, gypsies, and homos) so why shouldn't we use it (after all Nazi rocket scientists got us to the moon and we all love the interstates which are based on the autobahns so the Nazis weren't all bad).

And now we finally have this. The ultimate aim is nothing more than genocide. If they don't give up, then I guess we will just have to exterminate them. It will be regrettable, but the survival of the Aryan Race western civilization depends upon it.
1.8.2007 1:34pm
whit:
it's pretty difficult to produce peer reviewed studies on TORTURE, for obvious reasons

fwiw, i have a fair amount of experience and training in interrogation technique, and i have no scientific data that it does or doesn't work. the reality is that, to some extent, different interrogation subjects react to (somewhat ) different techniques. for example, guilt is a great way to get a confession from some suspects, with other i make them think they are much much smarter than men, and use their arrogance and ego to cause them to confess.

it VARIES.

but generally speaking, apart from pure ruses, most interrogations WORK (and most people confess) because NOT confessing causes discomfort.

period

in terms of "normal" interrogation, that discomfort is psychological pressure - guilt, fear, whatever - and IF the person regrets the act at all (Which would probably not be the case with most terrorists, since thye usually believe in their cause) guilt works pretty well

regardless, what i find annoying is that opponents and proponents of torture (in exceptional circumstances) especially the former, state with 100% conviction that torture DOES NOT WORK

that's simply absurd, without evidence

most of the evidence points towards the fact that torture can work quite well, since it causes discomfort, and discomfort is one of the primary ways an interrogator elicits a confession. just not PHYSICAL discomfort.
1.8.2007 1:36pm
annej (mail) (www):
@whit: actually that's not true. I and several others here were claiming that torture doesn't work well enough to overcome the moral objections to torture. It doesn't work that much better than the usual interrogation techniques to overcome the fact that we are willingly inflicting severe pain or suffering to the interrogations subjects.
1.8.2007 1:41pm
MnZ (mail):
Annej,

Not to get technical, but even if we assume that Padilla was telling the truth, Jose Padilla was never held Guantanamo. The article that A. Simon focused on interrogation methods at Guantanamo. Therefore, my original point remains: While you are right, the approved practices could represent more insidious activities. However, that would be pure speculation.

You seem to be adopting the following meme: "The named practices are just euphemisms for more insidious practices. Therefore, I will not discuss the named practices."
1.8.2007 1:47pm
annej (mail) (www):
@MnZ: First, see my comment at 1.8.2007 1:30pm. Be patient I am answering to all questions. Unlike you and the others. You are not limiting the use of the techniques either. I am. I am giving defitions even beyond the once that are already the law of the land.

Second "However, that would be pure speculation." You mean that it would be speculation to say that what the US does to it's own citizens, it does to people in Guantanamo Bay too? Come on. If you want to read about it at Guantanamo Bay, start reading here.

By the way, I reserve the possibility to say that something isn't torture, but should not be used anyway. Giving a prisoner one slap in the face, torture? No, but don't do it anyway.
1.8.2007 1:57pm
DRB (mail):
Although the conversation has pretty much degenerated into the morality of torture, I'd like to take it back for a moment to the question Scott Adams wanted to address -- whether torture is effective. I've heard plenty of arguments that torture is ineffective but I find I have a hard time buying them for the simple fact that I am positive that torture would work on me. When I think of some of the things torturers might do, especially torturers not bound by any "rules of engagement", I have no doubt that I'd sing like a canary in seconds.

So it seems to me that the flaw of torture would be false positives from people who really don't know the answer -- i.e. people agreeing to anything just to make it stop. But I imagine you'd also get plenty of "true positives" from people who are in the know along with that. Is there a reason to believe that people can resist spilling the beans under torture? Or is the false positive really the only reason torture is ineffective?
1.8.2007 2:00pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
We should not fight to gain the moral high ground, as that is irrelevant to winning. When I hear people say that I know they don’t want to win. You don’t wage an ideological struggle with war. You wage war to eliminate the enemy or eliminate the enemy’s capacity to do you harm. If your enemy simply won’t give up, then you exterminate him. If you don’t exterminate him he will exterminate you. Which do you want? Whose side are you on?


Personally, I'd rather die than turn myself into a disgusting monster devoid of any concern for ethics or morality.
1.8.2007 2:10pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Although the conversation has pretty much degenerated into the morality of torture

Oh yeah, the conversation has degenerated into a discussion about morality. Is it any wonder I can't abide libertarian philosophy.
1.8.2007 2:34pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
But answer me now: how far is the pro torture side willing to go: is everything up to death allowed, until mental breakdown, until almost all nerve systems break down, as long as the inflicted suffering might heal in time, as long as the inflicted suffering will heal in time?

I can only speak for myself, but my position isn't that different from that of the current US administration, as I understand it: the worst they're willing to use is "waterboarding" (extremely unpleasant, but neither physically damaging nor physically dangerous), and even that technique only in the most extreme circumstances (the so-called "extraordinary renditions"--a tiny handful of known extremely high-level terrorist leaders). The suspected high-level Al Qaeda or Taliban operatives at Guantanamo have been subjected at various times to stressful or unpleasant conditions (isolation, meager-but-sufficient rations, noise, and so on), but nothing worse than the previously-mentioned list has been permitted, and certainly no intensely unpleasant treatments such as "waterboarding".

In short, I--like, I suspect, most opponents of a total ban on "torture"--am very comfortable with banning large categories of treatment of detainees.

On the other hand, the question that I asked the "torture opponents" here--and that still has not been answered, except perhaps implicitly in the negative--was,

if they can specify something, anything, that an interrogator might do that might be the slightest bit unpleasant to the subject being interrogated, that they wouldn't therefore ban on the grounds of causing "severe pain and suffering".
If there's a counterexample, I've yet to be presented with it.
I therefore reiterate my claim that the phrase "severe pain and suffering" is vague to the point of infinite expandability, encompassing all actions that the subject of the interrogation might find the slightest bit unpleasant.
1.8.2007 2:46pm
Jeek:
several commentors have spoke in glowing terms about how good the Nazis were at torturing and eliminating those pesky eastern European partisans (not to mention the Jews, gypsies, and homos) so why shouldn't we use it (after all Nazi rocket scientists got us to the moon and we all love the interstates which are based on the autobahns so the Nazis weren't all bad).

Uh, no. I did not speak in "glowing" terms about it. My comments were limited to the issue of effectiveness, not morality (yes, yes, I know you don't think the two can be separated). Since you seem incapable of appreciating this point, let me state for the record - Nazi torture and atrocity was barbaric and immoral, and I condemn it.

But hey, while we're on the subject, allow me to speak in glowing terms about Nazi views on smoking and organic foods, which were way ahead of their time!

(link)annej (mail) (www):
@whit: actually that's not true. I and several others here were claiming that torture doesn't work well enough to overcome the moral objections to torture. It doesn't work that much better than the usual interrogation techniques to overcome the fact that we are willingly inflicting severe pain or suffering to the interrogations subjects.


This is exactly my own view.
1.8.2007 2:50pm
whit:
"@whit: actually that's not true. I and several others here were claiming that torture doesn't work well enough to overcome the moral objections to torture."

ok. but as i was saying - many (just take a trip to any leftwing blog--... or the NYT etc.) are saying that torture DOES NOT WORK.

i can respect a moral objection to torture. *i* have one too. but i don't believe in assuming, without evidence, and stating as fact that it does not work, when at least the bulk of evidence and common sense support that it does

" It doesn't work that much better than the usual interrogation techniques to overcome the fact that we are willingly inflicting severe pain or suffering to the interrogations subjects"

again, that *is* debatable, but in the extreme instances where actual torture would be used, these are often time critical.

i have had interrogations where i did 4 sessions over 1 month before i got a confession

given TIME (background research onthe subject etc.) i would think non-torture methods could probably be about as effective for nearly everybody

in time critical scenarios, i would suggest no
1.8.2007 3:08pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
J. F. Thomas:

The US was prepared to annihilate Japan with a series of nuclear strikes if necessary. We had plans to manufacture an additional ten bombs. Contrary to the revisionist historians claims, Japan was not ready to surrender, and almost didn’t even after the nuclear strikes on two of their cities. The Japanese had their own nuclear weapons program and I heard an interview with one of their scientists on the radio. He said they fully intended to use them on American cities. Had we not insisted on unconditional surrender and left the Japanese government intact, we likely would still be dealing with a militant and dangerous Japan. Look at North Korea. Fifty years later they are still a problem.

What do you suggest doing with an implacable enemy who seeks to destroy you and won’t give up? Give them more time to get stronger? Wait until you finally get destroyed? It sounds like you really don’t want western civilization to survive if it has to do things that you don’t like. Isn’t this the root of the disagreement here?
1.8.2007 3:42pm
annej (mail) (www):
@whit: but don't forget in order to get to the ticking time bomb scenario, ticking time isn't enough. The interrogator must not only know that the interrogee is implied in the plot to plan the bomb (so apparently the interrogator had all the time in the world to figure this out, but not to rapport-build), but he has to have knowlegde, which if torture is applied, will give the authorities the opportunity to disarm the bomb, in time. It is fair to assume that a bomb that will wipe out an entire city will wipe out the interrogee as well. The interrogee must be more afraid to suffer pain from torture, than to suffer dead by the bomb he has knowledge of. The hardened terrorist can either wait for death of give false positives.

TTBS in shatters.
1.8.2007 3:47pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
J. F. Thomas is, once again, misstating others' statements.

The question is whether torture works. Dilbert doesn't think so. The Germans apparently made it work. That is a datum, not a prescription, as Thomas knows. But he hoped by hyperventilating simulated righteous outrage to mislead.

As I say, misstating what somebody says to the person who says it is a curious exercise. What could possibly be gained?
1.8.2007 3:50pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"What do you suggest doing with an implacable enemy who seeks to destroy you and won’t give up? Give them more time to get stronger? Wait until you finally get destroyed?"


You're assuming it's necessary to resort to immoral tactics to defeat the enemy.

I think our country is strong and powerful enough to defeat terrorism without resorting to torture. The problem is that our military strategy is currently being formulated by people who with a fundamentally flawed understanding of our adversaries, and a severe lack of strategic insight.

You speak of the death of "western civilization". Think about that word: Civilization. It implies we are civilized, which in turn implies that we have ethics and morals. It seems to me that abandoning those ethics and morals does much more to threaten civilization than anything the terrorists could ever accomplish.
1.8.2007 3:55pm
whit:
annej, the issue is not so much what is known, but what is suspected.

if we could only torture when we KNEW these things (certainty), we'd be in pretty dire circumstances

note that nowhere am i advocating that we be allowed to use torture. i am saying that the kneejerk reaction by many on the left that it simply does not work is ABSURD and w/o evidence.

the evidence is far from conclusive but clearly leans far more towards "it works" vs. "it doesn't"

WE CAN make up 16,000 ticking time bomb scenarios. in some, it would work, in others it wouldn't. the point in the debate is should it be an option in these extreme circ's. if it can only be an option IF we are sure it will work in all cases, then that is a burden that will never be met

the point about 'being more afraid" etc. misunderstands why interrogations usually work, and i already explained this

people confess for a # of reasons, but among the most common is that NOT confessing causes discomfort. it is not a matter of fear. it is a matter of discomfort. you need to understand that distinction

there are some people who are simply not going to give in to torture. period

most people i think will

regardless, yes a person can (and does sometimes) give false info under torture. duh. i guess it depends on "how ticking" it is. if they give false info, we checked it out, and it was bogus, the interrogator would come back with THAT info, and the whole thing gets ratcheted up, etc.

regardless, this gets pretty hypothetical. i am more concerned with the rubbish being bantered about that "torture simply does not work". that was the silly thing i disagreed with .
1.8.2007 4:15pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
What do you suggest doing with an implacable enemy who seeks to destroy you and won’t give up? Give them more time to get stronger? Wait until you finally get destroyed?

It's just amazing that people write such self-betraying stuff about their fantasy lives, under the impression they're making a serious argument.

How "placable" were the Nazis? the Japanese?

Why do people feel the need to inflate the real, but limited, threat of terrorism into a "threat to western civilization"?

And, Whit, I don't have a "kneejerk reaction" that torture doesn't work. I've read up on it since it became evident that we were using torture. The U.S. Army says torture doesn't work, and renounces it on pragmatic, not moral, grounds. That's consistent with what I've read from/about interrogators in numerous other places.

Why that makes so little impression on people, I dunno, but I'm going to believe the professional interrogators a lot sooner than I'm going to believe some guy on a blog.
1.8.2007 4:27pm
annej (mail) (www):
"if we could only torture when we KNEW these things (certainty), we'd be in pretty dire circumstances"

The thing is not that you can't, but but it will only be more effective in a ticking time bomb scenario if the guy you are trying to get the information from actually has the info. If you don't know if he has, you're torturing the interrogee because he might know and because this might stop the bomb.

I'm not saying that you are advocating torture. I take your word for it you're not. You are saying that in a scenario where time is of the essence rapport building will not work, but torture will. I'm simply saying that you're grossly oversimplifying matters, because you are now comparing rapport building for which there is not enough time, with torturing that will get the info. You should be comparing rapport building for which there is not enough time, with torturing someone you don't know for sure has the info, will give the info or even if he has and will, the info will help you disarm the bomb. My guess? Unless you already have extensive background info on the person you're bound to torture, torture won't help when you don't have enough time to rapport build.

By the way, you've already said that torture won't work on terrorist. Why would they feel discomfort if they don't feel guilty for blowing up infidels? So why would torture work again?
1.8.2007 4:45pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
When I was in the Army [69-71] as a grunt, we got some training in handling POWs. The biggie was to "speed to the rear". Nobody wanted them around.
But I don't recall anything addressing torture.

IMO, the Army is telling the young guys on the line that torture doesn't work so they won't have the burden of deciding whether or not a particular POW needs to be tortured. If it was allowed that it might work, some platoon leader might decide that exigent circumstances would force him to do something he'd rather not do. But if it absolutely doesn't work, there's no problem. Or, rather, the problem is the exigent circumstances, not the question to torture.

In addition, the stuff the line units want to know right now is almost by definition the stuff that will be obsolete in moments, or obvious, depending. So whatever you get out of the guy wouldn't be much use.

My father's platoon captured a German who talked of lots of guns to the south, lots of tanks. South meant the Ardennes. Didn't mean anything to my father, who was concerned about three hundred yards of terrain. He was sped to the rear where either he dropped the subject or his interrogators didn't believe him. So the Ardennes Offensive started the next week.

My father had developed an obsession with the child's book, The Nuremberg Stove, and insisted on quizzing every captive about the author. He was under the impression it had been written by a German or Austrian. In fact, it had been written by an American. So the prisoner was confronted with a dirty, wild-eyed officer demanding to know the name of the author of a book he'd never heard of.
The guy would be terrified at the insane direction the whole thing was taking. This is supposed to be a war, not a literary society run by grubby, armed maniacs asking unanswerable questions. Disorienting in the extreme.
It turned out that the guys would frequently tell all they knew, little of which made any difference.
Question: Was my father engaged in "torture"?
1.8.2007 4:45pm
annej (mail) (www):
"if we could only torture when we KNEW these things (certainty), we'd be in pretty dire circumstances"

The thing is not that you can't, but but it will only be more effective in a ticking time bomb scenario if the guy you are trying to get the information from actually has the info. If you don't know if he has, you're torturing the interrogee because he might know and because this might stop the bomb.

I'm not saying that you are advocating torture. I take your word for it you're not. You are saying that in a scenario where time is of the essence rapport building will not work, but torture will. I'm simply saying that you're grossly oversimplifying matters, because you are now comparing rapport building for which there is not enough time, with torturing that will get the info. You should be comparing rapport building for which there is not enough time, with torturing someone you don't know for sure has the info, will give the info or even if he has and will, the info will help you disarm the bomb. My guess? Unless you already have extensive background info on the person you're bound to torture, torture won't help when you don't have enough time to rapport build.

By the way, you've already said that torture won't work on terrorist. Why would they feel discomfort if they don't feel guilty for blowing up infidels? So why would torture work again?
1.8.2007 4:45pm
annej (mail) (www):
@Richard Audrey: No he didn't. So what?

"so they won't have the burden of deciding whether or not a particular POW needs to be tortured"

Ouch, according to you we're torturing even POW's now?

(Oops seems like I double posted. Sorry)
1.8.2007 4:52pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Question: Was my father engaged in "torture"?

Why is that even a serious question? We're talking about the U.S. using NKVD techniques on people, not about freaking prisoners out with irrelevant questions about children's books. The answer, obviously, is "no."

And IIRC, there was plenty of intel from which we could've predicted the Ardennes offensive, doubtless including deserters &POW's like the one your father spoke with; the problem, as w/ Pearl Harbor and 9/11, was whether anyone was paying attention.

--Ah yes. Max Hastings, Armageddon, at 200:

The Allies' most conspicuous error was to expect rational strategic behavior from their enemy. There were clear pointers from intercepted communications ... that an offensive was brewing. There was much logistical evidence .... Yet such pointers were ignored, because a German offensive seemed futile.

This predisposition to believe what one likes is, as stated above, a key objection to torture, which tends to produce whatever the interrogator already thinks.
1.8.2007 5:02pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
To emphasize the obvious: Had we been torturing German prisoners who asserted a big offensive was brewing, most interrogators likely would've tested this bizarre intel with "you're lying, scum!" and tightened the thumbscrews, resulting in some quick corrections: "you're right! I lied! please stop!"

Some cigarettes, a good meal, and a chat with a fluent German-speaking officer were a lot more likely to loosen a German tongue in late 1944.
1.8.2007 5:07pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
"so they won't have the burden of deciding whether or not a particular POW needs to be tortured"

Ouch, according to you we're torturing even POW's now?


Actually, no, read the Army field manual on interrogation and you will see that the military strictly prohibits anything that even approaches "torture". If we declared that we were codifying the Army field manual as the law for interrogation for all detainees that would be perfectly fine with me. It is perfectly reasonable and time tested developed over sixty years of military intelligence gathering.

The purpose of speeding POWs to the rear is prevent amateur interrogators from torturing or meting vengeance on POWs and also allow the interrogators who have a more strategic view put the pieces together. Again, the tactical gain that you may get from torture will soon be outweighed by the strategic long term loss. There is no doubt that our treatment of Germans in Europe in WWII saved tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of lives on both sides in 1944 and especially in the very last months in the war, when the Germans began to surrender en masse. In fact Hitler considered killing his American and British POWs, hoping to provoke a similar response from the Allies and thus stem the flow of Germans soldiers surrendering. Fortunately, his general staff was able to talk him out of that little scheme.

Contrary to the revisionist historians claims, Japan was not ready to surrender, and almost didn’t even after the nuclear strikes on two of their cities. The Japanese had their own nuclear weapons program and I heard an interview with one of their scientists on the radio. He said they fully intended to use them on American cities.

What revisionist history? Japan wasn't ready to surrender? In case you missed it, they did? Oh and by the way, unlike Germany, it wasn't unconditional, the Emperor got to stay. Terms we probably could have gotten with or without the bomb. Regardless, and even if we hadn't continued the conventional bombing, dropped any more nuclear bombs or even launched an invasion, the Japanese would have had to surrendered by the Spring of 1946. They were finished. They had no oil and were facing mass starvation during the winter of '45--46 (not to mention an invasion by the Russians).

As for a Japanese bomb, give me a freaking break. The only other country that had the scientists and infrastructure to even contemplate building a bomb was Germany. After the war, we discovered that even though they had the two best physicists in the world (Heisenberg and Planck), they never even managed to achieve a self-sustaining fission reaction (something we did in December of 1942). No one else even got off the drawing board.
1.8.2007 6:29pm
annej (mail) (www):
@J.F. Thomas: a wisecrack misunderstood. I was trying to make fun of Aubrey, because he implied that even in WOII the US was torturing POW's while the current administration does it's best to distinguish between POW, civilian and enemy combatants. A distinction - it bears repeating - which is not supported by the Geneva Conventions.
1.8.2007 6:41pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
J.F. Thomas:

“What revisionist history? Japan wasn't ready to surrender? In case you missed it, they did? Oh and by the way, unlike Germany, it wasn't unconditional, the Emperor got to stay. Terms we probably could have gotten with or without the bomb.”

You are exactly parroting the revisionist version, which says that Japan was ready to surrender before the use of nuclear weapons, and that Japan had no capacity to continue to wage war.

The revisionist version of history traces to Paul Nitze who wrote sections of U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. He ignored evidence and manipulated other data to support his contentions. Other writers, notably P.M.S. Blackett, a British peace activist and Nobel laureate extended the revision by advocating the idea that Truman dropped the bomb to intimidate the Russians.

The Japanese had a million-man army in mid 1945 that was advancing not retreating. See the book Enola Gay and the Court of History (Frontiers in Political Communication, V. 8.) by Newman. Newman uses original sources including interviews with high-ranking Japanese officials.

As for the Japanese nuclear weapons program, what makes you think that just because the Germans ran into some difficulties, the Japanese were unable to make progress? Japan launched a nuclear research program under the direction of Yoshio Nishina in July 1941. If you know any physics you will recognize that name from the famous Kline-Nishina formula for Compton scattering. The Japanese Navy had a separate program that started in 1942 called F-Go headed by Prof. Bunsaku Arakatsu. They built 5 gaseous diffusion separators. Now there is a debate as to how far the program got. Some contend they actually tested a device about the same time the US did. In 1946, a journalist named David Snell working for the Atlanta Constitution wrote a sensationalist story which indicated that Japan had in fact successfully developed and tested a nuclear weapon in Konan.

What is not generally appreciated and you probably won’t find on the web is that the American implosion device was over designed. Making such a thing was not nearly as hard as people once thought. It’s quite possible that the Japanese got very far, if not all the way. They certainly made a lot of correct decisions. We are very lucky they didn’t have the kind concentrated effort we had. History could have turned out a differently.
1.8.2007 7:49pm
Enoch:
the stuff the line units want to know right now is almost by definition the stuff that will be obsolete in moments, or obvious, depending. So whatever you get out of the guy wouldn't be much use.

The Allen West case is an interesting case study.

Col. West is a member of the 4th Infantry, the Fort Hood, Texas, division occupying areas around Tikrit, Saddam's hometown and an area infested with loyalists of the former regime.
An informant reported that there was an assassination plot against Col. West, an artillery officer working with the local governing council in Saba al Boor. On Aug. 16, guerrillas attacked members of the colonel's unit who were on their way to Saba al Boor.
An informant told the soldiers that one person involved in the attack was a town policeman. Col. West sent two sergeants to detain the policeman, who was placed in a detention center near the Taji air base. The interrogators had no luck at first, so Col. West decided to take over the questioning.
"I asked for soldiers to accompany me and told them we had to gather information and that it could get ugly," Col. West said in his e-mail.
He said his soldiers "physically aggress[ed]" the prisoner. A subsequent investigation resulted in nonjudicial punishment for them in the form of fines.
After the physical "aggress" failed, Col. West says he brandished his pistol.
"I did use my 9 mm weapon to threaten him and fired it twice. Once I fired into the weapons clearing barrel outside the facility alone, and the next time I did it while having his head close to the barrel. I fired away from him. I stood in between the firing and his person.
"I admit that what I did was not right but it was done with the concern of the safety of my soldiers and myself."
Col. West said he informed his superior of his actions. The incident lay dormant until the Army conducted an overall command-climate investigation of the brigade. The investigation turned up the interrogation technique, and Col. West was charged with one count of aggravated assault.
Col. West said the gunshots spurred the Iraqi to provide the location of the planned sniper attack and the names of three guerrilla fighters.


In this case, "torture" (firing a weapon in the presence of the prisoner plus some other unspecified "physical aggression") had immediate positive results in a "ticking time bomb" situation.
1.9.2007 12:17am
A. Zarkov (mail):
For an interesting discussion on the emerging facts about Japan's WWII nuclear weapons program see the axis history forum.
1.9.2007 2:13am
Katherine:
"claims that it can be ineffectual in the hands of thugs who aren't really interested in making it effectual as an agent of truth."

"In the hands of thugs?" It makes people into thugs. This is why you can't separate effectiveness and then morality.

Whether it "works" depends on how you define works. Confessions? Sure. Truthful confessions not otherwise obtainable? Not so much--but it's probably happened.

How about this definition: Empirically, do you inflict agonizing pain and death on fewer innocent people than you save from agonizing pain and death?

Note that under this definition, it doesn't count for anything when you torture a guilty man, including torturing him to death. I'm just talking about innocents. So torture supporters should like this.

Nevertheless, even if you restrict yourself to that definition, and to the U.S. war on terror--"torture by the good guys," as many here seem to see it, and about which much of the evidence is classifed--it is failing that test with flying colors. And if you look further, I doubt you can find one example where a society or a government or a military adopted torture as policy and it worked out well. Whereas examples where it's destroyed more innocents than it's saved--there are just too many to even begin listing. But you can start with the bodies turning up in Baghdad with electric drill marks in them every day.

Is this a coincidence? Is the real problem with torture, like Communism, that no one's really done it *right*?
1.9.2007 3:47am
Daryl Herbert (www):
Torture is immoral because it's very bad and it's ineffective.

Torture is ineffective because—how dare you question the efficacy of torture?! It's evil and immoral and you're not even allowed to ask whether or not it's effective! It's not even important whether or not it's effective because it's immoral.

It's immoral because it's bad and it's ineffective.
Well, that's the problem with the ticking time bomb scenario. It simple doesn't happen.
Also, the "ticking time bomb" scenario could never ever possibly happen. It's just not possible that security forces would capture someone with important time-critical information. That this happens to be the most compelling scenario for the justification of torture (which never works) is mere coincidence as to why I'm claiming it never happens (and if it happened, torture wouldn't work to prevent it)
1.9.2007 4:18am
Daryl Herbert (www):
More seriously: we should remember that people are different. Americans are different from Nazis are different from Jihadis. What works on one person from one culture might not work on a different person from a different culture. If the best way to get info from American WWII pilots was to cajole them, that doesn't necessarily mean the most effective way to get information from suspected Iraqi insurgents is sexually humiliate them and threaten to sic attack dogs on them. Or maybe the guards just did that for kicks, and rapport-building is best.

WWII USAF pilots are not representative of humanity as a whole. They were almost exclusively white males, young- or middle-aged(?), raised during a certain time period, almost all Christians of one sort or another, more intelligent and athletic than their peers, etc. I have this feeling that if torture was the most effective means of getting information from them, the cultural relativists would remember their cultural relativism.

I'd like to leave the decision to torture to the professionals, but I'd also like to believe the pros are conducting themselves professionally (which does not appear to have been the case at Abu Ghraib). If we can't trust our government to torture in a proper manner, perhaps our government should not be torturing.
1.9.2007 4:24am
annej (mail) (www):
@Daryl Herbert: I most certainly do not trust your government. I thought the whole idea of laws that they apply equally to everyone and that they thus reign in the power of the government.

@Enoch: No. You just gave an example where torture was effective. I didn't dispute the notion that it could be effective. This is no ticking time bomb though. The army had all the time in the world to question this bloke and the number of potential casualties was limited.
1.9.2007 6:38am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
The Japanese had a million-man army in mid 1945 that was advancing not retreating.

Yep, and the Germans in April of 1945 were merely shortening their supply lines. BTW we (not to mention the Brits and Russians had 12 million men under arms in 1945). Its kind of difficult to argue that the Japanese were unwilling to surrender when the simple historical fact is that they did.

They built 5 gaseous diffusion separators. Now there is a debate as to how far the program got. Some contend they actually tested a device about the same time the US did.

Five whole gaseous diffusion separators! How impressive. You must be one of those people who thinks that the one buried in that guy's back yard in Iraq was capable of cranking out pounds of weapons grade uranium. Problem is, The U.S. K-25 plant at Oak Ridge, required 4000 stages to separate Uranium and even then didn't produce enough weapons grade uranium. It was further separated in a electromagnetic separation facility (Y-12). K-25 cost $500 million to build and employed 12,000 people, Y-12 cost $427 million and employed 22,000. That was just for the gun-type uranium bomb. The implosion device was a plutonium device which requires the mastering a controlled fission reaction and then separating the plutonium out of the highly reactive spent fuel rods. There is no evidence anyone in the world had built a nuclear reactor or even figured out what the critical mass was for a sustained controlled fission reaction (other than us) prior to the end of WWII.
1.9.2007 7:45am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Annej. Does being deliberately obtuse come easily, or do you have to work at it? I said or implied absolutely nothing of the kind.
The reason I asked about the children's book issue is that similar things are considered "torture" by certain parties. Anything that makes the prisoner uncomfortable--which includes scaring him--counts as torture, at least when it's done to prisoners we hold. What's done to our guys in others' hands doesn't seem to register.
Next question: We have a neighbor who fought in the Phillipines. His unit had a Nisei interpreter who interrogated Japanese prisoners. One of his techniques was to stare at the guy for twenty minutes. Then tell him the emperor liked to do obscene things with little boys. This would frequently engrage the prisoner, or, in some fashion non-Japanese don't understand, break him.
If wrapping some jihadi in an Israeli flag is torture, did this interpreter torture?
It's all very well to talk of NKVD methods, but the current debate will include anything, even fake menstrual blood as "torture", at least until a democrat is elected president.
The colonel West case is interesting; another example of the difficulties of irregular warfare.
If, in more conventional warfare, the guy had been an enemy grunt found in the jungle and queried, all he'd know is where his company was half an hour ago and the company would probably modify its actions based on the possibility that we had one of their guys. Or he'd have an idea that something big was up, in about two weeks, which the unit that captured him might be interested in, should they live so long.

Anderson. Being nice to guys who are, basically, nice like us, western civilization guys in a conventional, impersonal war sometimes works. But it works better if the interrogator is security and predictability in a larger environment of unpredictability and unknown consequences applied with no particular consistency to one or another action, or non-action.
The interrogator is the good cop and the larger environment is the bad cop.
I'd be interested in knowing if it works with jihadis.
1.9.2007 8:05am
Jeek:
This is no ticking time bomb though.

Sure it was. Sniper attack could come at any time.

The army had all the time in the world to question this bloke and the number of potential casualties was limited.

Nice attitude. If your brother/son/husband were one of the "limited" number of guys about to get sniped, would you still want the Colonel to treat this prisoner with kid gloves?
1.9.2007 8:16am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
The reason I asked about the children's book issue is that similar things are considered "torture" by certain parties. Anything that makes the prisoner uncomfortable--which includes scaring him--counts as torture, at least when it's done to prisoners we hold.

No they are not all considered torture. Some of those practices may rise to the level of cruel, inhuman and degrading without raising to the level of torture. Such treatment is also prohibited by our laws. To constantly focus the debate on whether or not to torture detainees is drawing the line at the wrong place.

As I pointed out above, our laws require a much higher standard of treatment than simply not "torturing" detainees. That is a point that seems to be lost in this whole debate. So when you complain that human rights groups complain about such treatment they are not claiming that it amounts to torture but that it is still prohibited as "cruel, degrading or inhuman."
1.9.2007 8:39am
Anderson (mail) (www):
The Japanese had a million-man army in mid 1945 that was advancing not retreating.

Obviously, Mr. Zarkov is getting his history someplace special. We owned the ocean in summer 1945, and could blockade Japan. A million men in China were not doing the Japanese a bit of good, though one argument for using The Bomb was to save the Chinese much suffering (see Richard Frank, Downfall).

As for the Japanese Bomb, Mr. Thomas adequately disposes of that fantasy. Don't believe everything you read on the Internets, Mr. Z.
1.9.2007 9:41am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
J. F. You may be right, objectively, but in the current climate that counts for nothing.
Inhuman, degrading and cruel are lumped in with real torture, both to pump up the numbers of so-called incidents and to make it less likely than ever that an enemy may be induced to talk.
1.9.2007 10:48am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Inhuman, degrading and cruel are lumped in with real torture, both to pump up the numbers of so-called incidents and to make it less likely than ever that an enemy may be induced to talk.

Well, the obvious solution is to stick to tried and true, non-degrading interrogation methods like those laid out in the Army field manual. If the worst we had done was ripped a few pages out of a Koran or smeared someone with red ink we told him was menstrual blood, then we could say, "well, a couple interrogators got carried away". But those were among the the least degrading and abusive things we did and apparently are still doing. There is no doubt that detainees have been tortured to death including beaten so bad that they died of their injuries. So when you claim that "so-called incidents" are all lumped in with real torture, it is the pattern and totality of incidents, not just the ones on the relatively minor end of the continuum that matters.
1.9.2007 11:19am
whit:
"I'm not saying that you are advocating torture. I take your word for it you're not."

i'm not saying i'm against it either. i am saying the issue i am discussing is the unsupported claims that it is ineffective.

"You are saying that in a scenario where time is of the essence rapport building will not work, but torture will. "

in some sense, yes. but don't oversimplify. i've conducted HUNDREDS of interrogations. people are, to some extent different, and to some extent have many commonalities

for SOME people, torture will work (that's most people). for some it won't. for some people in some crimes, guilt works. others, it doesn't

NO method is 100% foolproof nor is there any methiod that is merely in isolation. it is also the skill of the interrogator, the circumstances, sometimes luck, etc.

we are talking human behavior here. we can talk about stats in aggregate, but behavior VARIES.

"I'm simply saying that you're grossly oversimplifying matters, because you are now comparing rapport building for which there is not enough time, with torturing that will get the info. You should be comparing rapport building for which there is not enough time, with torturing someone you don't know for sure has the info, will give the info or even if he has and will, the info will help you disarm the bomb. My guess? Unless you already have extensive background info on the person you're bound to torture, torture won't help when you don't have enough time to rapport build. "


no, you are oversimplifying things. these are generalities. some methods GENERALLY work better than others. individual cases vary

"By the way, you've already said that torture won't work on terrorist. Why would they feel discomfort if they don't feel guilty for blowing up infidels? So why would torture work again?"

no, i didn't. you really need to READ what i wrote. what i said is that when a terorrist believes in their cause, then the GUILT method of applying discomfort will be less likely to work

for example, i interrogated somebody once who i knew was very devout religiously. these people tend to have rather strong "guilt thang" going on, IN GENERAL. so, i used a technique that, to a large extent, relied on creating a sense of guilt in him, and he confessed. it was UNCOMFORTABLE for him

for a terrorist who believes in his cause, or a sociopath, or a person who believes their crime was moraly justified, etc. trying to use guilt will NOT create discomfort and will not work.

discomfort works IN GENERAL. how to CREATE discomfort is the question. (note: discomfort is not the only way , but a good way to get a confession. make the person psychologically set in a condition where it creates LESS discomfort by confessing, and you have a confession)

torture CREATES discomfort. people want it to stop . that is PRIMARILY why torture works, for the same reason most interrogations work

so, you compeltely missed my point. my point is that you cannot create a feeling of guilt discomfort about a crime in a subject who does not think their crime was WRONG e.g a TERRORIST

do you understand my point?
1.9.2007 11:40am
A. Zarkov (mail):
J. F. Thomas:

“Its kind of difficult to argue that the Japanese were unwilling to surrender when the simple historical fact is that they did.”

The Japanese were unwilling to surrender until we used nuclear weapons. The revisionists claim Japan was ready to surrender even before that. I never said that they didn’t surrender.

As for the Japanese nuclear weapons program; we don’t have a smoking gun--yet. However as additional facts emerge over time the existence of that program becomes more and more credible not less. Many of the assertions first advanced about the Japanese, such as their lack a fast neutron track have been contradicted. You can choose to ignore the accumulating evidence if you want, but it must be factored into our analysis of how necessary it was to use nuclear weapons at that time at least from a historical perpective.

Anderson:

“Obviously, Mr. Zarkov is getting his history someplace special.”

I’m getting it from Enola Gay and the Court of History (Frontiers in Political Communication, V. 8.). The author provides detailed documentation to support his case. There are other books out that go over the same material and provide more. I choose Newman because he is a very respected historian. What’s your evidence by way of references that Japan was ready to surrender before 1945 and did not have the capacity to wage a vigorous and costly defense if we had invaded? If they were so prostrate, then why were we planning for hundreds of thousands of casualties? Why did General Groves say “The mothers of America would have never forgiven us if we had not used to bomb to end the war without recourse to invasion?"
1.9.2007 11:44am
annej (mail) (www):
@Jeek: Yes. You cited your example as proof of a case where there is very limited time to prevent an imminent and mass amount of deaths that can't be stopped otherwise.

You simply failed that standard. There won't be a mass amount of deaths if a sniper attacks (not to say it's not a terrible thing to happen, but it doesn't have the same moral relevancy in the utilitarian game the torture proponents play). The time is not limited because the bomb will explode if this guy was not tortured: staying inside (not really helping, I know) would prevent the killing as well.

Again I grant that this is a case where torture was effective. Not that it was necessary.
1.9.2007 11:46am
annej (mail) (www):
@Aubrey: you and others here keep insisting that there are people who say that yelling is torture or asking about a children's book. I don't know them and I haven't seen anyone on this thread suggesting such a think. So who are you trying to convince?

And yes, I work very hard at being the pompous ass that I am. Thank you for noticing.

Wrapping someone in a flag torture? Come on. You're willingly blurring the line between torture and inhuman and degreading treatment so that torture will loose its meaning. It's like Congress making a resolution calling the situation in Darfur "genocide" and then not doing anything. Wrapping someone in Israel's flag is degrading and such is smearing someone with menstrual blood. It's stupid because it's contraproductive. By wrapping someone into Israel's flag and by smearing blood we are willingly degrading the religious of the captured. We are signaling that we are in a religious war to the end. While this may be true for some people, most people consider "the war on terror" a struggle against extremism.
1.9.2007 11:53am
annej (mail) (www):

Inhuman, degrading and cruel are lumped in with real torture, both to pump up the numbers of so-called incidents and to make it less likely than ever that an enemy may be induced to talk


Back to be a pompous ass again, because again this is just nonsense. Where are all these indictments you speak of?
1.9.2007 11:57am
annej (mail) (www):

no, you are oversimplifying things. these are generalities. some methods GENERALLY work better than others. individual cases vary


And that's why we shouldn't have a general rule permitting torture. I never said (and I still haven't found anyone who did on this blog) that torture is never effective. I did say that it is not nearly effective to overcome the moral objections and make general rules about.
1.9.2007 11:59am
whit:
anne, that's illogical

i've already explained why

it's an unreasonable benchmark, and again my point was that it is absurd to say it doesn't work, sans evidence, as many torture opponents say. i respect the MORAL argument against torture. i disrespect an argument that claims unsupported things (torture doesn't work) to promote a moral agenda
1.9.2007 12:24pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
annej
I guess it doesn't take much work. I said nothing about indictments.

I have gone around on lefty blogs on this and they conflate the Israeli flag and fake menstrual blood with torture. Not with outraging the religious sensibilities of people who are outraged if you, as one writer observed, turn on the electric coffee maker. But with torture.
Various international human rights groups and domestic democrats do the same thing.

To make my point about partisanship rather than principle being at issue here, see how many front page articles Tucker and Menchaca got at the NYT, WaPo, LA Times, Time, Newsweek, how often they got mentioned at CNN or the dinosaur networks.

Because you have a computer, you can search for those names instead of asking, "Who?"
1.9.2007 12:32pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
As for the Japanese nuclear weapons program; we don’t have a smoking gun--yet

K-25 was the largest structure ever built at the time (half a mile by 1000 ft) and consumed massive amounts of electricity (one of the reasons it was built in Tennessee to draw power from recently completed TVA hydroelectric dams). While a handful of very bright people might have been able to design a nuclear weapon in the 1940s, the U.S., and the U.S. alone, had the combination of economic might, protection of distance from bombers, real estate, technical knowhow, raw materials (the shortage of copper necessitated the melting of silver bars from the treasury to make the electromagnets for Y-12's electromagnetic separators), manpower, and sheer number of scientists and technicians (many of them refugees from the Nazis), to actually build a bomb.
1.9.2007 12:40pm
SG:
annej:

I never said [...] that torture is never effective. I did say that it is not nearly effective to overcome the moral objections and make general rules about.



How effective is it? 50%, 10%, 1%? What's your source for the effectiveness? Since your argument is really a cost-benfit argument, don't you also need to take into account the benefit? What would have been the benefit of (say) foiling the 9/11 plot?

I understand the moral argument against torture (although not against degrading treatment). I don't understand the pragmatic argument. If, as you conceed, torture works then pragmatism says that there will inevitably be situations in which it is the lesser evil.
1.9.2007 12:53pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
SG.
The problem is that if torture works some times, then it must be accepted that eschewing it in all cases will have a cost borne by the party which chooses not to torture.
It might have been Col. West.
It might be ten thousand civilians.
I haven't heard of anybody who wants to make the argument that you and your family might die because we refuse to torture, even though it may work sometimes.
Easier to insist it never works.
As with, IMO, the military's insistence that it never works. It means there's no incentive to worry about having to decide whether to do it. There'd be no point.
Even if the military were convinced, at high command levels, that it works sometimes, they might say the same thing. Doesn't work, don't bother yourself.

Rapport depends in part on Stockholming the guy. He may identify with the oppressor, especially the nice guy--the interrogator--to the extent that the non-interrogation circumstances are unpleasant. So, within acceptable guidelines, how would you Stockholm a jihadi? How would you make seeing the interrogator a bit of a relief?
1.9.2007 1:19pm
Jeek:
You cited your example as proof of a case where there is very limited time to prevent an imminent and mass amount of deaths that can't be stopped otherwise.

I didn't say anything about "mass" casualties.

You simply failed that standard. There won't be a mass amount of deaths if a sniper attacks (not to say it's not a terrible thing to happen, but it doesn't have the same moral relevancy in the utilitarian game the torture proponents play).

A non-fatal, non-maiming torture of a single individual that saves the life of even ONE other person certainly seems morally justifiable, especially in this case, when time was of the essence.
1.9.2007 2:58pm
gasman (mail):
The solution to Adam's question requires nothing more than a randomized controlled trial. After detainees are brought into the system they are then randomly assigned to receive either tortue, or non-torture interogation. Data gathered by the practitioners of both arts are then given to randomly assigned field investigators who themselves are blinded as to the means by which the data was collected. After the data is checked for veracity the blinding is removed and the results should be conclusive.
As for the Nuremburg code of ethics for human research we might have to fudge a bit on a few points. Consent of the subject we'll merely record as 'implied' if they utter the phrase 'death to america'.
1.9.2007 4:21pm
annej (mail) (www):
@richard Audrey: You are right and I am sorry. I've read your comments to quickly and read indictment where it said incident. I was a bit to full of my self.
1.9.2007 5:46pm
annej (mail) (www):
@SG: that's why I asked the opponents of torture to come up with examples where torture was more efficient than normal interrogation. So far my request was fruitless. So far I got one successful case of torture where there simply was enough time to rapport build and another where there was enough time AND the torturer actually shot and killed the most innocent detainee.
1.9.2007 5:49pm
annej (mail) (www):

when time was of the essence


That's why you failed my second question. In the case of the TTBS if nothing happens people will get killed (the bomb will go of). In you're case there is no such danger that will definitely occur if the detainee isn't tortured.
1.9.2007 5:51pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
The problem is that if torture works some times, then it must be accepted that eschewing it in all cases will have a cost borne by the party which chooses not to torture.


Personally, I'm willing to accept the proposition that there are instances in which torture has worked.

But so far, I have yet to see one proponent of torture (or its effectiveness) admit that innocent people inevitably end up getting tortured.

Because once you admit that innocent people get tortured, the pro-torture argument is pretty much dead in the water. Only those so morally bankrupt as John Yoo would take the next step of arguing that the torture of innocent persons is justified as "collateral damage".
1.9.2007 5:55pm
SG:
From my understanding, the French (in Algeria) and Israeli experiences seem to suggest that the problem with torture is not that it doesn't work, but that it works too well.

That is, torture provides (quality) information so easily that the slippery slope is rapidly slid down. This leads to a lack of oversight, innocents being tortured, torture being used when unnecessary (a lack of exigency or routine intelligence gathering), etc. There's clearly a dangerous and slippery slope.

However, coercion is not synonymous with torture. By definition, anything you do to make someone cooperate with their enemy is at some basic level coercive. If you accept the gathering of intelligence from prisoners to be a legitimate activity (and with true POWs, it's not a legitimate activity), there must be some element of coercion allowed. Where the you cross the line from coercion to torture is not always obvious, nor does everyone draw the line in the same place. IMO, with the possible exception of waterboarding, none of the "special methods" that I've read about rise to the level of torture.
1.9.2007 6:36pm
whit:
"But so far, I have yet to see one proponent of torture (or its effectiveness) admit that innocent people inevitably end up getting tortured"

i'll bite.

i admit it.

i also admit that innocent people end up going to jail for stuff they didn't do, end up getting the death penalty for a crime they didn't commit, end up getting their career taken away based upon a crime that didn't happen, etc.

that would be an IMPOSSIBLE metric (to only use torture when you KNOW the person is guilty), much like Anne's was.

why don't we get rid of incarceration and prosecution completely for that matter? i am 100% certain that innocents are sometimes wrongly convicted of crimes they didn't commit.

same argument.

we are dealing with human behavior, with interpretation of dynamic datapoints, etc. etc.

i think SG and Aubrey hit it right on the head in terms of the whole cost/benefit etc. thing

and SG was spot on in his last post

people who do not want our country torturing anybody (and I certainly have reservations about it, even though i think it is a necessary evil), WANT to have a "rational" and 100% way to dismiss it as a policy. so, they want to believe that torture is not effective because it gives a foolproof "out".

it is simply absurd, and unsupported by evidence.

i've already explained why torture (generally) works. the same reason MOST interrogation methods work - the discomfort factor

when an interrogation subject feels/believes that confessing will relieve his discomfort AND the discomfort is beyond his "threshold" whether that is psychological, physical, etc. he will confess
1.9.2007 6:49pm
Enoch:
I have yet to see one proponent of torture (or its effectiveness) admit that innocent people inevitably end up getting tortured.

Because once you admit that innocent people get tortured, the pro-torture argument is pretty much dead in the water. Only those so morally bankrupt as John Yoo would take the next step of arguing that the torture of innocent persons is justified as "collateral damage".


Does not the same logic entirely rule out war as well? In war, innocent people inevitably wind up getting killed. Once you admit that innocent people get killed, the pro-war argument is pretty much dead in the water, except among the morally bankrupt, right?
1.10.2007 12:03am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Zarkov: What’s your evidence by way of references that Japan was ready to surrender before 1945 and did not have the capacity to wage a vigorous and costly defense if we had invaded?

That wasn't what I was mocking, but rather the bizarre notion that Japan had a viable A-bomb program, rather than a lot of wishful thinking.

Who, exactly, has seriously argued that Japan was "ready to surrender before 1945"?

Whether the A-bomb was more or less wicked than blockade would've been is largely academic; I am persuaded by Richard Frank's argument (mentioned above) that a speedier resolution to the war saved a great many lives in China &elsewhere.
1.10.2007 9:58am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I haven't heard of anybody who wants to make the argument that you and your family might die because we refuse to torture, even though it may work sometimes.

Well, Richard, there are many soldiers who have given their lives to defend abstract principles like freedom, democracy and liberty, or even just to save their buddies' lives. Visit the Pentagon one day and read some of the stories in the Medal of Honor Corridor for some examples of some true heroes who have done just that.

I for one would willingly give the lives of myself and my family if I knew that this country had held true to its principles and refused to stoop to torture. I would hope that anyone who claims to be a Christian would do the same without the least hesitation. To think that we are even discussing this as citizens of what was six years ago the greatest democracy ever created is truly appalling.
1.10.2007 3:03pm
Zebulon:
Pah, if we could have tortured one guy and prevented 9/11, I would have gladly worked the thumbscrews myself. Then you wouldn't have to get your soft, pretty hands al dirty.
1.10.2007 3:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
J.F. Good for you. Have you polled your family on this?

But if somebody whose opinion is meaningless--he has no influence--can say this because he knows that what is necessary will happen notwithstanding, let's narrow it down.
Let's have politicians saying it in public.
Other public figures. Then we'll poll the folks to see what they say.
1.10.2007 4:51pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Let's have politicians saying it in public.

Doesn't the president constantly say "we don't torture"? I don't here any elected official saying we should use any method available, rape their daughters and wives in front of them, hook their testicles up to car batteries if it means we will save American lives. Quite the opposite. Obviously, we think "torture" is bad for some reason.
1.11.2007 9:02am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
J. F. Of course we think it's bad. "We don't hear politicians saying, you-all out there are in greater danger because we don't torture. Thought you'd like to know. Be proud."

Years ago, I saw the old anti-war play, "The Eleventh Mayor". The occupiers wanted cooperation from a town and the mayor wouldn't order it, so the occupiers shot him. By the time the play ended, they were at mayor eleven.
Nuts. They only need the first mayor and one of his kids. Or, for that matter, one of anybody's kids.

J.F.'s morality play is presumed to end with his family, whose lives he is willingly giving up, simply whooshing into nothingness. The circumstances of their putative death are not considered.

So. Let's hear people in authority telling us we will, if we haven't already, paid a price for not torturing.
1.11.2007 9:55am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
So. Let's hear people in authority telling us we will, if we haven't already, paid a price for not torturing.

I honestly think I have lost your point. First you say, "oh you liberals aren't willing to say that you are willing to sacrifice your or your families lives if it means forgoing torture". I say I will and point out that our leaders, even though they are obviously torturing people refuse to admit it or try to define torture so what they are doing is not torture, so obviously, it is the torture advocates that lack the courage of their convictions, not the anti-torture advocates.

Then you come back and say torture is bad. Is it bad but necessary? But if so, why do we criticize other countries for doing it? Why is it bad when Saddam does it but not us? Because our motives are pure? If torture is effective, why are some methods acceptable but others not? Why all the memos to define what is or is not torture? Why not give the interrogators a car battery, some electrodes, a bucket of water and let them go crazy? After all, the ends will justify the means. Why must the president insist we "don't torture". Shouldn't he just stand up and say "damn right we're torturing these bastards. We're trying to save American lives here." Wouldn't we all cheer at this statement?
1.11.2007 11:17am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I was speaking of those who oppose torture. They should tell us there is a cost that we will pay. That would be more honest than endless arguments to the effect that it doesn't work and so we don't do it.

Memos for definition are not done in an environment presuming good faith on the part of the opponents. As I mentioned when referring to Menchaca and Tucker, some torture is just dan and finedy. Torture which makes Bush look bad is impermissible, and if that isn't available, we can fake up stories of Koran desecration.
We have memos to try to regularize the discussion in an atmosphere which is poisonously partisan and takes no interest in facts.

As an example, you'll note that Plamegate is nobody's cause any longer, since they can't get to Bush through Armitage. But Plame is trying to write a book--some of which the CIA insisted on redacting--which means she's trying to tell a hell of a lot more than Novak let out. But nobody cares. Since it doesn't show any promise of getting Bush.

Same thing with torture. If necessary, lie about what is happening, make stuff up, conflate some fictional diet issue with "torture". If a dem is elected, this will all go away, whatever the facts of the case.
1.11.2007 12:58pm