Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A note on necessity in war

I know that the big news this morning is that Led Zeppelin is back playing a gig for the first time in almost thirty years. When I first heard them (I�m guessing it was around 1968) is when I stopped listening to so-called rock. Speaking of torture, this article

from Bloomberg, and this longer piece from the Washington Post on a CIA agent who was (in some way) involved in waterbording Abu Zubaydah says that while it may have been torture it broke Zubaydah and yielded vital intelligence that thwarted "maybe dozens" of planned attacks. On the one hand, he thinks that it may have been necessary at the time, yet now thinks that we "are better than that," and "we’ve moved beyond that." And this is the story of the security guard (a woman) who shot the killer in Colorado, as other security guards hesitated. The man had already killed four people, and had another 1,000 rounds of ammunition on him when his body was searched.

Discussions - 9 Comments

George Will once referred to Led Zepplin as "music to invade Poland by."

Led Zeppelin rocks. Professor Schramm, you must be old.

Don't dog the Mother Ship, Doctor! And just as I wouldn't consult Robert Plant on baseball, I wouldn't dream of taking seriously George Will's opinion on rock.

Very slick levelling of information. Yes, of course, when you heard Led Zeppelin that was torture, like being waterboarded maybe...

So, the Right's real-life Jack Bauer proves to be a little disappointing. He talks and he doesn't tick off each and every conservative blog talking point. "Water boarding is probably something that we shouldn't be in the business of doing." Why? "Because we're Americans, and we're better than that."

And a collective cry comes forth from the Right - "No, we're not! We are NOT better than that!"

And of course, as he emphasized more than once, any waterboarding was done with regular contact and approval from high-level officials. Yet, as the President has assured us, "we do not torture."

Craig, this is from the WSJ today: It has been widely reported by now that waterboarding was used on only three individuals -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon; Abu Zebaydah, an Osama bin Laden confidante captured in Pakistan 2002 and described as a director of al-Qaeda operations; and a third unidentified person. If Speaker Pelosi and her colleagues want the handling of such terrorists conformed to what they call "our values," then she should define that and put it in an explicit piece of legislation. Then let the Members vote yea or nay, in public, on the record. the point being that right after 9/11 waterboarding seemed like a really good idea, maybe not rising to the level of torture. So at the time, it was not just Republicans who were all for using that technique for gaining information from those three... do they qualify as terrorists, maybe?

If it was good idea then, perhaps it will be a good idea some time in the future. Till that day comes, if we don't need it, isn't it nice to know how selectively it was used then? Presumably it will be used selectively and only as circumstances demand.

If what was on those videotapes was not only legal (that is, NOT torture) but also exemplary and heroic then it is puzzling to me why the CIA would have destroyed the tapes.

I'm on the side that says torture is not one of our values. I think we can persevere without sinking to that level.

I can only imagine the usual reason, that of not identifying the interrogators as agents of the CIA. No, I can imagine another reason, in that it would be horrible to watch. Even if necessary, it might not feel exemplary and heroic.

Or perhaps the tapes were evidence of a crime? I don't think they destroyed them because "it would be horrible to watch." That's not plausible. I somehow doubt that they destroyed them because the contents of the videos were too disturbing put them in a state of moral panic or gave them a case of the willies. I doubt anyone at the CIA was being forced to watch them.

The situation seems to be getting steadily worse, Kate.

That makes the acknowledgment of the destruction of those tapes incomprehensible.

You are quite right to laugh at my second point. I know what I mean, but not how to put it and I put that badly in consequence. But practically, I can see putting the interrogation on tape lest something be lost in the moment. An interrogator can examine the "testimony" of the prisoner. I can also see destroying the tapes once their utility is done to protect those who were performing the interrogation. I can not see admitting to the existence of those tapes, precisely because of this kind of political fuss. I can see plenty of reasons for concealment, but none for exposure. I am speaking practically, and not from any moral sense. I am assuming that my squeamish morality is not useful in the instance of trying to gain information from those three men in the circumstances.

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