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09 November 2007

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Mad Dogs

This says a lot about those "American Values" always worn on the sleeve by a certain political party in this country.

Me and mine, and may the devil take the hindmost.

lina

"I would like to know in what universe waterboarding would not be considered torture. Perhaps it was the universe inhabited by the KGB, the Gestapo or the Tonton Macoutes."

You forgot Dick Cheney and Rudolph Guiliani - our present and future universe.

the cyber ruffian

Talleyrand, commenting on the execution of the prince d'Enghien.

meletius

Well, Talleyrand once observed that something was worse than a sin, it was a mistake. That's as close as I can get on the quiz, colonel.

I appreciated this post very much. Unfortunately, like so many other things that "conservatives" have now rendered (no pun) debateable, torturing people is now a "policy discussion".

And our newest AG can't definitively state that waterboarding is illegal under existing US law. That'll get us somewhere.

I can't tell you the number of times one now hears "conservatives" blathering that "torture works" or somesuch crap. We are regressing as a nation, and this simply more proof that an "empire" mentality is now quite commonplace.

Burgette Mobley

I can understand, despise but understand, how intellectual lightweights like Bush & Co would think torture is "great" but what in God's name is Alan Dershowitz thinking, http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110010832. Apparently, the Gestapo did it with good results so why can't we? Sorry that I can't do the link thing, but I'm a computer idiot. But its there. I found the link at Angry Arab site. I despair for my country!

Todd

Talleyrand on the execution of the Duc d'Enghien. Napoleon trying to intimidate any Royalists still dreaming of restoration. It backfired although it took a while.

Long time listener, first time caller. I'm reading some histories on the Napoleonic era.

I agree with your opinion here. I loved the quote from Sen. Schumer during the Mukasey vote about our soon-to-be new attorney general being "wrong on torture." Um, well...then why is he now the top law enforcement official in our land?

(That's not a quiz. The answer is obvious.)

Keep up the great work.

Peter vE

"It was worse than a crime, it was a blunder." is attributed to Talleyrand on the kidnapping and murder of the Duc D'Engian (sp?) by Napoleon.

I would say that Napoleon would be insulted by the implied comparison, and I say that as the grandson of the grandson of a Dutchman who died in Spain fulfilling the Corsican's fantasies of empire. (His brother, OTOH, crossed the Neiman twice. One in a hundred...)

Jose

Gentlemen, if we acknowledge the reality that water boarding is torture, our President, Vice President and a significant number of government officials might be indicted as war criminals.

Would look good on Dumbya legacy, would it?

Remember Carl Gustav Jung famous quote on torture:

"The healthy man does not torture others - generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers."

HenryFTP

I think it was Talleyrand, who was in fact referring to martyring someone by extrajudicial process who otherwise richly deserved everyone's contempt. An apt reference indeed.

peter

Was it Talleyrand or Fouche? "C'est pire qu'une crime, c'est une faute."

rjj

Ecce homo.

http://www.literarky.cz/fotky/0607/ltn_560_3753.jpg

I have always assumed the spectators in this painting were based on Bosch's studies of people attending public executions.

The image quality is not good but enlarged image is no longer available at Bosch Universe.

Abu Sinan

Did you see the recent quotes by that mental giant, men among men, Alan Dershowitz who claimed that torture indeed worked? He cited the use of torture by the Nazis to gain information about underground movements.

I guess he didnt see the irony in using that example. So we want to compare ourselves to the Nazis to justify our actions?

FDChief

"In extremis, I might do something really beastly to someone to satisfy the needs of the "ticking bomb" fantasy scenario, but it would not be waterboarding, and I would want to know that it was not legal."

And more to the point: there's nothing stopping you from doing just that, and then after the bomb has been defused, turing yourself in and throwing yourself on the mercy of the jury. I can't think of a dozen Javerts who would convict you. This entire issue is a ridiculous red herring for those who wish to expand the power of the executive to include fear and terror. Torture has always been used more to extract confessions than intelligence and to terrorize than to win battles. The Inquisition didn't need to "get information" from conversos and moriscos - they wanted confessions and they got them. The people arguing for this torture don't want information, either. They want the power of terror over those in their custody.

Wholly despicable.

b

It was worse than a crime, it was a blunder. Talleyrand of the murder of the Duc d’Enghien by Napoleon I.
---
Aside from that:

I have started to read all reports about this damned issue replacing "torture" with "rape" and waterboarding with "forced sodomy". It seems to give some realistic perspective.
---

Useless, unless you happen to be a sadist who just likes doing things like that without regard to rational thinking.
Fits Bush/Cheny and half of Congress - doesn't it?

Walrus

Thank you for posting this Col.Lang, I agree with you.

The saddest thing for me of the entire Bush regime (so far) has been watching the United States of America squander its reputation as a beacon of human rights and the rule of law.

Most Americans can't know about this reputation, you have to have grown up in another country from which you watched day to day the titanic struggle that was the Cold War. Even Vietnam did not seriously dent America's reputation.

To put it another way, it's a bit like discovering that your favorite Uncle, or Pastor, or school teacher, who you always loved, admired and respected, is actually a pederast.

frank durkee

I absolutely understand that what follows is not worth very much. It was, indeed, long ago and it what almost seems like a foreign county, definitely a different time. When I was being trained in interrogation skills for the Army CIC in '55 there was a clear emphasis on what was legitimate, what worked, what tended not to and what was torture and therefore excluded. "Obeying orders' was firly excluded as a reason for breaking the orders on interrogations. What a hell of a long way we've come and not in a good direction.

Martin K

Sir. Good to see you bring this up again. I would like to add that this whole torture-gulag-rendition business is not just stupid, it is irrational. 40 years of "White Hat" propaganda-effort thrown out the window. Even for those of us who remember School of Americas and the cattleprods, the US has publicly stood for the good values. All of that has been thrown away. I think the coming regimeshift will be the US last chance to regain some honour. I hope Mrs. Clinton comes out and says clearly that she will close these shitholes down and show the prisoners of war some dignified treatment. "Treat your enemy better than he would treat you" is a good Norwegian saying, its true.

Martin K

If some Democrats in positions happen to read this, heres a soundbite for ya. (If you use it, send me a small check, I could use it ;-):

"In an announcement today, presidential Hillary Clinton took a firm and strong stance against the authorised use of torture, illegal-combatant-status and secret detention of prisoners of war. "We do not win the war on terror by becoming the enemy" Clinton said in a unusally firm direct message. "This administration has dishonoured what America stands for" msrs Clinton concluded.

//cut to speech exerpt, Hillary looking right into the camera.//: "I do not believe in the politics of fear. I believe in a smart hardworking intelligent USA, where we fight our fights in a smart cool inteligent way. Where we dont torture. Where we dont give away money to our friends. Where we try to make things function. That is the America I believe in." //applause, Hi-la-ry hi-la-ry

Sidney O. Smith III

“The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one's own strength.”
Sun Tzu

anthro

"In extremis, I might do something really beastly to someone to satisfy the needs of the "ticking bomb" fantasy scenario, but it would not be waterboarding, and I would want to know that it was not legal."

PL, that's why I read you. I may not agree politically on a lot of issues, but (usually) your position is reasonable, even if I disagree with it. In this case, you hit the nail on the head.

That statement is the crux of the matter. In the ticking time-bomb case, you do what you need to do, and take moral responsibility for it. You don't ask for approval --- you make a choice and live with it. You then defend yourself before your peers, and see if they agree that the situation was "exceptional" and what kind of leniency you should receive.

But you don't claim that it "should be" legal, you don't say "Well, a million may die, but I might go to jail". You don't say, "If there was just a bureaucratic infrastructure in place that would handle these once in a millennium events on a daily basis..."

Why do so many neo-cons assume that we are all sniveling little cowards? That if we weren't given a blank check ahead of time, we wouldn't do what is necessary to defend our families and then face the consequences? Maybe projection?

Ormolov

Sir,

In January of 2006 I became so frustrated by the casual slide into torture that this new Empire of ours had allowed that I wrote a feature film screenplay called REVELATIONS. An independent political thriller about surveillance, interrogation, and torture in a small American town. In it, I have two "men in black suits" arrive at a small town police station to set up shop in the back room for a few days. Due to the daily hassles and pressures of their work, their mission creeps quickly from wiretapping to waterboarding. Our hero, a detective from this small town who initially feels thrilled to be part of this patriotic war, watches in horror as his principles are turned sadistically on their head. He pulls his weapon on the torturers, viscerally appalled by what they are doing, only to become hunted himself.

I was lucky (in a sense) to be introduced to a senior army intelligence officer who had previously run the interrogations for Baghram AFB in Afghanistan. He had personally sent people to Guantanamo. He told me he loved the script and "finally wanted to see someone get all the details right." With his help I was able to get all those appalling details perfect. (For the record he said he never touched anyone and that the true professionals used a mixture of psychology and Neuro Linguistic Programming).

Then it was just a matter of fundraising $100,000 to get the movie made. For a time Amnesty International said they would make it an official project, but that fell through. I have an Oscar-winning producer in LA shopping it all around town, but we haven't found any takers. Fortunately both REdacted and REnditions have come out, so fortunately there are no shortage of timely political thrillers that begin with the letters RE. But I am still terrified to live in a country where as many as 15,000 private contractors, in the words of my Army source, can run down the leads the FBI is too overburdened to investigate, and use brutal interrogation techniques, including torture, especially against those who are not American citizens. I still feel strongly about getting this film made. Apparently the issue isn't going away any time soon. Anyone who would like to read the script is welcome to do so at www.blackhelicopterfilms.com.

And Colonel Lang, I do not mean this to be any sort of self-promotion. I apologize if it seems like it is.

GSD

This week I listened to caller after caller telling a host on Boston's WBZ that the US needs to do 'whatever it takes' to stop the "Islamo-fascists". This was exactly what the host was propagating too.

If we merely change the term from Islamo-fascists to Jews we know what the means historically.

America is prying open that lid, day by day.

Pretty soon the top will fly off.

-GSD

Charles I

I like FDChief's torture as terror analysis. At least it supports the theory that the policy makers and practitioners have some semblance of rationality, however twisted. They wouldn't knowingly be futilely torturing for intelligence purposes. This might, in a dismal light, reflect to their intellectual credit, such as it is. Cold bloodedly, I'd find some comfort in the fact that at least they weren't torturing because they ignorantly believe it produces good intel, or anything else, except terror. I mean, that would be real incompetence, whereas torturing for terror, aside from its' innate immoral and criminal cast, would indicate at least some rational link between problem(lack of terror) with the solution - terrifying torture.

What is particularly disturbing to me if they are torturing for intel is the evident distinction between the Nazi/Resistance torture paradigm, and the one at work today. At least one might have some reasonable grounds to believe a foreign national, or resistance fighter in occupied territory during wartime, or a guy pulled off the NYC subway with a schematic of a dirty bomb and a garage door opener or other remote, was a likey repository of useful intel.

But I have read accounts that many swept up from their native Afghanistan - by foreigners seeking vengence for 911, rather than the local sovereign government during "regular" wartime as it were - and dispatched to Guantanamo or worse were simply victims of local rivals marking them as "terrorist" in exchange for $5000 bounties. Nice day's work, two birds with one stone.

This lessens the chances that those swept up and tortured are actually AQ intel prizes. The lack of trials, or proven claims of gigantic plots avoided due to intel from the detainees, and a recent press account of one poor sap cleared by the FBI in Nov 2001 but "forgotten", and just now released do nothing to support either the idea of some existential imperative justifying the whole scheme, or the utility of torture for intel itself. This is discouraging tactically, strategically and morally.

As for the in extremis example, I'd like to think most people would attempt to do the right thing contrary to all normal laws and mores if they were morally certain there was some extraordinary objectively manifest imperative and some rational connection of the cause - torture- to the effect - reliable in extremis intelligence mitigating catastrophic attack.

If only the people in power making these critical decisions were of the same intellectual and moral fibre as Pat and his and my father's generational/experiential cohort, I would find some comfort in that. Instead we are presented with incompetence and criminality claiming unfettered power apparently immune to any corrective course. The contrast is simultaneously heartening and disheartening.

PeterE

Thought experiment: Imagine that three American civilians are nabbed in Iran by the police who suspect the Americans of espionage. They're held incommunicado for questioning. The US alleges torture. An Iranian spokesman replies, "The allegation is false. However, we have had to place them under stress. We are using methods commonly used by Americans: sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, and of course water boarding." What does the U.S. say?

Bobo

Well its now very obvious that we as a country have been torturing our captives, even though our CIC says we do not use these tactics.

What we have gained is very little, I know others will say we have been saved from many plots learned via these tactics. What we have lost is our dignity, something that will take a generation or two to regain. Yes, our fellow countries on earth will have something to toss in our face as by our governments actions we have joined fallen many.

Now, what is going on with our public servants to allow this to happen. Yes, I understand the concept that there is a line of Yes Men behind every naysayer but what kind of training have these people had to hide behind their skirts to allow this to happen. Oh yeh, shipping off the captive to a foreign country is tacit approval for the torture.

Please someone provide some hope that things are not as bad as they seem to be.

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