Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The problem with Cheney et al.

The problem with Cheney is not that he is talking, it is what he is saying. The argument that torture saved lives is unlikely to stand up to scrutiny. Enhanced interrogation techniques might have made people say things they would not have otherwise said and that may have saved lives but how many people were inspired to attack Americans because of these techniques, Guantanamo, etc? The net count is what is important and when liberal democratic countries use torture or enhanced interrogation techniques and excessive force to counter terrorists or insurgents (e.g., Great Britain in Northern Ireland and France in Algeria), the liberal democracies either lose or suffer years of conflict and numerous casualties as a result. Every time torture has been used, the defense has been that it saved lives. In the short run maybe.

But let’s say that Cheney’s rhetoric works and people buy the short-term argument. The bigger problem is that Cheney’s rhetoric represents a misunderstanding of the kind of fight we are in. Force or killing won’t bring us victory. That’s the wrong strategy. Cheney like a lot of others does not seem to understand this. Ralph Peters published another blood and guts and no brains article on Afghanistan and Pakistan the other day. His solution is to kill more people more quickly, which is what he hopes the new commander in Afghanistan will do. The Wall Street journal praised the appointment of the new commander too, referring to his two “successes,” killing Zarqawi and capturing Saddam. Neither of these “successes” brought us any closer to our objectives in Iraq.

Until Republicans and conservatives give up their knee-jerk emphasis on force, in so far as fighting terrorism and insurgency are concerned, it is probably better to have Democrats in charge. Their prejudice against force is probably better suited to the terrorism problem we face.

Discussions - 88 Comments

The problem with Cheney's reasoning is that he can never prove that he saved lives. This is not Minority Report and there are no precogs to back him least I hope not. The other problem is, that he can use the same reasoning against you or I. Once we let him torture and hold brown people what stops him from doing the same to you or I as long as he can later say that doing so saved lives?

Who is this "David Tucker" nimrod? And why isn't he posting at Kos?

it is probably better to have Democrats in charge. Their prejudice against force is probably better suited to the terrorism problem we face.

Yes, that worked out just swimmingly in the 1990's. Hoping for an Obama appointment, Tuck?

That was quite an interesting post, Mr. Tucker, and clearly your ideas are going to rub some the wrong way (commenters and bloggers alike).

A few points:

- Glad to see you finally using the word torture. The sorry rationalizations of the right on that (Kate comparing the willing participants of "Fear Factor" to waterboarded prisoners, for example) are just embarrassing.

- You seem to explicitly avoid the moral aspect of torture. Conservatives so often pose as having some monopoly on moral values (using the phrase sounds so potent and righteous!), claiming the only humane positions on (sigh...) abortion and the homosexuals, etc. But while the "net count" approach has practical merit, it hardly addresses what so many conservatives are wont to take pride in, and that is the USA's position as the pinnacle of civilization, civilized society. On this issue too many conservatives seem to be obsessed with being the victors against the Other, even if doing so brings their behavior that much closer to the evil-doers (and I don't use the term mockingly here), who surely believe that when they waterboard (or lop off someone's head) they are doing it for the best possible reasons. (Let's keep in mind here, also, that the superhero, lifesaving, ticking time-bomb scenario was obviously not the issue if Mohamed and Zubaydah were waterboarded many dozens of times.) But yes, I agree that torture, whether admitted to or not, will only inspire or agitate a new generation of terrorists, and while terrorism is always wrong, we can't expect them to shrug it off when we employ torture.

- I don't think it's necessarily true that Democrats have "a prejudice against force," at least not nearly as much as I wish they would (even if simply for the reason that having real opposition can make democracy function more effectively).

- You're correct in identifying the "blood and guts and no brains" approach. It's prevalent among conservatives. One needn't look hard to find true believers in the mirror-Taliban approach of "Nuke the whole Middle East and let God sort 'em out!" There are plenty of polite, "respectable" versions of that sentiment, too. It's not just on poorly spelled bumper stickers.

- I did respond to your question in the old thread re: Pelosi, regarding the legality of torture, but for some reason the comment system didn't like my collection of hyperlinks within the comment, so I just opted to post it without the links rather than spending hours trying to figure out which link(s) were causing the snag. In case you missed it and care to read it, here it is.

Brutus, good thoughts. I think Minority Report will prove to be a more prescient film than what anyone might have thought when it came out.

I respect the courageous opinion of David Tucker.

You identify the nature of the conflict we are in and then call the shots from there. So much depends upon the Macro-picture. You have to go on what you know. Sapere Aude Sapere Praxis, dare to know dare to act.

I am actually convinced that our interrogators are superior. I don't believe that interrogation requires accessing the neocortex, but reading body language-lymbic tells.

On the other hand I don't know what role torture or enhanced interrogation plays, and I am not sure the darkness shrouding the "truth" isn't integral. In other words an interrogator might know when a person is lying, but might not be able to force information, without the aid of the fear of the unknown.

Ironically the fear of the unknown is also probably the true genesis and meaning Adam Smith gave to the invisible hand

The fear of torture is the invisible hand, and this invisible hand can preform invisible torture, torture that does not occur, and torture that does occur if this is painful to the Newtonian mind.

Ultimately we do not know if torture occured, or if it occured to the minds of government officials that claiming torture occured was beneficial.

Ironically Nanci Pelosi might actually be quasi-heroic, she might be taking heat for something that she was briefed on for the sake of spreading the belief.

In some sense this is exactly what I mean when I say there are no philosophers, If John M. can't allow you to speak your mind on the basis of your considered opinion, then he is clueless in his suggestion that conservatism should be based on David Hume.

If there were more philosophers your candid opinion would be respected and challenged.

I would like to challenge your opinion on the grounds that enhanced interrogation techniques are only necessary when democrats are in power or if there is actually clarity on if we torture. I will also point out that extreme muslim propoganda will continue making movies telling muslims that detainees are used by jews for organ harvesting. If the mind of the enemmy is willing to swallow propaganda then the nature of what is fact need never enter the picture. Albeit on this point it might be true that a gentler approach might win over sensible minds, then again the question is one of history and deep seated mistrust. This is also a problem for Republicans. It is also part of the Hope of Obama. The Obama effect might shine upon US foreign policy, it might restore confidence. I actually think the Obama effect is good for reducing crime(which is falling against the recession trend) much of this is phsycological, or as Adam Smith might say, the invisible hand.

If we want to be economists about it, this is the discussion of Consumer Confidence, which ironically is also what causes bubbles, but the existance of bubbles results essentially from the fact that Americans are naturally Cartesian without reading Descartes(Toqueville), which would mean something like Karl Rove substituting for the Evil Genuis...if we consider that when we were homo-faber/rooted we had clear and distinct impressions, and now that we are homo-crisis/unrooted we work/read backwards in Meditations, such that we are now almost down to Blogito Ergo Sum.

But there really aren't that many philosophers, so we substitute by creating a rigid right and a rigid left(which isn't distinctly superior to my suggestion that we cut a bell curve using cartesian cordinates) and force folks who should be thinking wise policy into conforming to our expectations of Daily Kos or Little Green Footballs.

Craig I agree with you on the moral issue, but I am not altogether unserious about how far lost I am in general skepticism of the Cartesian Meditations sort. I don't trust a news media that is craven to viewer pressure to report towards an ideological point of view(like bad analysts in the stock market). I am also in love with my idea of interpreting Toqueville in light of what he said about Descartes and also argueing that the Meditations on First Philosophy could actually be read backwards...which is original even if it closely parallels the idea that we don't turn to God/become skeptical enough until we have been burnt, which naturally fits well with bubbles, and if we make it an unrooted epistemic crisis might connect well with what Patrick Deenen has to says about being rooted...then I think we are in the right ballpark...I also think that on some level David Tucker is thinking that the Muslim ennemy thinks a little too much like Craig Scanlon...but I think the Muslim ennemy is far more likely to think like John M. which means the ennemy is receptive to an ideological-theological lens...Don't go preaching that "noble" america Obama garbage here!...we know they are the great Zionist Satan!(albeit if they already are convinced of this, then torture might not be necessary!)

So Dr. Tucker we are back to a question of media bias! Of course I still don't think americans will read Descartes, and most folks are still trusting...this itself is the Obama Bubble as far as several conservatives and folks on the right are concerned...but I am guessing it will require a real Katrina moment to burst it...instead of a fake Katrina moment(pundits are like Hedge Funds/short-sellers! but Obama support is on a buy and hold philosophy?)

Being wise Politically is at least as difficult as beating random walk(which is why so many folks are partisans-ideological)...but you have to look honestly at the problem/situation and take your stand.

Also Craig I don't know if it is the duty of a citizen to take a moral stand on torture, if enough folks do so you are likely to provoke a sanctimonious pronouncement from a politician, a la Nanci Pelosi, but the truth is that torture will occur if it is deemed absolutely necessary, and it may be unwise to politically/legally restrain what needs to be done. Even well informed citizens are unlikely to have perfect information, nor is the human brain evolved/designed to deal with moral questions and probabilities involving nuclear weapon scenarios. In some sense you are taking on moral baggage unecessarily and carrying the football for politicians unwilling or incapable of speaking clearly. This strikes me as an example of what happens in the millitary best captured by the sentence: shit rolls downhill.

Us young folks, or citizens end up being fall guys for the higher ups, taking strong moral stands is often times a Ponzi scheme. You better believe that the folks who stick up for AIG aren't the ones who got away with murder and then escaped silently. In some sense I think this message albeit potentially destructive of moral politics is not a horrible message to adapt and sell in the Middle East.

So I would ask a biologist or a neuro-scientist or even a serious catholic, what is the scope of moral issues that a human brain can handle? How much information can we really handle? Because in what sense can we be looking at good evidence of bubbles and emotional fluctuation and ignore asking a question of the cause?

And why ground the cause in evil intent instead of overreaching/greed/pride in moralism?

If I already know that in saying this much I am going beyond what I can know/handle, why am I reaching?

In other words Craig I think Bush/Cheney got himself in a bubble/national sentiment post 9-11, and I think we are in another bubble on the issue of interogation right now.

If anything it may simply be the duty of a citizen to puncture bubbles, and I think this is what David Tucker thinks he is doing in regards the republican stance on the use of force.

As David Tucker knows more than I do, the proper stance according to David Hume(if John M you want to build from here) is to listen skeptically to the wine tasters with more refined palates(On Taste)...therefore you can disagree but if you don't can't repuncture the bubble he punctured. So if you take David Hume as foundational then you have to make a commitment to apportioning belief to evidence, and it seems to me likely that on these grounds you can reach back and link up with Aristotle and the question of experts "the wise",(with some post-moderns you have to understand them first before you can read them...which is my simplistic critique of Stertinius) and knowing who the experts are and then dealing with the question of miracles...but I digress.

Where is the evidence that supports and sustains the numerous conclusions of that first paragraph? The examples thrown forward of Northern Ireland and Algeria are examples of colonial powers looking to extend their control of territories beyond their border, ------ hardly correlative to a situation where a lawful democracy uses such techniques to ward off the death of tens of thousands by a terror attack. BRUTUS said a problem was that Cheney can never "prove" such techniques "saved lives." If the terrorists are close to hijacking aircraft and blowing them up in flight, killing all those aboard, and because of information gleaned via enhanced techniques that attack was thwarted and those lives saved, -------- where's the difficulty in "proving" lives were saved? Cheney could advance into evidence flight manifests, and could put together addresses and pictures of those who flew safely on a flight that otherwise would have ended in disaster.

The only "difficulty" that can be detected is the difficulty some have with conceding the point to Cheney.

Was "torture" used by the Allied powers during the Second World War? And here I'm asking about real, legitimate "torture," not "enhanced techniques" where the point is very much moot. I know of instances right off the top of my head where it was. Did such usage delegitimize the Allies, did it call into question their moral standing? Did such usage extend the conflict, make it that much more difficult to win? Perhaps Tucker might speak to that.

Tucker went on to say merely "killing" the enemy isn't likely to "win" the war. And actually set off the term success in quotation marks when referring to the killing of Zarqawi and the capture of Saddam, as if those achievements were somehow bogus, or meaningless. Zarqawi and Saddam were iconic, cold-blooded killers who were our enemies, and moreover, the enemy of everything we wanted to establish in the region. Their removal was a sine qua non to final victory, for so long as they were able to act they would do all they could to thwart us. So since when is the elimination of such enemies no longer conducive to victory. Such victories are not rendered insignificant because they are not final and decisive. The public hanging of Saddam, who for many represented Arab power and pride, before the very eyes of his followers and his victims sent a message to every Arab watching. And that was a message that very much needed to be sent.

"Knee-jerk emphasis on force" is a too often used knee-jerk caricature, and used by the types of people who had Osama in their sights way back in the Clinton tenure, but couldn't get over their knee-jerk prejudice against the use of force, and so let a chance to ice a would-be mass-murderer glide away to the pain and dismay of countless thousands. For instance I recall seeing a photo of a 4 year old boy who had his head buried in his little hands as he was sobbing before a picture of his father, a man who was killed on 9/11. Mindful of the pain caused by terrorists, mindful of the agony endured by such innocents as this little boy, Tucker's unsupported apologia for the resurrection of failed policies is really in poor taste.

What I read here, simply, as I am confessedly simple, is that the short-term goal of saving lives is irrelevant in the larger scope of America's goals in relation to terrorism. What are those goals, exactly? World peace, presumably, and isn't that also a goal of Islamic terrorists?

John M, David Tucker knoes what he is talking about, as it is his business to know. You really cannot dismiss what he says, though I always feel free to argue.

I do not particularly like the idea of the U.S. military killing Afghanis or Pakistanis or anybody. I do not see that killing as necessarily useful or right. However, I do not like the idea of world peace on any terms at all. World peace on the Taliban's terms does not appeal to me. Nor, I suspect, to Dick Cheney, which is probably why he says what he says.

David Tucker's contention is that warring against terrorists just feeds their inclination to terror. It is tempting to say he is proposing that if you are faced with a bully, standing up to him just makes him mad and makes the situation worse. You should find a way to get around him. In the same way, "standing against terror" just makes the terrorists mad and if we did not do that, they would all calm down. Those of us who think that terrorists just are mad begs the question. Maybe so, maybe not, but at the sum of the equation I can't find myself willing that America should simply accept the version of Islamic peace offered by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. No, you are right, some of us do not see the way around the bully that will not leave us cowed tomorrow and forever.

I agree with John M
The democrats are not better for anything except keeping their loathesome selves in power.

This single sentence, "probably better to have Democrats in charge. Their prejudice against force is probably better suited to the terrorism problem we face.", is so filled with moral and intellectual vacuity that it completely destroys any ability to attach any sort of wisdom to the writer.

I don't know what David Tucker does for a living but he has proven, in this post, that writing about politics and national security is something he should avoid lest he be thought a fool.


1.) Cheney is correct and has seven years without another attack to prove it.

2.) It's not torture. It's harsh, scary and disorienting, but it's right there on the job application when you hire on to flatten skyscrapers.

3,) "might" have made people say things, "may" have saved lives--Did and did.

4.) "how many people were inspired to attack Americans because of these techniques ?" I dunno--how many people were inspired NOT to attack Americans because of these techniques?

5.) "The net count is what is important " Then give us the number. The Overseas number--because in America, it's zero.

6.) "Force or killing won’t bring us victory."---Police forces use force and killing sometimes in the War on Crime. Yet we still haven't won it--shall we disband them? I disagree with your premise that our troops are simple bloodthirsty killers. Our soldiers are already using everything from carrots to sticks to building scools, hospitals, elections, businesses, etcetcetcetcetcetc. Hey--maybe you could help for a change by not calling them "torturers"!

7.) "Cheney like a lot of others does not seem to understand this."--But you and Joe Biden do. Also Maxine Waters. Barney Frank. The ACLU. ANSWER. Code Pink. Cindy Sheehan. Ted Kennedy.

8.) " killing Zarqawi and capturing Saddam. Neither of these “successes” brought us any closer "--That's just daft. Sorry.
9.) "it is probably better to have Democrats in charge."--Look at the chaos just from their demagoguery. Pelosi is melting. Obama is calling longer lunch recesses a major overhaul of the formerly Evil military tribunals. Congress gutlessly grandstanded on Gitmo and are now fleeing the consequences in the biggest case of NIMBY in all recorded history.

They're not even in charge of themselves.

Kate -- Why are you talking about world peace? Are you implying that the only alternative to criticizing the misuse of force is to long for world peace? The analogy with the bully does not work. Outside the playground, the bully would be a Hitler. Fighting Hitler and al Qaeda are two completely different fights, so they have to be fought in two different ways. The military is great for fighting Hitlers; not great for fighting other kinds of fights. The manly thing is to punch the bully in the nose and defend the weak. This is a good instinct but sometimes it does not apply. It does not apply when the enemy hides amidst a population. Then the key is to separate the enemy from the population by moving the population away from the enemy, rather than moving it closer to the enemy and encouraging it to support the enemy more fully, which only makes the enemy stronger and leads to more lost lives in the long-run. The key is not the enemy, the terrorist, but the population. Everything done, including calculations about the use of force, needs to be done with the understanding that the non-terrorist population is the priority, not the terrorists themselves. Once the population moves away, then the terrorists fail, factionalize, fall apart, surrender, etc. At various points in this long drawn out business one may be able to exercise the manly instinct but it should be done only after careful calculation of its effects on the possible supporters of the terrorists. As the comments to my post indicate, this strategy, which is a long-established and well studied alternative to Cheneyism, seems to some people to be coddling terrorists. That is an instinct that needs to be overcome. As one step in that direction, let me restate one point in my original post by saying that Democrats/liberals might be better at fighting terrorists because they are less manly than Republicans/conservatives.

Mr. Scanlon – I was not talking about the morality of torture or enhanced interrogation techniques. For a number of reasons, I do not think such techniques are categorically immoral. Also, in some cases, they might even work. As in just war theory’s account of the use of force, the effectiveness of torture is an element in assessing its morality. Finally, in keeping with the argument that the non-terrorist population is the key, when discussing any use of force, you have to keep in mind the connection between opinions about morality, popular morale, and the necessity of popular morale for the sustained use of force.

In connection with this last point, keeping in mind the tendency for people to confuse what is illegal with what is immoral, and a point raised in an earlier set of posts, the important issue is not whether torture is legal or illegal but what techniques constitute torture. If the designated officials deem a technique not to be torture, then it is not illegal, although it may be immoral. Thus your reference to certain techniques as illegal seemed to me to have no basis.

The problem is not Tocqueville or Descartes, it is Rousseau and what he brought--an excessive desire to be "authentic." Civilization cannot function without some hypocrisy. Nations sometimes have to do terrible things to protect themselves. They also often have to deny that they are doing those very things. My fear is that the need to air everything in public will move the goal posts, leading people to accept as natural, inevitable, and unavoidable, that they ought to object to. (This has already happened in many other areas of American life). There's a case to be made that a good society stands against torture, even if its government sometimes has to do it.

David, I actually think world peace is desirable. Yet, no, I did not intend to imply that the only alternative to criticizing the misuse of force is to dream of world peace. I was really wondering what our goals are in relation to terrorism as well as worrying about the terms of peace and if that is not a goal, then, again, what is? Also, I was expressing my sympathy with the use of force in this situation, given the price of the kind of peace that seems to be on offer.

Yes, I see your point that if we were talking about a single bully, this would be easier. Isn't this why people focus on capturing Bin Laden? If we captured or better yet, eliminated him, would all of this end? I am really asking and wondering, because I have never been sure. In 1945, did everyone know that once Hitler was dead, Nazism would be dead? Communism -- if Lenin had been eliminated, would that have been the end of it? If the impetus of this terror is ideological and propelled by a compelling individual, then it might be defeatable. If it isn't, but is religious, or thinking about communism and socialism, even if it isn't, but is a kind of faith and deeply felt to be desirable by a large number of people, then we have nothing but persuasion -- I am still thinking that it is not as easy as you say.

It is interesting Mr. Tucker does not consider the death of Zarqawi to be helpful in our victory in Iraq (or the capture and execution of Hussein). Under Zarqawi, al Qaeda was successfully operating inside of Iraq, causing immense havoc against the weak and dysfunctional Iraqi military and our own military. After his death, we began to see the slow and irreversible decline of al Qaeda in Iraq. Because we were using less force? Quite the contrary. It is because of our use of force--the harsh tactics on the battlefields--that led to the reverse in fortunes and now a stable, functioning, and even democratic Iraq. Losing Zarqawi has turned out to be one of the great victories over al Qaeda. It has not been able to really overcome the loss and sustain his successes, especially because al Qaeda became too aggressive after his loss and turned most Iraqis against the terrorist organization. I have no idea why or how Mr. Tucker could honestly believe Zarqawi's death supports his conclusions. If anything, it does the exact opposite.

The debate on torture is a tough question. All I have to say is that Obama, for all his huffing and puffing throughout the campaign, has kept rendition as a practice of this government and has decided to reconstitute military tribunals. Perhaps those of us who haven't seen classified documents--unlike Mr. Obama and Mr. Cheney--should think a little bit more about these issues as practical, immediate war concerns and less like an academic exercise.

"The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country." - Abraham Lincoln

David, you sound like President Bush--trying to capture the hearts and minds of the common people of Iraq, and to peel them away from our enemies. This war is rather different from WWII, as you note. We are not going to be able to create the kind of allies on Iraq we have had in Germany and Japan since WWII. Hence the best we can do is try to punish our enemies. The Axis did not view the mass murder of American civilians as a valuable tactic. Our current enemies do. Hence, extreme measures to get information are more justified in this fight than they were in WWII.

To reiterate my earlier point, it is a shame so much of this has come out in public. In the 1940s, all the stuff that has come out would have been kept out of the public eye. And we would be, in many ways, better for it. In that sense, you are correct. The PR does matter. I don't think the American public would stand for an administration that did not take extreme measures to prevent particualr attacks. The problem is how to keep that reality from hurting us. Perhaps President Obama will be better at putting a good face on that ugly human reality. So far, it seems that that might be the case.

Cheney could, but has Cheney provided evidence? Of course, stuff like that is classified. I guess we can just assume that it is national security and we have no right to know. It really would seem if some evidence did come about like flight manifests then Cheney would be vindicated and the Left would run for cover. How about you start holding your breath because I'm sure it is about to made public.

What is the endgame in this for both sides? Someone mentioned world peace. I struggle to hold back laughter, but in reality what are the terrorists going to gain by terrorizing long term? Sure, they can win territory in certain areas with tin pot dictators, but they are never going to capture a western power. If it is about scaring us to stop getting in their way while winning lands from tin pot dictators then they really have no idea of the nature of their enemies. If it really is safety that we want, then why not cut a deal? If safety is most important then why are we choosing to fight at this point. It is logical I guess to bring up appeasment and hitler so mabye there is an argument that left unchecked Islamic fundamentalism will grow into a world power. I am trying to remember what the CFR member said in the Clarion fund dvd before the terrorist rap video but it escapes me. More importantly though, what is terrorism today? The definition expands and I wonder if anyone cares to take a stab at it. Using fear to win political concessions? What concessions could attacking the United States lead to? Have they so terribly misjudged their enemy? Tar and feathering a tax collector is an act of terrorism. Talk of world tax may just make that example have meaning again. However, we celebrate this act as just. Is terrorism today, any act which undermines government authority? If so, has the war on terrorism expanded to people who speak out against our current government's policies? If I stood at city hall and proclaimed that we were about to loose soverignty by the passage of the ICC I might spread fear in some. Am I a terrorist? And, should Cheney torture me because doing so may or may not save lives? My speach may cause someone to act in a way that ends up getting someone killed.

I think that torture in and of itself is a legitimate thing. I am just wary of the loose definitions of enemy combatants and vague talk about lives saved. And for god's sake, call it torture. Why play PC mind games? I still fail to understand the terrorist. His blatant disregard for the well being of his countrymen, and yet a willingness to die for a cause. In a post modern world is this a person still willing to die for mere words?

Mr. Tucker - To find torture to be moral in some instances opens up a whole Pandora's box of ends-justifies-the-means sickness. Let's not forget that such logic is exactly that which terrorists (domestic and foreign) routinely employ. They see themselves as engaging in brutality (whether that term is conceded or not) for The Right Reason(s). Of course, this just opens the door for hate-filled sadists (every country and every religion has some) that are always happy to get a free pass on the altruistic torture bus.

"As in just war theory’s account of the use of force, the effectiveness of torture is an element in assessing its morality."

The effectiveness of torture to DO WHAT, exactly? If it's effective in getting reliable information, then some rogue agent who absolutely KNOWS (not easy) that the prisoner holds key info that could save many lives will decide if he wants to torture the person to try to get the info. Presumably, a jury would exonerate him for a truly heroic, selfless act. Still, that effectiveness has been debunked far more than it's been vouched for. Remember too, what we're talking about here (at least I thought we were) is a POLICY of torture, crafted, dictated, and prescribed at the highest levels. Beyond all this, though, I'm troubled by the justification. If America could be saved from any and all future terrorist threats from fanatical Muslims by performing a thorough genocide of the Muslim people, would that make it moral? Would we need to resort to a "net count" to determine that?

As for the legality of waterboarding, the UN has consistently found it to be torture within the Convention Against Torture, which (again) Reagan signed onto with some enthusiasm. But that only scratches the surface of the legal prohibitions against waterboarding that apply to the War on Terror.

You claim that "If the designated officials deem a technique not to be torture, then it is not illegal, although it may be immoral." but even "designated officials" must, and should, play by the established rules. So Bush, Cheney, Obama, whoever, determine(s) that waterboarding is not torture, so that means it's legal? This is like a shell game. Because that's what is happening here. It's not a retreat from saying "Torture is illegal" (based on its profound immorality), it's just shifting the definition of torture in a shameless way. If Yoo, Addington, Bybee, whoever determines that removing up to five fingernails (or limited genital slicing, or hot match-tips to the eyelids, etc.) is not torture, what does that mean? I say that such shell games are just making a mockery of the letter of the law, and absolutely defecating on the spirit of it.

But again, what of the idea that America is looked to for setting some example for the rest of the world (that's a WWII-era poster, by the way)?? So would tradition-minded, freedom-loving conservatives of the present look at that poster and scoff "Oh well, that's no big deal - he's only in some handcuffs!"? Seriously, if we find out that pulling fingernails, scalping, mutilation, etc. can provide actionable intelligence, would that be approved of by conservatives as waterboarding has - as long as it works? (I'll avoid the "Waterboarding - It's a slippery slope!" joke - whoops! I bet Ashbrook scholar Glenn Beck would wear that t-shirt!)

"Democrats/liberals might be better at fighting terrorists because they are less manly than Republicans/conservatives."

Less manly? How lame. How manly is it to constantly be quaking in one's boots with fear, to constantly be fretting about The Next Attack and basing one's politics on perpetually stirring such fear in the populace?

Noel - your silliness really doesn't deserve a response, but I just can't let this inanity slip past:

"Cheney is correct and has seven years without another attack to prove it."

Right, without ANOTHER attack. Apparently he, Bush, and co. were apparently just far too manly to take the appropriate actions (no torture would have been necessary) when faced with intelligence saying "Bin Laden determined to strike in the US", ripe with the details, including: "Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York." Cheney and his ilk deserve about ZERO credit for anything. There could be 1,000,001 reasons why there hasn't been another attack. I don't believe torture has anything to do with it. That's like getting hit by lightning then changing shoes and claiming that your new anti-lightning shoes are the reason you've not been struck since. Beyond absurd.

I'm out of time, but I might write something later about the problems of governments that operate in secret. How many angry right-wingers like the idea of Obama leading a huge secret underground government? I'm not a right-winger, and I certainly don't like it.

Why isn't the system letting me post ANY links (surely these aren't controversial)??

If you put the h, t, t, and p in front of them, they should work...

By breaking the Nazi code, Churchill learned that the city of Coventry was to be bombed soon. He could warn them and give up the ability to read the Germans plans or he could keep quiet and shorten and win the war. He chose to save many rather than the few. Was he a monster...or a hero? By Mr. Tucker's axiom, he should have called up Chamberlain and said: "You be in charge, Neville; I'm far too war-like!"

Nancy Pelosi can barely form a sentence. That's because she thinks that like "subject", "verb", and "adverb", "whopping lie" is just another part of speech.

Eric Holder helped sell Marc Rich a pardon even though Rich traded with the Iranians. He freed the FALN terrorists in Hillary's Pardons For Votes swap. His law firm is representing 18 Gitmo terrorists pro bono and he has plans to move some of them in next door to you and give them welfare checks. He's the first attorney general who has spent more time freeing terrorists thsn incarcerating them.

No, we shouldn't even be talking about this. The only reason we are is due to the complete lack of leadership by Obama. He demagogued this to get elected. And once elected, he still chose to bash Bush and America as a means to pump himself up. He's a carnival Narcissus in the House of Mirrors. And now all their lies are biting them in the ass. I wish I could celebrate, but there's a very good chance their moral chaos will bite the country in the ass unexpectedly, just as they didn't expect Pelosi's public implosion.

David Petreaus is decades ahead of you. By the way, when you imply that Bush and Cheney were embarked on a policy of mindless killing, that means the troops carrying out those policies are mindless killers. I reject that flatly.

"Democrats need to be in charge"? That's wrong on more levels than a 5-story whorehouse. Unless you count the Torys during the Revolution or the Copperheads, we've historically never had a entire class of Americans who wished to see their own country defeated, humbled, leveled or even functionally abolished...until now. Samuel Johnson: "To love their country has been considered as virtue in men, whose love could not be otherwise than blind, because their preference was made without, a comparison; but it has never been my fortune to find, either in ancient or modern writers, any honourable mention of those, who have, with equal blindness, hated their country.”

No, I'm not saying all Democrats hate their country. I'm saying that my whole lifetime, the Left has said patriotism is a cruel joke, the nation-state is finished, America is just another place--excepional only in that everything is our fault and that our enemies are right, or at least blameless.

Some things are so goofy that only a professor or Scanlon could say them. As that great public intellectual Jack Nicholson said at his Guantanamo military tribunal: "You can;t handle the Veritas!"

Here's an important reminder of the moral and practical cases against torture, from someone who certainly did not experience the debate from the distance of the ivory tower (which I don't think is necessarily an illegitimate place from which to issue an opinion; I presume the pro-war professors who never saw combat action, and/or refused to enlist (a la Jonah Goldberg) would agree with that). Prime excerpt:

"I'm not some ivory-tower type; I served for 14 years in the U.S. Air Force, began my career as a Special Operations pilot flying helicopters, saw combat in Bosnia and Kosovo, became an Air Force counterintelligence agent, then volunteered to go to Iraq to work as a senior interrogator. What I saw in Iraq still rattles me -- both because it betrays our traditions and because it just doesn't work.


We turned several hard cases, including some foreign fighters, by using our new [non-torture] techniques. A few of them never abandoned the jihadist cause but still gave up critical information. One actually told me, 'I thought you would torture me, and when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate.'

Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there's the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives."

The author of the article hints at yet another problem with torture, not yet discussed here; the harmful impact it has on the Americans who engage in it. I would guess that even the most zealous (and I'm supposing he must be "manly" - yaaaaawn.) pro-torture warrior-interrogator could experience real and difficult aftershocks from administering torture. One last bit (but I encourage reading the whole article):

"I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans."


Noel offered this:

"Some things are so goofy that only a professor or Scanlon could say them. As that great public intellectual Jack Nicholson said at his Guantanamo military tribunal: 'You can't handle the Veritas!'"

So, goofy is reminding conservatives of the need for rule of law, rather than rule of men, and serious is, supposedly, citing a silly Jack Nicholson movie character (a badly stereotyped and one-dimensional character, at that) from a lackluster film to make some kind of "blood and guts and no brains" point. (Nice shameless insertion of the Latin to make it sound more lofty!) Meanwhile, back in the reality-based community...

Still having problems with posting links. Try this ??

Ok, I think everyone can figure out what to put in front of this:

What, are you the Latin Joke Police, Craig? Here's one of my favorites: "Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus vntosissimis exponebantur ad necem!"

I disagree: Tom Cruise is not "lackluster". He's a dwarf Scientologist who managed to turn Kelly McGillis gay--but he's not lacking in luster. Otherwise, you wouldn't be trying to reprise his role on the internet.

I'm against torture. I'm just not against waterboarding three slugs who flattened the World Trade Center in order to stop them from blowing up the Brooklyn Bridge, too.

I think that Puerto Rican single mom who gets up at dark to go to work has a right not to plunge into the East River in order to assauge the moral vanity of grandstanding politicians. But that's just me. And Dick.

Anyway, I take it all back; maybe Democrats SHOULD be in charge:

Daily Telegraph:

"The general chosen by Barack Obama to run the war in Afghanistan permitted abusive treatment and interrogation of detainees in Iraq, according to human rights investigators.

Soldiers have described beatings, psychological torture and other physical mistreatment at a camp near Baghdad where General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of US Joint Special Operations forces in Iraq, was frequently seen. ...

According to Mr Garlasco's report, which was based on soldiers' evidence, inmates at the camp were regularly stripped naked, subjected to sleep deprivation and extreme cold, placed in painful stress positions, and beaten. Gen McChrystal is lionised in the US as a warrior-scholar. Last week the media has carried admiring reports on how he eats just one meal a day and operates on a few hours' sleep. He led Task Force 121, the Special Operations units in Iraq which caught Saddam Hussein and killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

His appointment signals a dramatic shift in US tactics, from reaching out to the Taliban in favour of a more aggressive military approach. ...

One senior official who asked for the identity of the respected international organisation for which he works to be withheld said: "Expect to see secret, dead of night raids in Afghanistan, with more civilians getting hurt and no one being held accountable. Its a big tactical shift. Because of his history in Iraq we were very alarmed when we heard he was going to be in charge in Afghanistan.".................

Oh, the Humanity! The shiny new Reality-Based president is a torturer, too! Clearly, we need to return at once to the humane policies of Bush/Cheney: "No Caterpillar Left Behind!"

Kate – the issue is not a single bully vs lots of bullies. It is a question of how the enemy fights. If the enemy accepts the convention, and all its details, of organizing and fighting openly and separately from a population, then our military and its preferred way of fighting is useful. If the enemy rejects that convention, then the military’s preferred way of fighting, touted in the comments by many, is not useful and leads to defeat.

Mr. Valladolid – Among other things, your chronology is off, both with regard to Zarqawi and AQ in Iraq and Iraq in general. Also, a lot of different things were going on in Iraq in different places at different times. The “surge” (more troops) affected a tiny area. The change in strategy (less direct use of force) and, even more important, the Sunni Awakening movement were critical changes. All of this data (casualties, timelines, etc) can be tracked at any number of open sites. Brookings and CSIS are good. No classified information is necessary to argue any of the points we are arguing.

Mr. Adams – I am shocked to read the claim that I sound like President Bush but I think you are confused. The point is not what allied or potentially allied governments think but what the relevant populations think. It is good to punish enemies. The question is, what is the most effective way to do that? That is the point of my comment to Kate.

David Tucker, are you not aware that a plot to fly planes into the tallest building in LA was what was revealed during the waterboarding of KSM? It was an actual plot that was about to be executed by an east Asian cell (in the Philippines, I believe). Hugh Hewitt talked about this pretty extensively on his radio show. Are you speaking in ignorance or are you actually suggesting we should not have aggressively pursued KSM's statements made during interrogation prior to the waterboarding that we will know of another attack "soon enough"?

Also, I don't know how well-versed you are in military speak, but you're not raising a new debate: you're talking CT vs COIN - that is, Counter Terrorism vs Counter Insurgency. You are claiming we are focusing too much on counter terrorism when in reality we need to focus on counter insurgency operations to win the war. Without getting into the weeds, suffice to say most of those who can speak smartly about all this believe that a combination of the two works best and would best serve our intentions in Afghanistan.

Andrew – there is information on the LA plot you refer to other than that provided by Hugh Hewitt. For example, President Bush’s Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Fran Townsend, in a briefing in 2006: “The cell leader [of the LA plot] was arrested in February of 2002, and as we begin -- at that point, the other members of the cell believed that the West Coast plot has been canceled, was not going forward. You'll recall that KSM was then arrested in April of 2003 -- or was it March -- I'm sorry, March of 2003.”

The plot apparently was broken up about a year before KSM was captured. So, it appears that his interrogation did not lead to the information that broke up the plot. In her briefing, Townsend said a couple of other nations provided information.

By the way, KSM claimed all sorts of things, most of which were not true. Is that relevant to the discussion?

Whatever may be the facts in the LA case, I acknowledged in my original post that torture might work in the short-term, although there are many reasons to think (e.g., all of KSM’s false claims) that it is not very useful. The important thing is the long-term. Your argument is irrelevant to that more important point, as is the distinction you draw between CT and COIN, although I will do my best to get up to speed on military speak.

Tucker, are you aware how interrogations actually proceed? Sure a guy can prattle on about anything, but every single thing he says is scrutinized. If a guy says he met with so and so to discuss such and such an operation, the questions immediately start nailing that down, when did you meet him, where, in what room did you stay, under what alias if any, how did you get there, and via computers much of this type of corroborating detail can be verified within minutes, ----------- minutes. I know those derogating enhanced techniques are fond of tossing out that under such techniques anybody could say just about anything, all of which would be believed by unsuspecting questioners. But that's not the case. That's a caricature of modern interrorgation, which consists of more than merely taping and trusting what someone says. It's much more interactive. Instead of imagining some passive question and answer session, one should try to picture a ongoing process of immediate comparison to other details that were previously confirmed, such as travel itenaries, hotel stays, bank transfers. Thus it's not easy to conjure on the fly some far-fetched story, for a designed in flexibility provides for the chance for an interrogation to easily move from something like a direct examination to cross-examination.

And you got Northern Ireland wrong. The British were there for CENTURIES, and enhanced techniques were as a drop in the bucket in that ocean of Irish grievance. Are you really suggesting that some IRA and INLA terrorists, but for their knowledge and horror of enhanced techniques, would never have entered the ranks of terror? Are you really suggesting that such techniques were the straws that broke the back for many a "provo?" So why did you use that example?

likewise Algeria. In addition the conclusion you would have us draw from the Franco-Algerian war resembles what any might derive from watching that cult classic, The Battle for Algiers. A movie factually wrong and agit-prop to boot. Algiers was pacified when the French decided to throw in the towel upon the ascension of DeGaulle. Which means in fact the example does not support your lead post. And as the British acquired a rep over their many centuries in Ireland, and later Northern Ireland, so too did the French acquire a rep in Algeria. Are you suggesting that torture had some kind of unique saliency and potency that other issues lacked?

Where was Vietnam on your list? A notable absence. What's your opinion of the value of the information that the RVN and MACV gained by real torture, and not merely "enhanced technique?"

I apologize for getting the facts wrong about KSM. I'm going to have to look up who it was they interrogated, because I've read from multi-sources that the cell based in east Asia that was plotting against LA was in fact broken up and caught due to one of the higher ups being waterboarded. Probably the leader to whom you refered.

As to the difference between counter terrorism and counter insurgency, it is a relevant distinction as you, by making the case against enhanced interrogation techniques because it damages our image, are in favor of the purely counter insurgency model (which calls for focusing on controlling the population - winning hearts and minds - and building infrastructure to deny the insurgents a source of recruits). This method, while perfect for subduing homegrown insurgencies such as those fought by America in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century in the Americas and in the Philippines, does not fit into the global insurgency model we are dealing with in this War on Terror (or Overseas Contingency Operation). We cannot control the population and win the hearts and minds of peoples with whom we don't have access to (ie Pakistan). When dealing with such a global theater, we have to employ all our resources (from diplomacy to enhanced interrogation techniques). It is true that winning hearts and minds is the linchpin to our long term success, however, you are failing to acknowledge that, while winning hearts and minds, nefarious plots are being hatched in areas of the world where are soldiers are not in place to hand out MREs and soccer balls. When dealing with those places and those people, we must pursue a more forceful cloak-and-dagger policy (ie counter terrorism) unless we are willing to accept civilian casualties that could have been avoided (as you admit, EITs save lives in the short run).

Like I said before, there isn't a magic bullet solution to the global counterinsurgency we are waging, and due the incredibly diverse nature of the beast, we will have to employ a number of tactics and methods in order to win it.

Oh, now I see the PC euphemism for torture - "enhance interrogation techniques" - has even got its own shorthand, EITs. Lovely. Gives it an official, authoritative ring.

Well, I heard that one of the Bad Guys ("Al Qaeda's second in command" probably, as so many have been) gave us some good info after we pulled out a few of his teeth with pliers and used a scalpel in a creative way in his sensitive areas. I guess those EITs are now defensible as well.

(meant to write "enhanced" above, of course)

Mr. Dan – the facts you mentioned—skilled interrogators backed up with lots of data—are usually cited as part of the explanation for why we do not need to use much coercion in our interrogations. So, thanks for supporting my argument. Similarly, if you are connecting the result in Vietnam to what happens when we use enhanced interrogations, then again thanks for helping make my argument. I will let you luxuriate in your knowledge of Algeria and Northern Ireland.

Andrew – the distinction you are making is irrelevant because in both CT and COIN it is the population that is the priority not the terrorists or the insurgents. Everything has to be done with that in mind. The less standing terrorists and insurgents have with the relevant populations, the freer a hand does a government have but the standing of the terrorists/insurgents and the government with relevant populations is not static. Our actions do effect the populations in Pakistan.

Yes, enhanced interrogation techniques (or EITs) is what the CIA and those who defend doctor-supervised waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and open-handed slapping have taken to calling them.

Oh, and I forgot pushing a detainee wearing a protective neck brace into a wall specially built to yield a little so as not to harm them.

Mr. Tucker, your facts are wrong concerning counter-terrorism. I don't think you are understanding that the words "counter-terrorism" and "counter-insurgency" have a very specific meaning among the anti-terrorism/defense community. This article can hopefully explain where I have failed. Again, we need to pursue both long-term trust- and infrastructure-building methods if we want to win the long war, but while doing so we must also neutralize threats as they develop lest we fail our fellow citizens in the nation's most important role.

Tucker, EITs are the trigger for cooperation, without which the back-up information you mentioned is useless.

Misidentifying the purpose of an enhanced interrogative technique does not inspire me with confidence in your analysis of the issue at bar. Precisely the opposite.

It's a trigger, that's all, often the mere threat of the existence of that trigger will indeed cause cooperation, a cooperation that would not be forthcoming in the absence of the threat thereof. For instance, in the immediate aftermath of the release of the photos of Abu Gharib prison, Coalition interrogators noted a marked cooperation that hadn't existed previously. How are we to account for that cooperation, which came without enhanced technique? Those photos clearly scared some into cooperating, simply because they didn't want to be subjected to something that in that culture would be so shameful.

As for 'Nam, I see again a fondness for caricature. The forgotten outcome of 'Nam was an RVN standing tall, its interior enemies defeated, its streets safe, business thriving, the land being tilled and produce production skyrocketing. After we left, BUT BEFORE that final invasion, the enemies within of the RVN were completely crushed. There was NO indigenous threat to the government. And even her enemies outside of her border had been beaten to a standstill.

Had the RVN been supported with the supplies, the financial support, the fuel, the ammunition, the spare parts, weaponry to replace that destroyed in the wastage of combat, had they been supported as they were supposed to be supported by treaty, a support they received in '73, but which was denied them by Congressional Democrats in '75, they NEVER would have collapsed.

The techniques which weren't merely "enhanced," but were indeed genuine torture, were widely used in 'Nam, but those techniques left the RVN and MACV with an intelligence picture which was right on the money throughout the entire tenure of Creighton Abrams.

I introduced the subject of 'Nam to test you, to see whether you subscribed to the easy caricature now dominant, or whether you really knew of what you now speak. You didn't pass the test.

As for Ireland, I went to one of the finest Irish Studies programs in the country, at Villanova, so yea, I expect that I know a great deal more about Irish history. However, if you'd like to learn a thing or two about what MACV knew during the Abrams tenure, and about how accurate their intelligence picture was, do consult a book that's required reading in some circles, especially those circles that recommended the surge, it's Lewis Sorley's A BETTER WAR. Sorely had access to the weekly intelligence briefings that Abrams received, as well as the taped conversations of the principals in the aftermath of such weekly briefings.

And Tucker, you needn't call me "Mr. Dan." If you've got a prob, merely refer to my comment by the comment number. I went to Catholic school where everybody was comfortable tossing around last names, it wasn't viewed as a discourtesy, everybody had enough ego to handle it.

When you write a lead post like that, you should couch your comments in that academic fashion where conclusions are tentative. Your very first sentence established a bar that you never rose to. That entire first paragraph was unsupported conclusion followed by unsupported conclusion, laced throughout with value judgements that flew in the face of human experience. Your conclusions were far too strong, and failed to take into account other factors beyond torture that might have motivated the players in the drama. Then you followed that up with a second paragraph the theme whereof is very much moot, and Peters has written at length on the topic, and would be more than eager to take you up on it. I hold no brief for Peters here, but your commentary in that 2d paragraph hinted at a derision that was entirely uncalled for. After such a first and second paragraph you should have called it a day. But the last thing you should have done was type those final two sentences, because it just dares somebody to come after you.

Here's a decent link about the Library Tower plot. As Mr. Tucker said, the first plot was broken up over a year before KSM was captured and waterboarded (or tortured). There was a second plot, although it sounds like it was still very much in the works, and that was the one KSM revealed after being waterboarded.

Andrew -- It seems the so-called second plot was really just an idea or an intention on KSM's part. Or maybe, because he didn't like waterboarding, he made it up.

The problem I have with the evidence being put forth about stopped attacks is that it assumes that our security measures could have done nothing to prevent the attacks from happening. In other words, would not the increased airport security ect have had a chance of derailing these attacks or is all that just a psyop like duck and cover? If I have the story correct, and I'm sure I don't, 911 represented a perfect storm of failures in our defense against this sort of thing so thinking that because there was a plot does not mean that it was inevitable. Why do we insist on going half way though? If torture is just than why stop at any level or draw any guidlines? Cut off a few fingers just to let them know you mean business. There is always going to be a plot somewhere to do something terrible and kill innocent people. It may not be on the 911 scope but there will always be some violent plot out there. Mabye we loose more by acting like savages in order to prevent as many as possible than just accepting that evil is a part of the world and we should do what we can but don't cross the line into becoming what we are trying to fight. glad that sentance is not being graded.

Events in Sri Lanka should help sort out some of the truth about dealing with counter-insurgency in this argument. As far as I know and have read, the Sri Lankan government has not been delicate in its handling of the Tamil. Yet, according to the article, people are rejoicing in the streets at the Tamil defeat. Killing Velupillai Prabhakaran and dealing with that enemy in that military way appears, at the momentBrutus, I teach English and when I get papers from students who write as you do, I always put some note at the end of the paper like, "Good ideas, but they could be expressed better. Use your software's grammar check before you show your writing to anyone." But this is just a blog. Who cares?

Dan, the language of the post invites argument, as it should. If the blog goes all academic and use squishy language and no assertions, then it will be some tendentious else and not a blog.

Kate -- If you want to use the LTTE as an example you need to go into the whole story. (The same is true of the other cases brought up here: NI, Algeria, Vietnam, etc.) The war has gone on for a long time and the Sri Lankans have used lots of different approaches. The LTTE has a conventional military force; terrorism long ago became a small part of their operation. Finally, if you are fighting an enemy that makes serious military and political mistakes, everything is easier. This is one reason we have had the success we have had against AQ.

Brutus, what's that about cutting off fingers? The EITs we have been using are: waterboarding, sleep deprivation, telling a guy who admitted he was afraid of insects they were going to put him in a box with a caterpillar (though not actually doing it), open-handed slapping, and shoving a detainee wearing a neck brace into a specially built wall made to give way so as not to hurt them. I do not consider any of that torture. As to how it hurts our image in the world, no one would care if the press didn't say we systematically torture captured insurgents. They do FAR worse to them in their own countries, to which the left cries "but we're better than that!" while ignoring the fact that we are, in fact, behaving better than that. We aren't maiming or torturing them, we're using psychology and carefully orchestrated shock to break down their mental resistance.

We are using these tactics against men who saw the heads off of hog-tied civilians. I have seen two seperate videos of beheadings (one played before a Counter-Terror/Force Protection class, the other before a Combat Hunter class taught by two former NYPD detectives). I've also seen pictures of the torture houses the insurgents were operating in Baghdad. After seeing what real torture is, and how evil it is, I find it very difficult to stomach the argument that waterboarding is torture. This is not a tactic we use on every village sheik we think isn't fully disclosing everthing he knows; we have waterboarded THREE individuals. A doctor was present to ensure the safety of the detainee. Those who draw a moral equivalence between the interrogation techniques we have been using and the torture, maiming, and murder practiced by our enemies are either ignorant of their practices or incapable of making reasonable moral judgments.

However, I believe the argument David Tucker is making is that the long-term negative effects of having the world know that we waterboarded three individuals outweighs the short-term benefits of what he considers questionable intelligence gained from waterboarding. It is a reasonable argument and I largely agree. However, I would not take it off the table. First, when we have high-value targets who are not being compliant in any way, we need some recourse to extract information from them - especially in a ticking-timebomb scenario. Second, had our intelligence community been able to use discretion, "the world" would not have heard about the three individuals who were waterboarded, and thus the negative long-term affects avoided.

Now, I know I've convinced Craig I'm a Nazi, but my question to Mr. Tucker is: do you disagree with the act itself (either because it generates dubious intelligence or because you find it morally evil) or do you believe that we shouldn't use EITs because now that the world knows about them they are a recruiting tool for AQ & Co. and thus hurt us more than help us?

David -- Yes, when I said we'll see, I meant it; it has been interesting to watch Sri Lanka, among other such situations, over time. None of the situations mentioned here or not mentioned are directly analogous.

As I have been semi-thinking about the related argument in this thread, especially this article Craig offered, wouldn't most of our military be relieved to have an excuse not to use torture? Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. As our military and intelligence gathering agencies figure out what works and does not work in these fluid situations (as LTTE changed tactics and organization over the years, can't we expect all other groups to do so?) it seems sensible to leave all options open. I know that is risky because there are sadists in the world, even American ones, but making law against EIT's or narrowly defining torture is not a real defense against those people, also, it limits action in the rare situations where it might actually work. Making such a law is a superficial fix, about as useful as adding fabric softener to a laundry load of burlap. It might help the odor, but does not do much for the actual fabric, moral or otherwise.

I have seen no evidence that the incidents at Abu Ghraib were directed by Dick Cheney, nor anyone else up the chain of command. I understand the damage that did, but none of that was done for intelligence gathering purposes, was it? That whole mess was not useful in so many ways. Neither is holding it up as "What Americans do" helpful or useful, either. We could wish it had not happened, but no rule against those things stopped it from happening. Even the prosecution of the perpetrators does not soften the effect.

As to Guantanamo, Jim Webb now sees that as useful. As, seemingly, does the president, perhaps now seeing the facility beyond its symbolism.

First paragraph, I meant not directly analogous to one another.

Good post, Kate. It seems to me like many who get apoplectic over this issue believe that those who are in favor of using waterboarding want it to be used on every detainee we question (most of whom, let's face it, are innocent shephard boys who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time firing a Kalashnikov at the wrong soldiers). Most people I know think it should only be used on high-value targets or on those we believe have actionable intelligence. On the issue of waterboarding, I consider myself pro-choice: I want waterboarding to be safe, legal, and rare.

Too much of this discussion is about coercion in interrogation. As I said in my original post, the larger issue is the use of force in the kind of conflict we are in. Coercion in interrogation is a subset of that larger and more important issue. More important overall probably are such tactics as hellfire missile attacks that kill many more civilians than high value targets. Even the use of that term is revealing (to me at least) of the misconceptions involved. Individual leaders are rarely high value. Public opinion is what is high value in these fights.

Andrew -- I said in an earlier post that I do not consider torture categorically morally wrong. There might be a circumstance in which it was the right thing to do. It seems to me ineffective very often in the short run and, especially as revealing misconceptions about the kind of conflict one is involved in, an indicator and contributor to failure in the long term.

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You can kill a man's father so long as you leave him his patrimony. We agree that public opinion is of the upmost importance in this global counter-insurgency, however, the Muslim world is looking for reasons to hate us. There will be plenty of misteps made to feed that hatred whether or not we make winning hearts and minds our main effort. Rather, I think it is in developing their economies, infrastructure, and national governments that will gain us longterm respect. The Anbar Awakening occured for two reasons: Al-Qaeda was too brutal and America proved we were stronger and we were sticking around, not because we avoided collateral damage or passed out MREs. It's the carrot and the stick: if you stick with us we will protect you from the zealots and build schools, roads, and a strong government; if you fight us we will kill you.

Andrew -- your claims about what Muslims are looking for strike me as unsupportable prejudice. I think the last sentences of comment 50 make no sense. We were not stronger and were not winning. That's why the "surge" was necessary. We were passing out lots of MREs, etc. Why would you think anyone would argue that it should be either carrot or stick?

"Force or killing won’t bring us victory. That’s the wrong strategy."

Really? I think Mr Tucker you misunderstand the battle we face. I am sure you have read the fatwas, the declarations, the manifestos of the jihadists. They have defined the boundaries of this conflict: submit to their will, or die. There is only one answer to this: kill them before they kill you. You are very correct that we were not winning in Iraq before the surege, and the reason is that we could not kill enough jihadis to prove that we were both stronger and more dangerous. When we started to have more troops in place and more intelligence from locals, then we started killing more jihadis and more of the jihadi leadership. And that is the definition of winning a conflict: Convince the other to quit. The way to win a war is to kill enough of the enemy until they are sure they cannot win.

It is completely irrelevant if our methods of interrogation, torture, etc. inflame jihadi sentiment. All that matters is making sure we kill as many as it takes to convince them they have lost. It's a very simple calculus. We must be more brutal than the enemy in order to convince him he has lost. All else is vapid sophistry.


"Yes, enhanced interrogation techniques (or EITs) is what the CIA and those who defend doctor-supervised waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and open-handed slapping have taken to calling them...

Oh, and I forgot pushing a detainee wearing a protective neck brace into a wall specially built to yield a little so as not to harm them."

== Oh, well, it's doctor-supervised torture. Why didn't you say so? These "EIT"s might not seem harmless to everyone, ask your doctor if waterboarding, sleep-deprivation, and slapping are right for you. What a joke. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the right are the true masters of political correctness.

"Those who draw a moral equivalence between the interrogation techniques we have been using and the torture, maiming, and murder practiced by our enemies are either ignorant of their practices or incapable of making reasonable moral judgments."

== Utter b.s. First, it's not about "moral equivalence." Waterboarding and murder are not equivalent, obviously. Waterboarding and maiming are different. None of that makes waterboarding right or defensible. I would also like to point out that the impact of various torture methods could effect different people differently. Some people might be much more able to tolerate the pain of being cut (by blades) than the sensation that they are about to die by drowning. Secondly, if you think that the "EIT"s/torture that you've neatly enumerated are the full extent of what's taken place, I think you're kidding yourself. There are currently murder investigations underway regarding prisoner deaths at various U.S. facilities (although, like most internal investigations, I expect the investigators to, effectively, clear themselves). There have also been some (possibly, but not necessarily) accusations of genital slicing of one prisoner held by Americans. But whether those things happened or not doesn't make any difference to this issue - waterboarding is still torture.

Now, I know I've convinced Craig I'm a Nazi...

== Wrong. Endorsing torture techniques in a blog forum doesn't make you a Nazi. Must something sink to the depths of the Nazis for it to be wrong? Sorry, I set the bar higher. I find your ideas repugnant, but that doesn't make you Nazi-like.

"It seems to me like many who get apoplectic over this issue believe that those who are in favor of using waterboarding want it to be used on every detainee we question (most of whom, let's face it, are innocent shephard boys who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time firing a Kalashnikov at the wrong soldiers)"

== Keep in mind that sarcasm often doesn't carry over effectively to digital text. I take it you don't actually believe that "most" of the detainees (read: prisoners) are "innocent shephard [sic] boys." I don't think so, either. I also don't believe that most of the prisoners are clearly terrorists or supporters of terrorism, agents of Satan, etc. Recall, however, that before releasing the vast majority of Gitmo prisoners, Rumsfeld described Gitmo as the place for "the worst of the worst."

Dan declared:

"I introduced the subject of 'Nam to test you, to see whether you subscribed to the easy caricature now dominant, or whether you really knew of what you now speak. You didn't pass the test."

== Everyone I've ever known who engages in discussion by "testing" and failing others in this super-arrogant fashion offers a simple, surefire method for passing their tests. Agree with them. It probably works with Bill O'Reilly, too. Be sure to agree with much enthusiasm, and offer some compliments for good measure.

Andrew - almost forgot, here's an even better article that discusses (and debunks) the notion that torture derailed the Library Tower plot.

Mr. Tucker, since this is really going around in circles at this point (I post a comment, you post one saying it has nothing to do with what we're talking about, repeat), could you describe exactly what strategy and tactics you would like see implemented? "Force or killing won’t bring us victory. That’s the wrong strategy." So what's the right strategy?

Scanlon, Tucker's point was that torture didn't work, or needlessly prolonged the conflict even if it did "work," {according to his idea the term work there would have to be placed in quotation marks}.

Events in 'Nam back in the day disproved that conclusion. Torture, which was used, {albeit but one part of an overall spectrum of methods of information gathering} delivered highly accurate information, which enabled MACV to successfully complete their mission, {which was to stand up and leave behind an independent RVN}. That the RVN went down later to a foreign invader is not material to the discussion. And remember, in 'Nam we're not talking "enhanced technique," we're talking real live torture, where the enemy was not just tortured, but often flipped.

Tucker made several mistakes. He inflated the role of what he termed "torture" in motivating the enemy; in motivating him to join a resitance, and to continue on in that resistance; he short-changed the value of the information gleaned via such methods; he mischaracterized the purpose of such techniques, which exist only to trigger bona-fide cooperation from the prisoner in question. I could go on and on and on here, but perhaps I'll close with this. Before our would-be fighter pilots ever get to sit in on one of our top-line fighters, they have to go through a little thing where they learn to escape the cockpit underwater. So they're strapped into a simulator, rapidly inverted and simultaneously plunged into about 50 feet of water, and being upside down, about 40 gallons of that water enters through their noses. Yet they're supposed to have the poise and the wherewithall to maintain composure, mental clarity, unstrap themselves, orient within this chaos and get themselves to the surface.

This is much ado about nothing.

Andrew -- The key to CT and COIN and irregular warfare generally is not the terrorists or the insurgents. The key is the population that surrounds them. The strategy is to focus on the population, to separate it from the terrorists or the insurgents. How that is done in particular cases varies.

#57: Understood. I also understand that you have studied this subject much more than I have. However, I am having difficultly buying two of your points: one on language and one on tactics. I have read/been taught that the focus of CT was not the civilian population - it is taking direct action (ie hostage rescue, predator drone strikes, SEAL teams operating alone and unafraid in the mountains, assassinations of HVTs, etc). Am I wrong? I get most of my information concerning CT/COIN from the Small Wars Journal website and Marine Corps publications. Am I misunderstanding what I'm reading or do you disagree with what they say?

The other argument you're making which still isn't convincing me is that such direct action operations (by whatever nomenclature) hurt more than they help. What I've been trying to suggest, albeit clumsily, is that the enemy we are fighting is so brutal that the negative publicity we create with the collateral damage we cause is easily counterbalanced by the positive effects our pressence has on the local population. There are many exceptions, but in general the citizens of Afghanistan favor our presence to that of the Taliban by a huge margin. I've been interpretting events in Iraq and Afghanistan to show that the two biggest factors in winning a population to our side are proving we are stronger (and able to protect them from the other) and that we're sticking around for a while (and thus able to protect them from revenge for siding with us). Where am I going wrong?

positive effects our pressence has on the local population. five million dead iraqis can't be wrong. "Iraqis want us out" gets over 7 million hits on google. there was a time where we were hearing good things, now it is mostly bad. I don't know which was lies and propoganda. In the history of the world though, when has an occupying army been a positive pressence. The country is made up of people who live in their small worlds so if one guy's son gets fragged he is not really thinking about all the long term good that is happening. I think it is a gross underestimating of the Islamic world to think they are going to be swayed by propoganda related to torture. Americans yes.

As to #47, we have an on-going argument in the threads about interrogation techniques. This topic was close enough to allow that conversation to continue.

I also have a question about #47; don't individual leaders, by virtue of their leadership, their status and public image have influence on public opinion?

I am also looking forward to the answers to Andrew's questions, which might more directly relate to the point of the post. He is offering a point of view drawn from military publications, which most Republicans I know would agree with, though maybe Ralph Peters would not.

Kate – leaders do affect public opinion but if we are killing lots of civilians as we kill the leaders, then we are likely to lose public opinion. I have seen a web site that lists the predator strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As you role the cursor over the strike symbol a small window opens listing the high value target we sought and the people we actually killed. The ratio of civs to HVTs is striking. I think this site is at Brookings, maybe somewhere else.

Andrew – I understand the distinction you are making. As far as I know, you are right that it is a distinction that is made. I think it is irrelevant, however, in the sense that it is very hard to make targeting an unconventional enemy a winning strategy, for the reasons I have been giving. My objection is not with the distinction but with a claim that CT, as you are using the term, is effective. As I have tried to make clear, killing terrorists is ok. This is not a question of objecting to the use of force. It is an objection to using force (in interrogations, hunting HVTs, etc) that is counterproductive. Hearts and minds is also a mistaken strategy, if one thinks that appealing to hearts and minds by itself is sufficient. Some times terrorists make themselves so obnoxious that a government has a lot of leeway. How much is an empirical question and a difficult judgment. My sense is that the Afghanis may well dislike the Taliban but their non-Taliban government is not something they are fond of (for good reasons and in some cases tribal reasons) and they don’t like us blowing up their women and children and not effectively protecting them.

I agree with the two principles you articulate: protecting the population and convincing the population that the protection will last. Killing insurgents or terrorists (CT as you use the term) can be part of this but the priority is protecting the population and winning their support. Everything has to be done with the understanding that public opinion and not the number of terrorists killed is the key. Once public is won intelligence improves and we can use violence more discriminately and thus more effectively.

That’s the theory. It goes back to the British and especially the French in the 1950s. I think there is evidence to support it.

Mr. Tucker, I would really like to see that page listing the Predator strikes in the 'stans - any more specific idea where it is? It doesn't seem that your position on the issue is convincing many - unsurprising. It just might get you shifted over into some people's "Enemies" columns.

I never would have expected to write something like this, but I think Jesse Ventura has been doing a fine job of breaking down this issue (!) in his recent media appearances. It's so refreshing to see a guy who in so many ways represents the big, dumb, macho (or "manly"), force-first-ask-questions-later, blood-and-guts realm take a stand against torture. Of course, the FoxNews types love to bring up the "imminent threat" thing. Ventura should have brought up the fact that waterboarding someone over the course of weeks or months, dozens of times (180-some?), doesn't fit with that scenario. When he asks why McVeigh and Nichols weren't 'boarded (an excellent question, btw) or why it's not used on domestic criminals/criminal suspects, it's all some of the right-wing interviewers can do to bite their tongues from saying "Maybe we should/should have!" Actually, I think one of them did say just that (but I'm not going to bother with going back through all the vids again)...

Craig, I think you are wrong that David Tucker has not been convincing. It just took 61 comments full of arguments to get, me at least, to understand his point. Even Andrew, by comment #58, is wanting more clarity on Tucker's position and it appears by #61 that their positions on the topic are not really at odds.

The whole of your comment just bolsters my opinion as to what prolonged TV watching does to the human mind. (I am smiling sweetly.)

David, yes, the collateral damage issue has to be much bigger in the nation at war than it is to anyone else. We can say, "too bad!" and even mean it when innocents are killed in the pursuit of HVT, but when those no-value targets have personal value, that is something else and must engender the same outrage the deaths in the WTC caused Americans. I do not remember, nor do I want to take the time to look up, reading that Saddam Hussein was turned in, not exactly "discovered" hiding away. That would be most desirable, to have the civilian population handing our enemies over to us because those enemies of ours have also become their enemies.

#60: Brutus, what are you talking about? There are only 28 million people in that country. Do you believe really believe one sixth of the population has been killed?

Its five million displaced, one million dead. Sorry. I guess it is just 1/28 or so, just enough to make a really good omlet. link Still a staggering number though.

Kate, I didn't say that it wasn't convincing, I simply said that I don't think it's having the effect of convincing many of the reader-commenters here. Perhaps you are an exception. So, are you convinced that the American policy of using torture, and the various issues with Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, etc., have been counterproductive? Understanding a point and conceding it are two different things.

Notwithstanding your sweet-smiling speculation on the impact that TV has had on my mind, it actually wasn't even necessary for me to watch TV to know of Ventura's recent appearances. I'm also guessing that Cheney has logged more time on the idiot box since the end of his widely-loathed vice-presidency-in-hiding than has Ventura. Cheney's TV appearances were obviously what inspired the creation of Mr. Tucker's blog post in the first place, after all.

Even if the number of violent Iraqi deaths triggered by the war in Iraq is a mere 100,000 (and don't forget the MILLIONS of refugees), we can be pretty sure that very few of those resulted in another heart and/or mind won over to the American cause (whatever it is being marketed as this week) there...

Brutus, look at the numbers in your Wikipedia link. Your million is open for dispute in your own source.

Craig -- No, I am not conceding your point, but see David Tucker's point better. You and he are not saying the same thing.

Oh, I think I paraphrased Mr. Tucker's point pretty well, Kate. If this isn't saying "This stuff is counterproductive":

"The argument that torture saved lives is unlikely to stand up to scrutiny. Enhanced interrogation techniques might have made people say things they would not have otherwise said and that may have saved lives but how many people were inspired to attack Americans because of these techniques, Guantanamo, etc?

...when liberal democratic countries use torture or enhanced interrogation techniques and excessive force to counter terrorists or insurgents, the liberal democracies either lose or suffer years of conflict and numerous casualties as a result. Every time torture has been used, the defense has been that it saved lives. In the short run maybe." [Hmmm....I wonder what his view of the long run might be?]

- then I think Mr. Tucker was being purposely opaque and obfuscatory (and I really don't think he was).

I wanted to give fair and balanced link. My point is though, is that it is a significant thing. Talking statistics when it comes to lives is a really morbid thing. Should we all be janists, of course not IMHO. However, thinking that we can win the pr battle due to the good we are doing I think is wrong due to the almost unavoidable fact that armies are destructive and innocents get killed and that has more of a direct relation to the individuals than the greater good aspects. This whole thing reminds me of a grad school class where the prof was trying to get though to us that the reformation did not happen one day and all the sudden everyone's lives changed. Most people did not have much change at all and kept a lot of their old pagan ways. Check out the Night Battles by Ginzburg if you want a fun read. The point being is that the toll on the people of iraq is much greater than the Americans who have died in the conflict and people who have lost so much in a war are going to come away jaded no matter how grand the outcome appears in the distant metaphysical realm. I don't think they are so ill informed and dumb as to have something like torture debates shape their view of the USA. I don't like the torture on the principle that I would not want it done to me, I don't think it is a big deal though on the whole preception thing because the people have so much of a more direct relationship to the conflict than anyone arguing from ivory towers ever could.

Is the torture thing a huge deal in their press because I don't think they actually believe western media. Link

Craig (and anyone else who agrees with him), what specifically about waterboarding makes it torture? I'm serious. I guess it would be better to ask: what is the definition of torture and how does waterboarding fit that definition?

I note Fernandez on Sri Lanka, because I have shot my free time for blogging this morning.

Andrew - Frankly, I don't think you are serious. If we learned of some Taliban warriors holding American soldiers somewhere and they were waterboarding them, I can guarantee you that the Right would not hesitate to use the word torture (neither would the Left, but that's beside the point) for waterboarding.

So, I did the googling that you weren't apparently up to. Waterboarding, as defined by the Convention Against Torture, that Reagan gladly signed onto is defined as:

"...any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

So, I think we can quite fairly describe waterboarding as causing severe mental pain and suffering, as well as the physical problems, first and foremost the physical sensation that you are drowning and about to die.

The Wiki entry is useful (but perhaps not so if you want everything to conform with, say the opinions of Yoo or Addington), particularly the historical uses section. You should also note these pics.

I'm guessing that's not specific enough for you, and I'm also guessing that nothing ever could be.

Craig, if AQ had captured several hundred American prisoners, used conventional questioning on 99% of them, waterboarded 3 of the senior-most officers (who didn't give up information the interrogators were convinced they had about America's future operations) with specially trained operatives who had been waterboarded themselves and with a doctor present to ensure the safety of our officers, then told us what they had done and kept all of the captured Americans well-fed in a secure prison with access to legal council, the Bible, and soccer balls . . . I would be hard pressed to consider that torture.

As to your other point, waterboarding was developed by experts in interrogation and doctors precisely because it doesn't cause long-term physical or mental damage. Thousands upon thousands of Americans in the Armed Forces and Intelligence communities are waterboarded as part of their training. For SEALs, waterboarding isn't even part of the training, it is used to screen and evaluate the SEAL candidates to see if they have what it takes to be a Navy SEAL. I suppose all those who don't pass that portion of the SEAL trials - let alone those who do! - should have some recourse against a government that tortured them then kicked them to the curb when they couldn't take it. So if you are correct then 1) America institutionally tortures members of the Armed Forces and Intelligence communities, and 2) the tens of thousands of veterans and active duty members of the military and intelligence services who seem to be productive members of our society are actually severely mentally damaged.

Final point: how incredibly intellectually dishonest of you to NOT include the final sentence of the definition of torture you posted. Here it is:

"It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions."

Very classy.

Well, at AEI today, old Cheney performed a lazy vector roll and eased right into the saddle on Tucker's six o'clock, and sent him and his "arguments" down in flames, complete with the "phony moralizing."

As to your other article, not one of those other techniques listed in the historical uses of waterboarding are the same as the technique we used on the three individuals who were waterboarded. Here is a great excerpt from the article you provided (which I'm now convinced you didn't read) that explains the method America used:

As we understand it, when the waterboard is used, the subject's body responds as if the subject were drowning—even though the subject may be well aware that he is in fact not drowning. You have informed us that this procedure does not inflict actual physical harm. Thus, although the subject may experience the fear or panic associated with the feeling of drowning, the waterboard does not inflict physical pain. as we explained in the Section 2340A Memorandum, "pain and suffering" as used in Section 2340 is best understood as a single concept, not distinct concepts of "pain" as distinguished from "suffering"… The waterboard, which inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever, does not, in our view, inflict "severe pain and suffering". Even if one were to parse the stature more "finely" to attempt to treat suffering as a distinct concept, the waterboard could not be said to inflict severe suffering. The waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering… We find the use of the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death… Although the procedure will be monitored by personnel with medical training and extensive SERE school experience with this procedure who will ensure the subject's mental and physical safety, the subject is not aware of any of these precautions. From the vantage point of any reasonable person undergoing this procedure in such circumstances, he would feel as if he is drowning at the very moment of the procedure due to the uncontrollable physiological sensation he is experiencing. Thus, this procedure cannot be viewed as too uncertain to satisfy the imminence requirement. Accordingly, it constitutes a threat of imminent death and fulfills the predicate act requirement under the statute. Although the waterboard constitutes the real threat of imminent death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result to violate the statutory prohibition on infliction of severe mental pain or suffering… We have previously concluded that prolonged mental harm is mental harm of some lasting duration, e.g., mental harm lasting months or years. Based on your research into the use of these methods at the SERE school and consultation with others with expertise in the field of psychology and interrogation, you do not anticipate that any prolonged mental harm would result from the use of the waterboard… In the absence of prolonged mental harm,no severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted, and the use of these procedures would not constitute torture within the meaning of the statute.

Be advised, SERE school (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) is where nearly all of our military pilots and special forces attend as part of their training.

The point about the SERE training is silly. Are you telling me that those soldiers had no choice but to be waterboarded and it was done against their will? If someone agrees to something, if they voluntarily and willfully allow something to occur to them, that's not torture. Thus, that's why it's obviously not contradictory for Jesse Ventura - who went through the SERE program - to claim that waterboarding is torture when performed upon prisoners, but not feel that he was actually tortured himself. That's not complicated. Along the very same lines, people get their private (and all kinds of body) parts pierced, willingly. There are numerous other examples from underground (but hardly unknown) culture, where people willingly engage in activities that most would find to be something between unpleasant to horrific - and certainly painful. They inflict damage upon themselves. Anyway, you get the idea. So, can we legally, justifiably start punching holes in prisoner's genitals - or whatever else - because of this? Since some people sign up to have it done, doing it to an unwilling party is just fine? All of your other points and questions on that (if they should have legal recourse against the government, etc.) are moot.

I'm at a loss as to why, in the hypothetical where you describe Al Qaeda imprisoning American soldiers, you describe the comparison with Al Qaeda having waterboarded them and "then [Al Qaeda] told us what they had done." But that's hardly comparable. There wasn't any admission (by the Bush administration) to what was done until long after leaks and investigations revealed what had occurred. And we know that the videotapes were destroyed. If it was legal and justifiable, the tapes shouldn't have been destroyed.

I left off the final sentence of the UN Convention Against Torture's definition of torture - which I will happily paste here:

"It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions."

- simply because it's clearly and obviously irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Interrogations are not sanctions. We're not discussing prison terms or executions. These guys didn't go through a court system where they were sentenced to death or the remainder of their lives in tiny windowless cells. I gave the link, I wasn't being dishonest in the least. So spare me your high dudgeon over that reasonable exclusion. I could have quoted the entire Convention Against Torture, but felt that unnecessary, too.

It looks as though you're also willing to employ the Giuliani technique for whether or not to define waterboarding as torture: "It depends on who does it." All of the other countries that did it were doing the bad (torture) kind of waterboarding but we were doing the good (non-torture) kind? Spare me. And citing that self-serving garbage from the Office of Legal Council doesn't mean anything (and you realize that memo - the Bybee memo - was slapped down and superseded even within the Bush years, right?). Perfect example of the shell game I talked about before. They wanted to waterboard so they simply had some lawyers say that it's not torture and thus not illegal to do so.

"...waterboarding was developed by experts in interrogation and doctors precisely because it doesn't cause long-term physical or mental damage."

Ha-ha. If that were true, it would be like caffeine-free Diet Coke, the pure thing devoid of its essence. I'm convinced that you didn't read the waterboarding entry. Developed by doctors and "experts"! I think, more likely, someone simply figured out or noticed that it doesn't, in most cases, leave visible marks on the body, compared to other forms of torture.

Nice work, Andrew. Bravo!

Craig, you are so vapid. "I left off the final sentence of the UN Convention Against Torture's definition of torture . . . simply because it's clearly and obviously irrelevant to the discussion at hand." Wow. Thank you for making that call for us.

Don't get all defensive now that the cats out of the bag - using one doctor's opinion doesn't prove your case, and my points about SEREs school and that our program was established by doctors and experts make perfect sense since our program was established by them. "Although the procedure will be monitored by personnel with medical training and extensive SERE school experience with this procedure who will ensure the subject's mental and physical safety, the subject is not aware of any of these precautions."

There's really no point in carrying on with this conversation. The fact remains that it is impossible to legally prosecute anyone involved in our waterboarding program since, legally, waterboarding is not torture. Torture is a crime of specific intent, and lengths to which the American government went to ensure the safety of the subjects waterboarded show their intent was not that of torture. Read this article about a recent hearing held with the Attorney General. You'll see my point.

"There's really no point in carrying on with this conversation." I say that because it is clear that we will find no middle ground on this issue. I'm sure you agree.

Well, you tell me Andrew - are interrogations sanctions? If the waterboarding that was done to those three prisoners was done as a sanction, as a punishment, then that ends the argument, as waterboarding is not a legal punishment and neither government officials nor the 20%er defenders (Cheney, Cornerites, Kate, etc.) have claimed that it was used as a punishment, legal or otherwise. I explained quite clearly why I didn't include that part of the CAT's definition, nor the rest of the CAT. If you want to insist that the waterboarding done by the CIA interrogators was done as a sanction, please show me where any official has claimed as much. As in the case of the OLC memo, you seem to take their word as a kind of gospel, at least until new Justice Dept. officials say that waterboarding is torture, in which case your independent skepticism suddenly kicks in.

You never addressed my point that simply because something legally occurs in society (SERE training, body piercing, scarification, etc.) between willing participants doesn't make it justifiable or defensible as an act performed upon an unwilling, resistant party.

The part of the OLC memo that you quoted in your most recent comment:

"Although the procedure will be monitored by personnel with medical training and extensive SERE school experience with this procedure who will ensure the subject's mental and physical safety, the subject is not aware of any of these precautions."

...and thus, when the waterboarding occurs, when an unwilling, resistant (It isn't "Have a seat, sir!" followed by "Why, thank you, I will!") person is waterboarded, that person has every reason to believe that (this time) they will actually drown, and are about to - in addition to all of the body's automatic, self-preservation resistance to the act. Thus, the meeting of the definition of torture. The Corner blog-post you cited just repeats your claims. It's not torture when it's SERE training, so it can't be torture when the CIA does it (but somehow it can be if a non-American does it, or has done it - convenient!!).

Your citing of the development of wateboarding by the doctors and experts at the SERE school does not make perfect sense, as that program was designed to train soldiers so they would know what might occur should the enemy capture them and employ waterboarding on them. It wasn't designed to get the soldiers themselves to confess to crimes or provide reliable information.

I read your Corner blog-post from McCarthy (Which could be titled "McCarthy on Waterboarding - Proving It's Torture While Insisting It's Not"). He, too, employed the Giuliani-like "it depends on who is doing it" defense, to wit:

"In any event, the actions you take to waterboard are essentially the same whether the one inflicting the treatment is a miltary interrogation-resistance trainer or a CIA interrogator. (I am not saying all waterboarding is the same, nor am I denying that some waterboarding — such as sadistically practiced by the Japanese in WWII — rises to the level or torture. I am talking here only about these two situations: U.S. military trainer and CIA interrogator.)"

His distinctions are, frankly, absurd. And his assertion that the actions taken (by the trainer and the interrogator) are "essentially the same" is clearly false on its face. For starters, one need only consider the difference between the SERE trainee and a prisoner who (per the OLC memo) "is not aware of any of these [medical] precautions."

But I read the whole thing, so I ask you to read this, an essay in Small Wars Journal, entitled "Waterboarding is Torture...Period" by Malcolm Vance. He is a a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California. This man has clearly studied the issue, and had direct involvement in it, 100X more than both of us together. A choice nugget (but do read the whole thing):

"There is No Debate Except for Torture Apologists

1. Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again."


Yes, there probably is not much point in continuing this. You are resorting to name-calling and you seem closed to reasoning. You apparently like waterboarding (performed by Americans) too much to give it up, regardless of what it actually is, which is torture. Fortunately, people like Malcolm Nance and Col. Stuart Herrington have not let some kind of extreme national (or jingoism) blind them to the harsh reality that waterboarding is torture.

But hey, at least you have a fan in Kate!

(should be "nationalism" in my next-to-last paragraph, not "national")

What a great style. Very informative one, I hope you will continue your research.
I will even buy an essay on this


Really great topic, I even want to buy essays at this writing service about the problem with Cheney

Mr. Tucker, I didn't know who you were referring to when you mentioned Ralph Peters in this blog-post. Now I know and, while I can't really say I'm better off having learned, I do get why you used the phrase "blood and guts and no brains" to describe his approach. I was waiting for him to brandish a weapon and give the viewers a demo of how effective it can be in winning the war.

Andrew, I'd still be curious to know your reaction to the essay I linked to from SmallWarsJournal - I see that in comment #58 you noted that you "get most of my information concerning CT/COIN from the Small Wars Journal website and Marine Corps publications." Did you miss the Nance essay?? [Yikes, just noticed my typo in his name in comment #82 - it's Nance, not Vance.] We're over the waterfall now, so the virtual readership for our comments will probably be lower than usual (and I have no delusions of grandeur about that, either), but I'm still here, and would like to know what you think...

Andrew? Andrew???

It is quite debatable issue. Anyway,
if you wish to become informed about this issue and
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