More On Torture

My esteeemed friends Tlaloc and James F. Elliott seem to believe that the U.S. government encourages or at a minimum accepts the torture of prisoners, whether military or not. There have been several investigations and courts martial delving into this issue, and as best as I—a lowly scholar—can tell, no evidence supports that assertion. To quote Andrew Sullivan—an honest and smart guy, but also a man who seems to have been driven insane by the gay marriage issue—is to avoid the issue of actual evidence actually confirmed. Is there an operationally useful definition of torture, other than a Potter Stewart adaptation? No doubt some (isolated) examples of behavior that we would agree qualifies have been perpetrated by some U.S. personnel. Under the conditions of war and pressures to obtain information, it is impossible that such outcomes would fail to be observed. That does not constitute a U.S. policy of torture. And the idea that such behavior is widespread among U.S. personnel is preposterous; that is why reports of such are newsworthy.

The rendition policy, under which certain detainees are sent to Egypt and the like for questioning, is the real problem with U.S. policy, for reasons simultaneously moral, political, and practical. War is hell and ugly things happen; that does not mean that orders to do so, whether explicit or implicit, came from on high.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “More On Torture

  1. I wish members of the press and the Democratic Party were as reasoned and reasonable as you.

  2. My esteeemed friends Tlaloc and James F. Elliott seem to believe that the U.S. government encourages or at a minimum accepts the torture of prisoners, whether military or not.

    Where would they ever get that idea?

    The rendition policy, under which certain detainees are sent to Egypt and the like for questioning […]

    Oh.

  3. Dr. Zycher,

    It would appear that you are willfully ignoring the Army’s own Schlesigner Report (on Abu Ghraib) as well as FBI documents unclassified under an ACLU FOIA request.

    Reports of American torture of detainees have appeared from Afghanistan to Iraq to Guantanamo Bay, from 2001 to today. This torture takes the form of not merely physical coercion, but psychological abuse as well (including sexual, cultural, and religious abuse). The damages of psychological techniques can last long after the physical marks have healed. The consistency of the detainee’s allegations, as well as revelations of policies and even an Executive Order and a conveniently “disavowed” legal opinion by Alberto Gonzales authorizing coercive measures, all point to a consistent and systematic embrace of so-called coercive tactics. To refer to these acts as aberrations is to deny the facts.

    I am however very glad to see your opinion on extraordinary rendition. It is indeed an abhorrent practice.

  4. Mmm. I like your Potter Stewart reference. My touchstone, of course, is always the Holocaust, where extremes of sadism were visited on civilian populations. Of course, one can say that for all historical wars.

    It’s easy to say that hurting people, either physically or mentally, is a bad thing. But there has to be some recognition that this is war and, as Frank Burns said in TV’ MASH, “War is heck.”

    The people at Gitmo are combatants. They’re people who signed on to kill and maim and otherwise do bad things to us. If we do get on the top of the slippery slope to try to extract from them information that will be helpful to us, I think we’re morally obligated to do so. We just have to make every effort to cling to the top of the slope, and not to slide down to the bottom.

    Of course, I think think that, in August 1945, Truman, looking at a Japanese force that made it clear it would fight to the last man, with the possiblity of 30,000 for 40,000 more American dead, made the right decision to drop the bomb. I’m desparately sorry about the Japanese civilians who died, but, as I said, War is heck, and our first duty in a defensive war is to protect ourselves.

  5. The people at Gitmo are combatants.

    While I don’t necessarily agree with this, let’s say for the sake of argument that you are 100% correct and every person currently or formerly interred at Gitmo is/was a combatant.

    Given this concession… my point still stands. The question was whether or not torture was sanctioned by the chain of command, which it was, no matter what Orwellian euphemism is given to it.

    Thanks for trying to obfuscate the issue, though.

  6. “My esteeemed friends Tlaloc and James F. Elliott seem to believe that the U.S. government encourages or at a minimum accepts the torture of prisoners, whether military or not.”

    Yeah after the admitted practice of “rendition” not to mention the whitehouse memos specifically explaining how and why the geneva conventions didn’t apply to anyone they didn’t feel like they applied to it became pretty clear that torture was getting a disturbingly good name amongst the elite.

    “To quote Andrew Sullivan—an honest and smart guy, but also a man who seems to have been driven insane by the gay marriage issue—is to avoid the issue of actual evidence actually confirmed.”

    You haven’t read andrew recently I take it? He’s become very critical of the US torture practices. His suspension of disbelief finally gave out.

    “Is there an operationally useful definition of torture, other than a Potter Stewart adaptation?”

    Regardless of quibblings over what exactly is or isn’t torture can we both agree that those interrogations that led to detainee deaths most certainly are torture?

    “Under the conditions of war and pressures to obtain information, it is impossible that such outcomes would fail to be observed.”

    ARE YOU MAD? You honestly believe that in a “war” in which reporters have been embedded and their copy subject to military perusal and censor that we are guaranteed of knowing? In a war where the military openly threatened any non-embedded journalists? The military refused the red cross access to prisoners and yet you are sure we’d know?

    “That does not constitute a U.S. policy of torture.”

    Even when the attourney for the Whitehouse spells out in detail how torture is legal?

    “And the idea that such behavior is widespread among U.S. personnel is preposterous; that is why reports of such are newsworthy.”

    No they are newsworthy in part because we are guilty of the same abuses we accuse others of. They are also newsworthy because they managed to get published despite the stranglehold the pentagon has tried to put on any actual news. Finally they are newsworthy because despite the history of atrocities our military has been PROVEN to engage in a good number of people still believe the US armed Forces are the “white hats.”

    They aren’t. Go to the torture chambers in Guantanamo and Afghanistan. Meet the people we have rendered suspects over to. Read the statistics on Depleted Uranium and Iraqi birth defects since the first gulf war. Hell, if you feel sentimental you could even go for a tour of My Lai and explain how it’s “preposterous” to suggest any widespread abuses amongst American military services.

    For God’s sake Zycher please open your eyes. Denial allows these abuses to continue year after year.

  7. “The people at Gitmo are combatants. They’re people who signed on to kill and maim and otherwise do bad things to us.”

    If only. Look at how many of these “combatants” have been successfully tried in a court of law on the occassions that we’ve managed to actually get them a trial. The government is batting close to .000 in the “war on terror”.

    Besides which I don’t care if they have Hitler in Guantanamo- YOU DON’T TORTURE PRISONERS. Period.

    It is never acceptable, it is never okay, and it’s not even effective. Given the proven incapacity of intelligence to provide good intelligence these people are engaging in nothing more than sadism at the expense of the helpless.

  8. doh, should be “of torture to provide intelligence”

    I wish you could go back and edit a piece after publishing.

Comments are closed.