Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thoughts on Detention and Torture and the AOTW

I'll be honest. This is a subject I've hesitated to comment on for a few reasons. It's now the rallying cry of almost every liberal who's still pissed about the 2000 election. It's an issue that's currently more polarizing than abortion. And I personally have less problems with shit that would make waterboarding look relaxing by comparison (which is why I'd never make it in law enforcement).

So to begin, let's start with the Obama/Cheney speeches from last week:

Obviously, I'm leaning toward the Vice President's side on this specific debate. So to simplify, here's my ideas on the multitude of issues that have been brought up:

Detainee abuse by guards - Abu Ghraib is the most prominent example of this. It's not sanctioned by the government, allowed by the government, and the perpetrators were duly punished by the government for engaging in this. These kinds of actions can never be justified. And the fact that these idiots took pictures of their wrongdoing (thus giving the terrorists ammo) makes it even worse (and conversely, easier to prosecute). The only mitigating comments here is that this shit happens in war, which requires some dehumanizing of your enemy so you're not as haunted after you kill them. Nevertheless, this is why strict oversight is always needed.

Enhanced interrogation techniques - Unlike the abuse previously discussed, there are three things that justify the use of these techniques. First, they must be the rare, last resort items in interrogation, and only for a select group of illegal combatants (terrorists, not soldiers). If the information is there, but can't be otherwise extracted (but must be to save thousands), then get the bucket filled. With waterboarding, we did three people. Second, the purpose is to extract information, not exact revenge. In my case, I'd get into it in an inappropriate way. And third, it's not something that should EVER!!! be public policy. I accept that sometimes things are done outside the law to keep our country safe. In war, this shit sometimes has to happen.

Advertising the interrogation policy - It's a great PR move if you want to set yourself apart from the last President. However, as a war strategy, it's the equivalent of dropping fliers on a terrorist hideout the day before you bomb it. You may blow some shit up, but the terrorists are going to prepare and will not lose a damn thing in the process (except maybe a few mud huts).

Now before you go on with me being all inhuman and in favor of torture (even though I am), let me say I can respect those who fervently disagree with me on this. After all, we do value human life in different ways and in different measures. My biggest problem with this is bringing this up in the middle of the war. If heads need to roll, let's resolve the things that led to the alleged torture (other than the detainee abuse, which must be dealt with before the media can finish reporting the story), but do it after we have achieved peace. This more than anything is what infuriates those of us who look at the practical aspects of this rather than the conceptual moral high ground.

In short, if you're consistent on your views, or you change them after going from ignorance to knowledge, then I have no issue with you. On the other hand:

Nancy Pelosi is Asshat of the Week!

Poor Madame speaker! First, she's disappointed that McCain lost (because Barry looks like he'll live many years and she was SOOOOOO hoping to use succession (being that she's an unelectable nut outside San Fransicko (or maybe Boston or (Cleveland))). However, she's a bad liar, with the moral high ground of a hairy lunch lady trying to shit in your cereal. Because she didn't have problems with waterboarding... until she did.

Now as eloquent as I can be, I think Jon Stewart says it best as to why ol' Nancy gets (or doesn't get) it:

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(Nod to Gayle for the vid)


Dave Miller said...

Patrick, no argument here on Pelosi. She has been horrible in her defense, if she has one.

On torture, I'll get the ball rolling with a question.

Regardless of whether others do it to our soldiers or not, do we approve of them doing so?

In th4e past we have said no.

I believe we should hold ourselves to the same standards we expect from our enemies.

Whether they live up to those standards should not be a determinate factor in our behavior.

rockync said...

Above all else, we must adhere to our own stated principles. We cannot be the keeper of global human rights while violating them with impunity. We bound ourselves to the Geneva Conventions which state:
"Noncombatants, combatants who have laid down their arms, and combatants who are hors de combat (out of the fight) due to wounds, detention, or any other cause shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, including prohibition of outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment. The passing of sentences must also be pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. Article 3's protections exist even though no one is classified as a prisoner of war."
I am mystified why this continues to be debated; torture is NOT the American way.
That it may happen in times of active combat in isolated instances is not precedent for claims that it is either legal or acceptable.

Shaw Kenawe said...

General Petraeus had this to say about President Obama's positions on torture and closing Gitmo:

"I think, on balance, that those moves help [us]," said the chief of U.S. Central Command. "In fact, I have long been on record as having testified and also in helping write doctrine for interrogation techniques that are completely in line with the Geneva Convention. And as a division commander in Iraq in the early days, we put out guidance very early on to make sure that our soldiers, in fact, knew that we needed to stay within those guidelines."

I'm guessing, Patrick, that your defense of torture is more in line with a minority of GOP hard-liners than it is with American and international law. IOW, you seem justify breaking our laws and debasing our ideals for partisan reasons, and that's a shame. Not all Republicans support that, and certainly NOT GOP hero, General Petraeus.

How the hard-liners in the GOP became supporters of debasing America and all she stands for is a mystery to me.

It appears that ideology compels its followers to reject the rule of law and accept sinking to the level of our worst, our most barbaric enemies.

We are a better people and a better nation than that.

It's too bad that certain elements of the GOP don't agree with that ideal.


Let me make sure I understand you Patrick. You're for torture as long as only real assholes are subject to it and nobody finds out.

That's not like you Brother. I figured you would stand up and say put the fiends on the rack for the world to see. Very diplomatic Patrick.

Arthurstone said...

My favorite is 'advertising the interrogation policy'.


Now they know what we're capable of them Al Qaedas are gonna try not to get caught.

One thing to consider. If this torture business had actually prevented large numbers of terrorist attacks and saved lots of lives we'd have seen more examples of prevention than the pathetic Richard Reid and the bumblers involved in the Sears Tower plot.

Of course once one considers that torture was most likely instigated used not as a means to gain intelligence but as punishment and to provoke terror in its victims its use makes more sense.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

I think it's important to realize the hypocrisy here. If we (as a country, certainly not me personally) approve of torture and plan to use it on those we deem our enemies, then why lie? Just come on out and admit it.

"You're damn right we're a bunch of cold, cruel fucks, and we're gonna waterboard your ass if you mess with us."

That's pretty simple, isn't it? Why even bother getting involved with the Geneva Convention and saying that we don't torture because it's beneath our moral standards to do so?

Torture is, unequivocally, I don't care what you say, Patrick, wrong.

As far as I'm concerned it's certainly more humane to cut someone's head off ONCE than to waterboard them 183 times.

But the entire thing takes on a whole new flavour when the White House expends an assload of energy to deny that we do it and to hold ourselves up as the moral compass for the world.

That's 'Do as I say, not as I do'.

That's just wrong.

Meanwhile, when it all comes out, as it inevitably does, we're not only cruel and heartless bastards who piss on the Geneva Convention, we're liars to boot.

Moral compass for the world, my ass.

Patrick M said...

Since you all universally disagree, let me make some points that were overlooked.

Dave: Regardless of whether others do it to our soldiers or not, do we approve of them doing so?There's a difference between soldiers and terrorists that makes all the difference. Enemy soldiers (as defined by the Geneva Conventions) are accorded all rights therein. And our soldiers, being trained to kill enemies, not interrogate terrorists, should sick to the army field manuals. And even those soldiers using unacceptable methods in the field for good reasons should be prosecuted (although saved lives should be factored in when they are punished).

None of this applies to murdering pieces of shit that hide in civilian populations and strike civilian (and not just military). This is where you all (and the honored General Petreaus, if he's quoted correctly) tend to confuse the issue, between legitimate soldiers and the terrorist sons of bitches. Or perhaps it's trying to apply the Geneva Conventions to people they don't apply to.

However, some basic things do apply to even them. Basic human rights, like basic food, clothing, shelter, and no torture for shits and giggles. They are people (barely) after all.

As to why we don't advertise the techniques? Very simple. We're not going to be as harsh as our enemies think we're capable of. Advertising all our interrogation policies up front means that a terrorist can be trained to resist those methods, sit on info, and we can't get it. Then people die.

Shaw: ...to reject the rule of law and accept sinking to the level of our worst, our most barbaric enemies.Actually, if we videotaped the waterboarding and released it to the media, did it to all our prisoners as a matter of course, then forgot to stop pouring the water every so often, then we'd be sinking to the levels of our enemies. The moral equivalency thing doesn't work here, because we'd have to adopt my ideas for stopping terrorism once and all to get there (it involves genocide and nukes, if you really want to know).

When you have asshats like Fidel Castro speaking out against our interrogation methods/torture (and claiming his government never tortures anyone) then there's something wrong with the whole debate.

Again, as a matter of policy, this shouldn't be the standard. But I'm all for a little leeway in dealing with foreign terrorists on foreign soil when there are lots of lives at stake. If the terrorist was captured in this country, however, the rule of law would (unfortunately) apply. And I would stand with you in defending the scumbag's rights. Of course, I'd also favor deporting him to a country where he'd be snuffed immediately after his acquittal, but that's another story.

Saty: Meanwhile, when it all comes out, as it inevitably does...,Fair enough. After the war, I have no problems with getting everything on the table. But it's not after the war yet.

101: I figured you would stand up and say put the fiends on the rack for the world to see.You forgot the peeling of skin after I had 'em on the rack. And the salty lemon juice. And the nad electrodes. However, what I think should be done and what I think the USA should do are very different.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

My take on waterboarding...The experience is meant to be an unpleasant one. And, because it is an unpleasant experience, I presume for that very reason it is and has proven to be a reliable means of obtaining information for the purposes of preserving freedom and liberty for the subset of individuals who wish to live free and liberated. While indeed it surely is an unpleasant experience, the question which remains for me is whether or not it is so unpleasant that it causes irreparable damage to the human mind. Considering Mancow, members of Code Pink, and others are able to pretty much go about their normal daily lives without much in the way of apparent psychological harm affecting them otherwise, I am not at this point taking the position on this issue which opponents of the practice are.

Granted the aforementioned measure is far beyond say the spanking of a child. However, a similar premise applies herein. That premise is this:

At the moment you spank a child, the immediate effect many times is realized by the child. It causes a response which the parent is seeking (getting the child to not run out into the street, getting them to quit throwing a tantrum, etc.). And yet, despite this immediate and effective response, the child does not grow up suffering some long term effects of this experience. Similarly, a detainee is waterboarded. The practice results in the desired response and the effects are immediately felt by the subject. Thereafter, I've yet to see any evidence produced which lends any credibility to some long term deletarious effects.

For the most part, we are a free and liberated people. And, we aspire to secure this for anyone who wishes themselves to embrace it. Therein lies the crux of the issue for me.

Is it wrong that we sentence serial killers to death? Or that we send criminals to prison for life? A similar argument could be made that yes in fact it is. I wouldn't make that argument.

The idea is to preserve this freedom and liberty for the greatest number of individuals possible. People who wish and seek to destroy such freedom and liberty, so far as I'm concerned, relinquish their right to the laws in which otherwise free men live under. If men themselves do not abide by the moral code of society, they cannot then expect that the moral code of society will be the very thing that protects them.

I discussed a similar issue with another guy who said that he thought those incarcerated ought to have the right to vote. I told him they relinquished that right when they chose to break the moral code which we live under. I have no pains with them regaining that right following their release. Anyway.....

I don't agree with detaining people indefinitely without charges; certainly I can find common ground with those of a different political ideology than myself on that. But, I also do not support the idea of granting them a civial trial in US courts either.

dmarks said...

An enlightening troll-free discussion that has so far ended up being more insightful (on both sides) than what is spewed out by millionaire talking heads like Hannity, Olbermann, and the pictured Stewart.

rockync said...

"Considering Mancow, members of Code Pink, and others are able to pretty much go about their normal daily lives without much in the way of apparent psychological harm affecting them otherwise.."

The only problem with your reasoning here is that these people agreed to have it done only once and knew they could stop it any time they wanted.

To compare their experience to that of detainees repeatedly waterboarded is like comparing oranges to elephants.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

Indeed that is a fair point and a good one at that rockync. However, it still doesn't negate the similar premise I offered with regards to the spanking of a child. A child does not know how many spankings they will endure and as well they've no ability to stop it (save ceasing the action which warranted it).

As such, I stand by my assertion that, until evidence is presented to the contrary, the practice (regardless of how many times it is done and regardless of one's ability or inability to stop the practice [and bear in mind that if the subject offered information it likely would cease to continue]) has no long term deletarious effects on the subject.

What's more, I am curious to hear a reasoned response as to why men who do not adopt and practice a moral code amongst otherwise free and liberated people ought to then be protected by that same moral code?

If you and I engage in a contract (i.e., we adopt the same code as it were) whereby you agree to re-roof my house for a predetermined price, and you subsequently do not roof my home, do you then have a right to receive payment under the terms of this contract? Hardly...

And so, if between men we agree to let bygones be bygones and adopt a sort of creed whereby one man goes about his business whilst I go about mine that is one thing....

However, if another man desires to prohibit me (by force) from exercising my own individual freedom and liberty, by what right does he have an exemption to be resisted by an equal force?

He has none. It is HE who has chosen to break the terms of the moral code and crossed the line in stifling the only true and honest right that there ever is or was (and that is the right to life and to self preservation).

Satyavati devi dasi said...

What's more, I am curious to hear a reasoned response as to why men who do not adopt and practice a moral code amongst otherwise free and liberated people ought to then be protected by that same moral code?By protesting to the Nth degree that we do not torture, and then go ahead and do it, we ourselves no longer live under the moral code we claim to live by.

If the US wishes to torture, let it make that fact plain. Let it refuse to be part of the Geneva Convention. Let it be common knowledge that we do not acknowledge the common standard.

If we claim to be the moral guardians of the world and holders of the Golden Compass Of All That Is Great And Good, then we should stand by the promises we made.

Otherwise we become hypocrites and liars, having broken the terms of the moral code we claim to live by.

rockync said...

Soapboxgood - your spanking analogy doesn't hold up either. I was a Mother who spanked her children.
Why this is different from torture is that my children were loved and cared for. Spanking was used as a form of correction, not as punishment or torture.
I think a closer analogy would be a child being abused, not knowing when the next blow would come or if they would live through it.

Torture is a heinous, repungent and unacceptable act to any normal, decent human being.

But don't let that stop you from spinning away...

Patrick M said...

On the Mancow vid, I credit him for going through with it, and I'm certainly not going to argue with his opinion therein.

His change of mind has not changed my mind though.

dmarks said...

Thanks a lot, SDD. Your "golden compas" reference made me think of that lousy movie filled wih CGI weasels and digital polar bears as fakey as the Coca Cola ones, except they wore battle armor and didn't smile as much.

A movie only slightly less torturous than waterboarding.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

Sorry D... I never saw it (don't watch too many movies) but if it was a torturous reference, maybe it was somehow appropriate, even if unintentional.

dmarks said...

"Golden Compass" is like a Narnia, but for those of the Atheist set. And for some reason, they filmed it in murky orange.

And it is true about the digital rats and rodens running around, and the fakey digitoon polar bears who fight instead of drink Coke.