Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Party of Torture

Torture is back in the news this week, with Democrats opposed, and Republicans mostly in favor. Bush is essentially saying: We don’t do torture, but we vitally need legislation that gives us permission to do it. Trust us when we say these techniques have borne fruit – after all, we’ve never exaggerated things that were untrue for mere political convenience.

Actually, some military-minded Republicans (McCain, Warner, Graham, Powell) are against it, while civilian, never-personally-been-in-war administration leaders remain very gung-ho. This makes sense, since torture as policy ends up hurting our own soldiers in the end, and those with actual experience in war would be more attuned to the issue.

It is fascinating that we continue to debate this. The only way for Republicans to justify it is to believe it is not torture. Simulated drowning, stripping people naked and exposing them to extreme heat or cold, sleep deprivation, hooking electrodes up to privates, extended periods in “stress positions” – these are merely “fraternity pranks”. Deaths that happen during interrogations are merely mistakes, not torture. Inmates suicides are “asymmetrical warfare”. One wonders if there is any depravity we could commit that would not be immediately rationalized. Ideology is indeed a powerful thing.

But pictures are worth a thousand words. I don't mean to be crass by printing these, but it is vitally important that we understand what we are talking about here. These are the kinds of behaviors that so many Republicans consider “fraternity pranks”:

Here’s a good test to determine whether something is torture or not. It is torture if we would call it torture when applied to our own captured soldiers. Because that is what it comes down to – whether we are willing to live by our own standards. Imagine our own soldiers being stripped naked, beaten, put into stress positions for long periods of time, and almost drowned, and then try to argue that it is an appropriate method of interrogation.

I seem to remember Jesus saying something about treating others like we would like to be treated. He also knew a thing or two about torture. It isn’t very politically correct to follow his advice these days, but I honestly can’t see how Christians can support policies like the ones Bush is advocating.


Anonymous said...

Apparently thisis a story you missed last week. (Following the turning over of Abu Ghraib to the Iraqi's)

Some of the small number of prisoners who remained in the jail [Abu Ghraib] after the Americans left said they had pleaded to go with their departing captors, rather than be left in the hands of Iraqi guards.

"The Americans were better than the Iraqis. They treated us better," said Khalid Alaani, who was held on suspicion of involvement in Sunni terrorism.

The witness said that even in the thieves’ section prisoners were being treated badly. ”Someone was shouting ‘Please help us, we want the human rights officers, we want the Americans to come back’," he said.

As disturbing as these pictures are, they pale in comparison to the torture sanctioned by totalitarian regimes so popular in the Middle East, which probably explains why these prisoners cried for a return of the Americans. Maybe humiliation and discomfort is better than being dropped into a vat of acid.

Dan S said...

You are changing the subject. The issue is whether the US should be a country that supports torture, not whether our brand of torture is better or worse than other countries.

It just underscores how depraved we have become to argue that we are not as bad as Saddam or that the new Iraqi government (that we are responsible for creating) tortures people worse than we do.

Anonymous said...

The issue is whether the US should be a country that supports torture, not whether our brand of torture is better or worse than other countries.

No, the issue is, do people dedicated to the destruction of Democracy--the very "dissent" you and I so routinely exercise--in order to replace it with a totalitarian system of terror and torture (i.e. Sharia), deserve to be spared the very acts they indiscriminately use on civilians from Afghanistan to Baghdad; do they deserve the protection of the liberties they seek to abolish? And if yes, would you allow your own family to be blown up in a transatlantic flight to ensure the protection of the terrorists (It's common knowledge now that the UK transatlantic bomb plot was foiled by the "interrogation" of Rashid Rauf, the al-Qaeda mastermind behind the plot, under the auspices of the Pakistani intelligence)?

The argument today should be whether liberal democratic values are suitable to fight the war on terror with an enemy that has no rules of war, (what Geneva convention?) where blowing up an airplanes with thousands of innocent civilians, busloads of school children, marketplaces packed with women and children, employment lines of young men seeking jobs, or beheading journalists, CAIR workers, anyone who wants peace-- is sanctified under Jihad. No one wants to advocate torture, but as much as your naivety irritates, I'd rather see you jabbering away on your blog, than see the body parts of you and your loved ones strewn across the Atlantic. I also think it's hypocritical to outsource torture to the Pakis or countries where there is no monitoring, no laws or rules in its application. It's a bold move of Bush to want to take responsibility for this necessary evil.

Dan S said...

Theo, your responses are all one long broken record. No matter how debased we become in our response to terrorism, you believe it is justified because Islamist Facists are really, really, really evil.

#1, this is not a Christian response, which is the perspective I am coming from. Of course I must treat people humanely who would not return the courtesy to me. That is Jesus' primary message on how to treat others, after all. And, it also turns out to be an effective way to defuse problems in the long run.

#2 you are completely caught up the state of fear the Bush adminsistration wants us to perpetually be in. You act like we are one terrorist attack away from being converted to an Islamist Facist society. The only current threat to facism that exists in country is from our own leaders who would impose it in name of defeating terrorism, and you seem to be right there with them.

#2, you once claimed to be moderate, but now are taking the position that torture is a valid interrogatoin technique, against the advice of military leaders. That is not a moderate position, but an extreme right-wing position. You may think it is a brave choice, but it is counterproductive in the long run, as is the whole strategy of treating terrorism like a war, instead of a police action.

#3, Rather than hijack this discussion thread, I suggest you start your own blog, where you can shout to the world all day long that Islamist Facists are evil, and therefore we no longer need to consider morality in our responses.

Cyber Truth Squad said...

Here's a counterpoint to Anon's assertion that those terrorist prisoners just love us:

"I lived with the Americans for one year and eight months as if I was living in hell."

Captured on battlefields, pulled from beds at midnight, grabbed off streets as suspected insurgents, tens of thousands now have passed through U.S. detention, the vast majority in Iraq.

Many say they were caught up in U.S. military sweeps, often interrogated around the clock, then released months or years later without apology, compensation or any word on why they were taken. Seventy to 90 percent of the Iraq detentions in 2003 were "mistakes," U.S. officers once told the international Red Cross.


"Tell us about the ones who attack Americans in your neighborhood," he quoted an interrogator as saying, "or I will keep you in prison for another 50 years."

As with others, Karim's confinement may simply have strengthened support for the anti-U.S. resistance. "I will hate Americans for the rest of my life," he said.

I wonder how many innocent people became radicalized because we indistriminately rounded them up. It sure takes a brave man to do the necessary evil of rounding them all up and torturing them, in case some of them are evildoers. Yep, we sure are safe now.

Anon, you would fit right in with those evil doers when you advocate for torture.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for your latest round of apologies for the terrorists here. You don't need to be a conservative to see where the real threat to freedom lies. And apparently I am in good company. I share it with people who have long tenures on the front lines of this war, Leftists, Feminists, Libertarians, Christians... the only difference between you and them: intellectual honesty.

As long as you keep your blog public, and apologize for Islamofascism, I will be here to correct you. And if you feel the need, by all means, block me. You'd only be proving my point, and admitting that you would readily submit to the very behavior that you so savagely disparage--if it served your ends.

The Muslims refuse our culture and try to impose their culture on us. I reject them, and this is not only my duty toward my culture-it is toward my values, my principles, my civilization.
---Oriana Fallaci (June 29, 1929 – September 15, 2006)

Anonymous said...

cyber truth squad said...
counter point et al...

That's not a pretty picture, but at least the Red Cross and Human Rights Groups had access to these places. Who monitors those prisons run by insurgents in Iraq that routinely kidnap civilians and dump their tortured corpses in school yards? How many UN monitors were invited to those prisons? The article is also not a counterpoint to the article where Abu Ghraib prisoners asked for their American guards back. One fact does not negate the other.

But, this is promising... (from your article) and underscores my earlier point that we take responsibility and control of the situation and not outsource interrogation, which is hypocritical.

Reports of extreme physical and mental abuse, symbolized by the notorious Abu Ghraib prison photos of 2004, have abated as the Pentagon has rejected torture-like treatment of the inmates. Most recently, on Sept. 6, the Pentagon issued a new interrogation manual banning forced nakedness, hooding, stress positions and other abusive techniques.

The same day, President Bush said the CIA's secret outposts in the prison network had been emptied, and 14 terror suspects from them sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to face trial in military tribunals. The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the tribunal system, however, and the White House and Congress are now wrestling over the legal structure of such trials.

Living conditions for detainees may be improving as well. The U.S. military cites the toilets of Bagram, Afghanistan: In a cavernous old building at that air base, hundreds of detainees in their communal cages now have indoor plumbing and privacy screens, instead of exposed chamber pots.

Dan S said...

Two more posts from Theo that say the same thing:

1. we don't need to consider morality when dealing with muslim extremists,
2. those who do care about the morality of our actions are Islamofacist apologists.
3. Torture is acceptable because other people are worse.

The only thing I'll respond to is the passage about living conditions improving for our prisoners. Note that this is exactly what the Supreme Court said we need to do (over the Bush admin's objections) and exactly what the Bush admin wants to replace with the legal ability to torture inmates.

KFingtree said...

Theo; "King of the Narcissists"

KFingtree said...

Dan; By all means, do not block Theo (coward anonymous) from your public blog! He's the smartest bloke on the blogs. Superior to all superlatives! Immortal, impeccable imp. The unblockable, boastful bragger of the blogesphere. The world (the inferior) needs to read your superior intellect. For you are our hero Theo, one plus zero = Theo~ "King of the Narcissists"

KFingtree said...

Wow!! Look at the brain on Theo! Torture couldn't touch that intellect. Torture is much to primitive a tool for a cranium that size. I'm surprised Theo would endorse such a primitive measure of gathering intelligence, I guess even geniuses can be subject to primevil perversions. Who are we to second guess (1 plus zero) = Theo

dw said...

Dan, you might find several of the discussions here to be useful in regards to how a Christian more conservative than you or I might be ALSO thinks we can't condone torture. His article a few months back in Books & Culture was helpful for me in atriculating my own sense of this issue.


P. S. They still keep delivering the News-Gazette.

Dan S said...

Thanks for the links, dw. The B&P one is subscriber only, but I especially enjoyed Stephen Lake's post on where he stands generally on the war:

You do not convince people of the inherent justice of your cause if you tolerate torture and murder. So far, the Bush administration's willingness to soften its moral stance on the Geneva Conventions, and its unwillingness to enforce humane standards down the chain of command (the brass have to be held to account when those under them commit atrocities like Abu Ghraib and Haditha), have contributed to a deligitimizing of our military in the eyes of the world.

It is often hard for me to gauge where conservative Christians really are with the war. I see clues like this often enough to make me wonder, but then when it comes time to vote, conservative Christians overwhelming vote to support these very same policies. More likely they are voting for abortion issues over war issues.

PS: I would think the NG would run a tighter ship than that :)

snarkbutt said...


I agree with Dan that you're skirting the issue and not addressing the issues being raised in the blog. Whether you like it or not, it's Dan's blog, and he gets to set the topic.

This is a Christian blog. I don't know what your religious affiliation is (presumably not Muslim), but if you are follower of Jesus then you must have some way to reconcile your Christian beliefs with your Our Torture is Better Than Theirs defense. Tell us about that.

Your constant appeal to anecdotal evidence doesn't get us anywhere. If I may be so bold, I believe the thesis of Dan's post today comes from two statements:

It is torture if we would call it torture when applied to our own captured soldiers. Because that is what it comes down to – whether we are willing to live by our own standards. and,

I honestly can’t see how Christians can support policies like the ones Bush is advocating.

No mention of "outsourcing" torture or whose torture is "better", or who deserves torture and who doesn't. Stay on topic.

But now that you've brought it up, let me address one thing: In your last post, you intimate that it's a good thing that the Red Cross oversees American prisons. Why is that? If torture is really a "necessary evil" in the war on terror, why would you put our nation's security at risk in order to placate the Red Cross? They aren't defending our country.

Or does this mean that you do recognize standards of behavior during armed conflict? Gee, if only we had some sort of code, some sort of convention, let's call it, that all nations could agree upon. Then, nations who violated those conventions could be held accountable...

Brownie said...

"Imagine our own soldiers being stripped naked, beaten, put into stress positions for long periods of time, and almost drowned..."

No need to imagine it, they almost always get much worse. Sadaam, in fact, was the last one to do "much worse" to our soldiers (as far as I know).

I'm not defending beatings, pulling out of fingernails or any other kind of physical torture. They are legally and morally reprehensible. However, if the left gets its way (with the current bill on the floor) the CIA and the military will have LESS latitude in interrogating terror suspects than the typical local police precinct has in interrogating a US citizen charged with theft. There is something bascially wrong with that.


Dan S said...

if the left gets its way (with the current bill on the floor) the CIA and the military will have LESS latitude in interrogating terror suspects than the typical local police

First of all, you'll need to provide some documentation to prove that assertion. I believe the bill simply requires that we follow the Geneva convention.

Secondly, there is only something wrong with that if you believe following the Geneva convention is a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

I agree both parties are now for torture, were do you stand on the torture of the baby in late term abortion, or partial birth abortion? Torture is evil, both to prisoners and unborn babies.