Yesterday I had to remove someone from my feed-reader who was all “I’m sick of all these panty-waist liberals crying over the torture of terrorists.  We should have done more to them and worse!  We need to protect America.”

I haven’t said anything about all the torture revelations because what can you say?  There’s something many moms try to convince their heterosexual daughters of–“If he does it for you, he’ll do it to you.”  If he steals from his sister to buy you things, someday he’s going to steal from you.  If he lies to other folks about you, someday he’ll lie to you.  If he cheats on his girlfriend with you, someday he’ll cheat on you.  If he leaves his wife for you, someday he’ll leave you.

It’s not always true, but more often than not.  People are usually pretty up-front about who they are, if you will listen.

And yes, I am against torture for all kinds of reasons.  I know it doesn’t work.  I know it breaks the people it’s done to.  I know it breaks the people who do it.  I know that it makes the world a more dangerous place for our soldiers.  And I know any time you’re adopting the methods and strategies of your enemies, you have lost your moral compass as a nation.  Not to mention that it was breaking the law.

But the main reason I would expect any American, liberal or conservative, to be appalled and pissed off about torture, to be screaming in the streets for people to be arrested and tried and thrown in prison, for even fucking Nancy Pelosi to have to answer for how she could hear about this when it was going on and not have the guts to risk her political career to end it, is that these are just men and women who did this, who ordered it and who carried it out.  Men and women in our goverment.

And, like our moms tried to warn us–if they’ll do it for you, they’ll do it to you.

17 thoughts on “Torture

  1. I’d have removed that person from my feed as well.

    I considered writing a dissertation chapter on torture, but then it occured to me that it would be really short. “Torture is wrong, period, end of story” doesn’t make for a good chapter on the ethics of warfare.

  2. “I know it doesn’t work.”

    From the NY Times:

    “Banned Techniques Yielded ‘High Value Information,’ Memo Says”

    “WASHINGTON – President Obama’s national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.”


    “Admiral Blair’s assessment that the interrogation methods did produce important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the media last Thursday. Also deleted was a line in which he empathized with his predecessors who originally approved some of the harsh tactics after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”

    It did work. It helped us break Al Qaeda. If you want to have the debate that it wasn’t worth the lives saved, or that the cost was too high, that is a good debate to have.

    But to have that debate, we need the whole story, not those parts of the story that Obama wants us to have. Why redact half the story, as the current Administration did, if the point is to find The Truth.

    Or is it more about controlling the narrative and rank politics?

  3. Oh, come the fuck on, Lee! Really? Then what was that information? Or are we going to find out that it’s just the bullshit they tried to sell us yesterday about the US Bank building in LA which turned out to be demonstrably untrue because of the timeline?

    If you don’t see that this is every politician and person in Washington, regardless of party, who knew this was going on and did nothing to stop it, scrambling to cover their asses and the asses of their colleagues, I don’t know what to say to you.

    Aren’t you conservatives supposed to be skeptical of the government and you’re actually going to show up here and be like “I believe the government when they tell me torture works!”

    Come on.


  4. Maybe it took them a while to get it right.

    Look out if al quaida recruits some fashion models. We’ll get them down to 500 cal/day and they’ll STILL be puking it up as soon as we leave the cell.

  5. “Oh, come the fuck on, Lee! Really? Then what was that information?”

    We don’t know, and that’s the point. That was redacted from the memos. We’re only getting half the story. And remember, this is Obama’s guy, Admiral Blair, saying this, not some Bush official.

  6. Who cares whether you received lock-solid word of the time and date of the Second Coming? Torture is wrong. It doesn’t become right because of the quality of information one elicits from suffocating somebody.

    (Hey, we need to have the “I’m sorry I can’t convince you that murder is wrong” guys come back now that we have some common ground. Surely they’d be all about the innate worth and dignity of human life…right?)

  7. Lee, how about this: let’s keep torture absolutely, positively illegal, with strict and severe punishment. Then, if an interregator has any real reason to believe that torture will elicit necessary information, s/he can torture, with the complete understanding that s/he’s gonna face jail time and whatnot for doing so. To the max, probably, if s/he is wrong and no such information shows up. Because, if the interregator is so motivated by trying to save the country, s/he won’t mind. It’ll be less painful than dying for the country, after all, and surely s/he would be willing to do that.

  8. Fair enough, nm. And if there is an attack that we reasonably believe could have been prevented through waterboarding, you get to go to all the parents and explain how their kid is dead because, gee golly, we have to maintain the moral high ground.

  9. Jesus Christ. Exador, please at least try. Why would a terrorist break before an attack? It makes no sense. If torture is going to work at all, the person being tortured has to believe that the only way to end it is for him to cooperate.

    If the hippie liberals are planning on blowing up the NRA convention at 6 p.m. tonight and you capture me and torture me for information, I know I only have to hold out for three hours. I can blab any level of bullshit that will sound vaguely satisfying. I can claim we’re going to blow up Ayn Rand’s house and send you on wild goose chases. Whatever. I just have to hold out until 6.

    The ticking time bomb scenario has to be the least likely of all the unlikely scenarios in which torture might work because the person being tortured actually has knowledge and that knowledge provides him with an end time, which is something the torturer wants to make the tortured believe he’s the only one who has control of that.

  10. So the end justifies the means? This is what we’re about now, Lee?

    Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.

    Kat, you’re much too intelligent to engage in such didactic simplicities. There are all sorts of hypothetical situations that can be imagined where the cost of doing something violent, potentially evil, is outweighed by not doing something. Whole fields are devoted to the ethics of such situations.

    And you know that too, so don’t play the simpleton.

    One example: How many were killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki? How many were saved because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? That debate continues 60 years on.

    How many were potentially saved? Was it worth it? Was the number in the thousands? Was it necessary? How urgent was the situation we faced?

    If information is going to be released, release all the information — not the information the current administration deems convenient for it’s argument like it has so far — so a true and proper assessment can be made by the public.

    That’s what this partial and heavily redacted release aint. Until all the information is released, this isn’t about The Truth, this is about politics.

  11. While I’m no expert on torture, it’s my understanding that effective interrogation isn’t a short term, “they’ll talk to make the pain stop” sort of thing. (because it’s unreliable) It’s wearing them down over time and rechecking the same data over and over again. I suppose because it’s very difficult to keep a fake story straight. Maybe that’s where the 183 times comes from.
    So I find your analogy unrelated.

    Attacks on the level of 911, or the later LA attack, take a long time to plan. Also, there is long term contact/network/infrastructure information.

  12. Exador, they lied to you for years about whether they were torturing. Now it comes out that they were and you’re going to believe them about how effective it is?

    I really, frankly, find that shocking.

  13. For years, they said they weren’t going to discuss the details of the interrogation.

    I base my statement on the effectivity on what I’ve read from unrelated sources and what Sarcastro has told me from his years as a torturer.

    I’ve said too much.

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