OxBlog

Sunday, September 17, 2006

# Posted 9:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALTERNATIVE MEANS OF INTERROGATION: My position on this issue won't surprise anyone. I stand 100% behind John McCain. In a war of ideas, we cannot compromise our values for questionable gains in intelligence.

What I don't understand is why the White House didn't see this confrontation coming. As David Brooks perceptively observed:
John McCain does not want to be bucking his president when he wants to run for president himself and face Republican primary voters. George Bush doesn't want this, because they all want to be unified against the Democrats. So why is this happening?
Brooks argues that both McCain and Bush have dug in hard because both of them believe strongly in their own position. That is correct, but it doesn't explain the White House's failure on the public relations front.

When Bush first came out with his demand for a bill approving of military trials and rough interrogation methods, a lot of liberals got scared. In the New Yorker, George Packer blasted Bush for his "distortions" and "lies", but grudgingly gave him credit for :
flummoxing a newly confident opposition...[Bush] forced the Democrats into an agonizingly familiar position: the preëlection defensive crouch...

It was the kind of performance—part inspirational, part fear-purveying, part bullying—that used to be this President’s signature. Its deftness and its timing were reminiscent of his successful effort in the weeks before the last midterm elections, in 2002.
Packer didn't express much confidence in McCain and his allies, writing that they:
Will either stand up to their party leaders or find a way to declare technical victory while caving in.
Yet McCain & Co. continue to hold strong. Why didn't the White House recognize that Republican senators would undermine what liberals feared was a political masterstroke?

I don't have a real answer, but my best guess is that the White House was thinking in election mode, where the only salient difference is between Democrats and Republicans.

Now what about the Democrats? Where are they on this issue now that the headlines have focused on GOP infighting? In conversation with David Brooks, Mark Shields praised the strategy of his comrades-in-arms:
With uncharacteristic discipline, the Democrats have gone mute. They've let this argument and this debate occur between the White House, and the president, and several of his supporters on Capitol Hill.
Consensual silence may be an achievement for the Democrats, but why haven't they figured out how to launch a concerted attack on Bush at the same time that he has to deal with McCain & Co.?

The Democrats are in a tough position. Like John Kerry in '04, they seem mortally afraid of coming out strongly against POW abuse. Given how strongly Democrats claim to feel about torture this seems like a somewhat cowardly position, but perhaps it is simply a recognition of political reality.

Even, so this pragmatism has a cost. Every time John McCain claims the mantle of leadership on an issue of national importance, he comes that much closer to winning the White House. Moreover, since McCain's greatest liability as a general election candidate may be his association with Bush, the chance to challenge the President so publicly while the Democrats remain silent helps demonstrate McCain's independence.

That's bad for the Democrats, but I'm not going to shed any tears.
(32) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
"In a war of ideas, we cannot compromise our values for questionable gains in intelligence."


This is kind of out there (and too long as well), but why do we take these top level al-queda types prisoner to begin with? If they won't talk what's the point of them being alive? We probably wouldn't need Gitmo anymore.

If we were going to stick with our "values" wouldn't we quit taking prisoners and kill everyone we had to until the war ended. That's the way it's always been isn't it? If they (has anyone but Germany ever followed anything close to them?seriously) don't bother with the Geneva conventions we don't.

I understand and agree, mostly, with not torturing people as a matter of principle, but if it's a method acceptable for everyone who goes through S.E.R.E. why is it too much for high level al-queda jerk-offs.

If this were local police and they had a some guy from a group who kept killing kids would anyone really be upset with the cop who kicked his teeth down his throat in order to prevent the next death. Would anyone have cared twenty years ago? Who gets to define our values as Americans?
 
That's bad for the Democrats, but I'm not going to shed any tears.

David, we truly weren't expecting any from you.

So why is this happening?

It could be because McCain was a POW in North Vietnam for five and half years while Bush was AWOL from his Texas Air National Guard gig, and that McCain having suffered through torture sees its inhumanity and its ineffectiveness.

You might try to get past the politics of it.
 
Anon:

McCain is using his experiences as a canard. The issue is what is torture.

Article three does not define torture so much as allow anyone who is the recipient of any more than a US (not another country) police interview to claim torture.

We loose our moral authority in some eyes (the usual suspects) every time someone claims we tortured them, even if is not true.

Article four explicitly excludes the very people the court decided were covered. So it is OK for the court to redefine the convention in a way to increase the chances of non-combatent deaths, but it is not ok for the President to seek clarifications in US law to ensure we know what the Congress expects our forces, military and intelligence, to do in defense of the country.

Is this not better than the Mccain approach, which "is they can do it and we will immunize them after the fact, but only if the information gained is sufficiently important." I wasn't surprised at McCain's approach. It reflects an effort to transfer the more sleazy side of politics to military and intelligence work.

I was surprised at the lack of comment both at the time he said this and now when he is grandstanding.
 
McCain is using his experiences as a canard.

A canard is 'an unfounded rumor or story.' This is the usual right wing Swift-Boating. Go crawl under a rock.

The issue is what is torture.

Actually, it wasn't but let's shift the focus. The third Geneva Convention was passed in 1929 and updated in 1949.

Article 3 says:

...

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

The Oxford-American defines torture as "the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or to force them to do or say something, or for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain."

It is apparently that this last part, for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain, that is at work here. Torture is a Rovian election issue so that the right wing Davods can vicariously enjoy it.
 
Anon:

So tell me. You can prattle on all you want but what part of Article Three is the administration trying to undermine.

Torture is illegal in the US. I would suggest to you that the techniques in question may have nothing to do with the defintion quoted by you.

You miss the point entirely. The US courts have redefined the Geneva Convention to include terrorists which in itself puts non-combatents in danger.

Why then is it so terrible for the Administration to seek clarification from the Congress.

I would suggest to you that if they do not act that in a few years they will be seen as the chief reason the intelligence services were emasculated prior to another group of attacks. Of course the excuses will be easy to come by but the dead will have no say.

Your last sentence shows the moral vacuum you live in. I disagree with your stance therefore I must of the right wing and take pleasure from the infliction of pain.
 
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

Waterboarding and sexual humiliation at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

Indefinite extrajudicial imprisonment at Guantanamo.
 
This is a canrad at least with regard to John Kerry:

Like John Kerry in '04, they seem mortally afraid of coming out strongly against POW abuse.

From October 2004:

Now Mr. Kerry has taken a stand. In a statement drawn up in response to our questions, the Democratic nominee declares that "a Kerry administration will apply the Geneva Conventions to all battlefield combatants captured in the war on terror."

What part of that is "mortally afraid", David? WWhat part of that appears to be equivocation, David?

A canard repeated gains no credibility through repetition. You're wrong, purely and simply.
 
Randy, you're mistaken about a canard repeated gains no credibility through repetition.

Part of Goebbels' strategy was that if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

But you're right about everything else.
 
Anonymous,

You're right, of course. I should have said it doesn't become true through repetition, although many choose to believe it.
 
IMO, the issue is "degrading and humiliating". The definition of that piece of smoke is whatever shocks the conscience.

And whose conscience is to be shocked, or not?

It appears, there being no obvious obstacle, that any judge, perhaps restricted to the ICC, who gets a nice check from Saudi Arabia and decides his conscience has been shocked by, say, a female guard in a too-tight body armor top, insists on trying Sgt. Smith at the Hague.

If you don't like my example, consider this: What isn't covered if somebody claims to have a shocked conscience? Where does it tell us how to find certified consciences? Whose consciences don't count? What mechanism is prescribed to determine if the complainer has a geniunely shocked conscience or is falsely claiming to be shocked?

Or, the point is, dismissal by means of disgusting glottal noises notwithstanding, anybody can be prosecuted under that particular article for anything.

Oh, but it wouldn't happen. Sure. From lawyers that's a real hoot.
 
The trivialization of war crimes. Sad and sadistic.

Perhaps you might want to look at these and ask whether they are torture? Hint: people are already in prison because of them.

The reason why torture is a controversy now is that for political reasons it motivates the Republican base for the fall midterm elections. It is inhumane and it is ineffective. Being inhumane it degrades our soldiers. Being ineffective it contributes to terrorism. But hey, it gets Republicans elected.
 
Or, the point is, dismissal by means of disgusting glottal noises notwithstanding, anybody can be prosecuted under that particular article for anything.

Name one instance of a completely frivolous prosecution under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
 
Randy.

As I said, this is for the future. Purposely for the future.

So far, under the new SCOTUS guidelines, we don't appear to have any terrs interrogated. There's a slowdown.

My point is that this is designed to give anybody--like you--carte blanche to indict or suggest for indictment any US soldier for anything having to do with a terrorist.
The insistence on not defining it gives away your purpose.
 
Randy, I like debates where there is a clear outcome and one side is "wrong, purely and simply." But I think you've really jumped the gun and mistaken a nitpick for a decisive victory.

Yes, I know Kerry had a different position from Bush on detainees. What I said was Kerry was afraid of "coming out strongly." There's a very big difference between the two.

Notice how the Post editorial you cite is from October. Strange, isn't it, that as late as October the Post had to ask Kerry (and get a response in writing) with regard to his position on detainees?

If Kerry really wanted to confront Bush about detainees, he could've started blasting away during his acceptance address and mentioned Abu Ghraib every chance he got.

Instead, Kerry quietly registered his position. Not out of principle, but out of a fear of losing votes.
 
Aubrey

under the new SCOTUS guidelines

if you're referring to Hamden, the SC reversed and remanded. No such guidelines were issued. The majority upheld the UCMJ and the Geneva Conventions, in particular, struck down detainee tribunals under article III.

You may be thinking of John Yoo's torture guidelines--Just Do It--but his legal opinions remain classified.

David

If Kerry really wanted to confront Bush about detainees, he could've started blasting away during his acceptance address and mentioned Abu Ghraib every chance he got.

Then your position would have been that Kerry was undermining the president in a time of war. The argument would change but the result would be the same, sort of like a David Brooks article.

Again, you might try to get past the politics of it.
 
Actually David, you said mortally afraid.

October 2004 was less than six months after Abu Ghraib came to light.

Strange, isn't it, that as late as October the Post had to ask Kerry (and get a response in writing) with regard to his position on detainees?

Not at all. Perhaps he realized that it was not the most important issue. I would argue that it is not nearly as strange as continually saying the US doesn't torture and then seek ways to do just that. I'm sure you'd agree.

Instead, Kerry quietly registered his position. Not out of principle, but out of a fear of losing votes.

In one of the top three newspapers in the country he registered his position. Asked and answered, David and unambiguously so. I also do not know if that was the only time he declared his position. The fact that you weren't aware of it indicates to me that you never bothered to look. To accuse someone of being mortally afraid of something that will not kill them is to accuse them of cowardice. That's not a nitpick, it's merely a troublesome fact.

With all due respect, David, your zeal to trash Democrats is clouding your judgment.
 
One problem I have on this whole issue is how the media has defined torture. One article I read conflated the fact that Rumsfeld allowed treatment such as blasting Christina Aguilera music and making prisoners stand, with the fiction that the administration authorized real torture. This topic has never been honestly reported in the media.

I also think platitudes like "we must not compromise our values" doesn't get us very far.

As for McCain and Gang, who often use the argument that if we don't treat prisoners well, other countries will torture Americans. Yet McCain was prisoner in North
Vietnam, a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. Did that stop McCain from being tortured? This argument completely ignores the nature of these regimes we're dealing with. They sign international agreements, but they don't abide by them. We sorta need to recognize that before we go any further in this argument.
 
Here's a simple standard.
 
with the fiction that the administration authorized real torture.

With the fact:

"Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture (under U.S. law), it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years. . . . We conclude that the statute, taken as a whole, makes plain that it prohibits only extreme acts.''

Under this definition, interrogation methods that go beyond polite questioning but fall short of torture could include shouted questions, reduced sleep, stress positions (like standing for long periods of time), and isolation from other prisoners. The purpose of these techniques is not to inflict pain or harm, but simply to disorient."

By defining torture in this way they are authorizing torture in this way.
 
More than one person has said that if it's not worse than my fraternity hazing--or my survival school--I don't care.
 
"but fall short of torture could include shouted questions, reduced sleep, stress positions (like standing for long periods of time), and isolation from other prisoners. The purpose of these techniques is not to inflict pain or harm, but simply to disorient."

By defining torture in this way they are authorizing torture in this way."

100$ says "stress-positions"=arm-bars and ankle locks not standing in one place for an extended period of time. It's S.E.R.E and B.J.J. because they know they don't need to torture someone to get results (high level al-queda only, not P.O.W.'s)

If you think shouted questions and loss of sleep are torture you have lost your frickin' mind. The next time we grab a bunch of the queda leaders lets make sure we don't seperate them. It would be horrible if they had to eat ice cream alone.

Another 100$ says that if your local police had a chance to break up a criminal organization that intended to kill everyone they could, they wouldn't worry too much about yelling at the guy.
 
Why do you think that torture is effective? We agree, or at least I think we agree, that we want to get good information out of these people. Why do you think that torture will get it?
 
>>Under this definition, interrogation methods that go beyond polite questioning but fall short of torture could include shouted questions, reduced sleep, stress positions (like standing for long periods of time), and isolation from other prisoners. The purpose of these techniques is not to inflict pain or harm, but simply to disorient."<<

Thats the thing - do you consider this to be torture? I 100% do NOT consider this torture, or even anything close. Standing for long periods of time? Please - I used to have to stand for 8-9 hours a day for my job. Isolation from other prisoners? So why aren't you complaining about Solitary confinement in normal prisons? Shouted questions??!?! This is exactly what I was talking about - what the media has done on this issue. Talk about defining torture down. This is embarassing.
 
The person who you think is 'defining torture down' is John Yoo, the DOJ lawyer who wrote the rather permissive interpretations of the statutes which were struck down in Hamden. You actually agree with him, but you don't know it. Think harder.
 
Hehe then so every Soldier in bootcamp is tortured by his Sargent. It will be nice for the moral of a soldier to have to talk politely to a terrorist and then asking him to die for his country. Real pathetic. And that contrary to what is said here arent even protected by Geneva Convention. For some Guantanamo must be cleaner than a footbal game, police work and of course dont even talk about Dirty Harry ...

But then this will be a non issue in futur. The futur when victory is the main propose after thousands of deaths. Right now the propose is how we look in the mirror. But when the mirror show the ghosts of loved ones things change.

lucklucky
 
Why do some people think torture is effective?

It has been in the past.
 
When? A re-run of NYPD Blue?
 
"Why do you think that torture is effective? We agree, or at least I think we agree, that we want to get good information out of these people. Why do you think that torture will get it?"

Is this directed at me? First, we don't really agree what is torture and what isn't. If your brothers did it (dunking in a swimming pool) to you when you were 12 it isn't torture. It's obnoxious and you could probably find some asshat mental health professional to claim it causes PTSD, but it isn't torture. Torture, imho, is beating people, ripping out fingernails, sicking dogs on them, burning people etc...

What the CIA is doing has more to do with breaking the will of prisoner then harming them. It's about making them so uncomfortable that they lose their will to resist. Then gather as much info. (some accurate some lies) as possible and work it into your existing intel.

If somebody took 100$ from your room and you knew it was either your roomate or one of his three buddies you would probably just ask about the money. If he wouldn't talk you could handcuff his ass and fill your bath tub up with water. Jam his head under water and hold it there for a while, let him up for a breath and then stick him back under water. Eventually he will lose his will and start talking. Make it clear that he had better give the right info. or you will stick his head under water all night and then wake up and do it again tomorrow. Eventually you will get your money back, even though you might have to dunk his friends also.

Why do we take these people (top level al-queda, not regular army) prisoner? They are not going to talk unless you make them and you are not going to be allowed to make them talk. What's the point of taking them prisoner to begin with?
 
First, waterboarding is torture.

What's the point of taking them prisoner to begin with?

I can think of three reasons:

1) because we are morally better than they are.
2) because we want reliable information.
3) by taking them prisoner rather than simply killing them, you break their collective will to fight.

Torture on the other hand:

1) degrades both the tortured and the torturer.
2) produces unreliable information.
3) increases the enemies collective will to fight. Why surrender if you are going to be tortured or executed?

The rest of your post was too strange and so I am ending this conversation.
 
If waterboarding is torture you need to report it ASAP, because they are probably waterboarding members of the Army and Marine Corp. as we type. It's in the R part of S.E.R.E.

1. Killing your sworn enemy is not immoral
2. How do you plan on getting reliable information from top level members of Al-Queda?
3. Killing people is the best way to break their will to fight. Taking prisoners will just pro-long the conflict (i.e. Israel and Lebanon). If there are no prisoners they cannot use that as an excuse to start another pointless war.

1. If you are worried about degrading the prisoners you will need to hire muslim only interrogators, because many (probably everyone in Al-Queda) muslims see non-believers their inferiors. The guys at CIA who specialize in this sort of interogation will probably not feel terribly degraded.

2. Any interrogation produces unreliable information.

3. I don't think this is an issue with Al-Queda and its affiliates.

Would you consider a wet-willy torture? Why didn't anyone care about this when Clinton was running the show?

"The rest of your post was too strange"

I will give you that one, my intentions in the prior comment were not clear.

"so I am ending this conversation."

I win.
 
When has torture worked?

Most every time it's been tried.

The Gestapo rolled up resistance networks through torture.

There is a story I heard from a prof in college but been unable to find elsewhere. The Allies, he said, deliberately misinformed some Resistance leaders as to the Overlord invasion, and made sure they got picked up by the Gestapo. These brave men's outstanding resistance--futile, of course--to torture gave the exercise a bit of artistic verisimilitude. It wouldn't have worked, nor even been tried, if the Gestapo torturers had not had a reputation for effectiveness.

I think the book in which this story is told is "Count Five and Die", which I have been unable to find.

In "Dungeon, Fire, and Sword", about the Knights Templar, there are several stories about how the enemies, such as Phillip The Fair and the Muslims, used torture, effectively.

And everywhere in between, before and since.

IMO, the US military's insistence that torture never works is designed to take the responsibility for deciding off the shoulders of the young guys on the line.

It doesn't always work, which is not to say it never works.
 
"IMO, the US military's insistence that torture never works is designed to take the responsibility for deciding off the shoulders of the young guys on the line."

I agree and that is the correct thing to do. It's also important to treat P.O.W.'s as we expect ours to be treated. I just don't see how a top level al-queda fits into the situation.

BTW, Alexander tortured people all the time and it worked quite well from what I have read.
 
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