December 27, 2005

The Law Lords on Torture

I'm on holiday and without regular Internet access (though back in NYC tomorrow), but I was able to peruse the fascinating opinion of the English Law Lords on the (in)admissibility of evidence extracted via torture. I highly recommend anyone with 20 minutes or so click through this link and read it in its entirety (particularly Charles Krauthammer!), but if you are not so inclined, here are some extracts for convenience.

81. On 23 August 1628 George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham and Lord High Admiral of England, was stabbed to death by John Felton, a naval officer, in a house in Portsmouth. The 35-year-old Duke had been the favourite of King James I and was the intimate friend of the new King Charles I, who asked the judges whether Felton could be put to the rack to discover his accomplices. All the judges met in Serjeants' Inn. Many years later Blackstone recorded their historic decision:

"The judges, being consulted, declared unanimously, to their own honour and the honour of the English law, that no such proceeding was allowable by the laws of England".

82. That word honour, the deep note which Blackstone strikes twice in one sentence, is what underlies the legal technicalities of this appeal. The use of torture is dishonourable. It corrupts and degrades the state which uses it and the legal system which accepts it. When judicial torture was routine all over Europe, its rejection by the common law was a source of national pride and the admiration of enlightened foreign writers such as Voltaire and Beccaria. In our own century, many people in the United States, heirs to that common law tradition, have felt their country dishonoured by its use of torture outside the jurisdiction and its practice of extra-legal "rendition" of suspects to countries where they would be tortured: see Jeremy Waldron, Torture and Positive Law: Jurisprudence for the White House 105 Columbia Law Review 1681-1750 (October, 2005)

83. Just as the writ of habeas corpus is not only a special (and nowadays infrequent) remedy for challenging unlawful detention but also carries a symbolic significance as a touchstone of English liberty which influences the rest of our law, so the rejection of torture by the common law has a special iconic importance as the touchstone of a humane and civilised legal system. Not only that: the abolition of torture, which was used by the state in Elizabethan and Jacobean times to obtain evidence admitted in trials before the court of Star Chamber, was achieved as part of the great constitutional struggle and civil war which made the government subject to the law. Its rejection has a constitutional resonance for the English people which cannot be overestimated.

84. During the last century the idea of torture as a state instrument of special horror came to be accepted all over the world, as is witnessed by the international law materials collected by my noble and learned friend Lord Bingham of Cornhill. Among the many unlawful practices of state officials, torture and genocide are regarded with particular revulsion: crimes against international law which every state is obliged to punish wherever they may have been committed...

...Torture, one of most evil practices known to man, is resorted to for a variety of purposes and it may help to identify them to put this case into its historical context. The lesson of history is that, when the law is not there to keep watch over it, the practice is always at risk of being resorted to in one form or another by the executive branch of government. The temptation to use it in times of emergency will be controlled by the law wherever the rule of law is allowed to operate. But where the rule of law is absent, or is reduced to a mere form of words to which those in authority pay no more than lip service, the temptation to use torture is unrestrained. The probability of its use will rise or fall according the scale of the perceived emergency.

102. In the first place, torture may be used on a large scale as an instrument of blatant repression by totalitarian governments. That is what was alleged in R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, Ex p Pinochet Ugarte (No 3) [2000] 1 AC 147, where the picture presented by the draft charges against Senator Pinochet which had been prepared by the Spanish judicial authorities was of a conspiracy. It was a conspiracy of the most evil kind - to commit widespread and systematic torture and murder to obtain control of the government and, having done so, to maintain control of government by those means for so long as might be necessary. Or it may be used in totalitarian states as a means of extracting confessions from individuals whom the authorities wish to put on trial so that they can be used against them in evidence.

103. The examples I have just mentioned are of torture as an instrument of power. But the use of torture to obtain confessions was also sanctioned by the judiciary in many civil law jurisdictions, and it remained part of their criminal procedure until the latter part of the 17th century. This was never part of English criminal procedure and, as there was no need for it, its use for this purpose was prohibited by the common law. But warrants for the use of torture were issued from time to time by the Privy Council against prisoners in the Tower under the Royal Prerogative. Four hundred years ago, on 4 November 1605, Guy Fawkes was arrested when he was preparing to blow up the Parliament which was to be opened the next day, together with the King and all the others assembled there. Two days later James I sent orders to the Tower authorising torture to be used to persuade Fawkes to confess and reveal the names of his co-conspirators. His letter stated that "the gentler tortours" were first to be used on him, and that his torturers were then to proceed to the worst until the information was extracted out of him. On 9 November 1605 he signed his confession with a signature that was barely legible and gave the names of his fellow conspirators. On 27 January 1606 he and seven others were tried before a special commission in Westminster Hall. Signed statements in which they had each confessed to treason were shown to them at the trial, acknowledged by them to be their own and then read to the jury: Carswell, Trial of Guy Fawkes (1934), pp 90-92.

104. This practice came to an end in 1640 when the Act of 16 Charles I, c 10, abolished the Star Chamber. The jurisdiction of the Privy Council in all matters affecting the liberty of the subject was transferred to the ordinary courts, which until then in matters of State the executive could by-pass. Torture continued to be used in Scotland on the authority of the Privy Council until the end of the 17th century, but the practice was brought to an end there after the Union by section 5 of the Treason Act 1708. That section, which remains in force subject only to one minor amendment (see Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1977, Sch I, Part IV) and applies to England as well as Scotland, declares that no person accused of any crime can be put to torture.

105. We are not concerned in this case with the use of torture for either of the purposes that I have mentioned so far. But they do not exhaust the uses for which torture may be sanctioned by governments. The use with which this case is concerned is the extraction of information from those who are thought to have something that may be of use to them by the security services. Information - the gathering of intelligence - is a crucial weapon in the battle by democracies against international terrorism. Experience has shown from the beginning of time that those who are hostile to the state are reluctant to part with information that might disrupt or inhibit their activities. They usually have to be persuaded to release it. Handled responsibly, the methods that are used fall well short of what could reasonably be described as torture. But in unscrupulous hands the means of persuasion are likely to be violent and intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering. In the hands of the most unscrupulous the only check on the level of violence is likely to be the need to keep the person alive so that, if he has any information that may be useful, he can communicate it to his interrogators.

106. It was not unknown during the 17th century, while torture was still being practised here, for statements extracted by this means to be used as evidence in criminal proceedings to obtain the conviction of third parties. J H Langbein, Torture and the Law of Proof: Europe and England in the Ancien Regime (University of Chicago Press, 1977), p 94 has shown that a warrant was issued by the Privy Council in 1551 for the torture of persons committed to the Tower on suspicion of being involved in the alleged treason of the Duke of Somerset. The confession obtained from William Crane was read, in Crane's absence, at the Duke's trial: Heath, Torture and English Law: An Administrative and Legal History from the Plantagenets to the Stuarts (1982), p 75.

107. When the jurisdiction of the Star Chamber was abolished in England prisoners were transferred to Scotland so that they could be forced by the Scots Privy Council which still used torture to provide information to the authorities. This is illustrated by the case of Robert Baillie of Jerviswood whose trial took place in Edinburgh in December 1684. A detailed description of the events of that trial can be found in Fountainhall's Decisions of the Lords of Council and Session, vol I, 324-326: for a summary, see Torture [2004] 53 ICLQ 807, 818-820. Robert Baillie had been named by William Spence, who was suspected of being involved in plotting a rebellion against the government of Charles II, as one of his co-conspirators. Spence gave this information having been arrested in London and taken to Edinburgh, where he was tortured. Baillie in his turn was arrested in England and taken to Scotland, where he was put on trial before a jury in the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh. All objections having been repelled by the trial judge, the statement which Spence had given under torture was read to the jury. Baillie was convicted the next day, and the sentence of death that was passed on him was executed that afternoon. There is a warning here for us. "Extraordinary rendition", as it is known today, is not new. It was being practised in England in the 17th century.

108. Baron Hume, Commentaries on the Law of Scotland respecting Crimes (Edinburgh, 1844), vol ii, p 324, described the use of torture for the purpose of discovering transgressors as a barbarous engine. So it was. It had increasingly come to be recognised that there was a level beyond which, however great the threat and however imminent its realisation, resort to this means of extracting information was unacceptable. The need of the authorities to resort to extreme measures for their own protection had, of course, disappeared with the arrival of the period of stability that came with the ending of the Stuart dynasty. But one can detect in Hume's language a revulsion against its use which would have certainly been voiced by the judges of his time, had it been necessary for them to do so.

109. The threat of rebellion and revolution having disappeared, the developing common law did not find it necessary to grapple with the question whether statements obtained by the use of torture should continue to be admissible against third parties in any proceedings as evidence. There is no doubt that they would be caught today by the rule that evidence of the facts referred to in a statement made by a third party, however that statement was obtained, is hearsay: Teper v The Queen [1952] AC 480, 486, per Lord Normand. Alison, Principles and Practice of the Criminal Law of Scotland (1833), vol ii, 510-11 states that hearsay is in general inadmissible evidence. He bases this proposition on the best evidence rule, and declares that the rule is "firmly established both in the Scotch and English law". But we cannot be absolutely confident that judges in the latter part of the 19th century would have been prepared to rely on the hearsay rule to exclude such evidence. In R v Birmingham Overseers (1861) 1 B & S 763, 767, Cockburn CJ said:

"People were formerly frightened out of their wits about admitting evidence, lest juries should go wrong. In modern times we admit the evidence, and discuss its weight."

If, as this passage indicates, the hearsay objection went only to the weight of the evidence, the judges would have had to face up to the more fundamental question whether at common law it was an abuse of the judicial process to rely on it.

110. I think that it is plain that the barbarity of the practice, as Hume describes it, would have led inevitably to the conclusion that the use against third parties of statements obtained in this way as evidence in any proceedings was unacceptable. This would have been a modest but logical extension of the rule already enshrined in statute by section 5 of the Treason Act 1708, that no person accused of a crime could be put to torture. The effect of that section was to render confession evidence obtained by this means inadmissible. It would have been a small but certain step to apply the same rule to statements obtained in the same way from third parties.

111. This is the background to the ratification by the United Kingdom of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1984 and entered into force on 26 June 1987. The Convention was designed to provide an international system which denied a safe haven to the official torturer. But long before it was entered into state torture was an international crime in the highest sense, as Lord Browne-Wilkinson pointed out in R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, Ex p Pinochet Ugarte (No 3) [2000] 1 AC 147, p 198G. The rule set out in article 15 of the Convention about the use of statements obtained by the use of torture must be seen in this light. Article 15 provides:


"Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."

112. This provision has not been incorporated into our domestic law, unlike the declaration that the use of torture is a crime wherever it was committed which was made part of our law by section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. But I would hold that the formal incorporation of the evidential rule into domestic law was unnecessary, as the same result is reached by an application of common law principles. The rule laid down by article 15 was accepted by the United Kingdom because it was entirely compatible with our own law. The use of such evidence is excluded not on grounds of its unreliability - if that was the only objection to it, it would go to its weight, not to its admissibility - but on grounds of its barbarism, its illegality and its inhumanity. The law will not lend its support to the use of torture for any purpose whatever. It has no place in the defence of freedom and democracy, whose very existence depends on the denial of the use of such methods to the executive.

113. Once torture has become acclimatised in a legal system it spreads like an infectious disease, hardening and brutalising those who have become accustomed to its use: Holdsworth, A History of English Law, vol v, p 194. As Jackson J in his dissenting opinion in Korematsu v United States, 323 US 214 (1944), 246 declared, once judicial approval is given to such conduct, it lies about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need. A single instance, if approved to meet the threat of international terrorism, would establish a principle with the power to grow and expand so that everything that falls within it would be regarded as acceptable

Much more worth reading within the opinion, and note all bolded text is my emphasis.

Posted by Gregory at December 27, 2005 12:27 AM | TrackBack (1)
Comments

Very interesting, Greg.

"A single instance, if approved to meet the threat of international terrorism, would establish a principle with the power to grow and expand so that everything that falls within it would be regarded as acceptable"

So true.

"Land of the free and the home of the brave."

Will we sacrifice our freedom for security (NSA spying, rendition, Gitmo)?
Will we be brave enough to uphold our highest ideals in the face of adversity or do we drop them like a bad habit at the first taste of what the rest of the world has known for a long time?

Terrorists cannot destroy our way of life (if you define our way of life as being the ideals written into the Constitution). They lack the capacity to do much physical damage beyond the confines of a few square miles in the worst case scenario. They absolutely lack the capacity to erase freedom, honor and justice from the collective consciousness of humanity.

Life is never "secure". All a person has is his/her values. All a person can do in this world is live by those values and die by them.

I do not see where torture (or several other behaviors of the Bush admin) is an American value.

Those advocating torture or making excuses for it are nothing more than cowards, morally on a par with the worst of the terrorists. There is no other way to look at the situation.

Posted by: avedis at December 27, 2005 02:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm confused, how does the question of whether the SAIC may receive evidence that "has or may have been procured by torture inflicted, in order to obtain evidence, by officials of a foreign state without the complicity of the British authorities" have anything to do with Mr. Krauthammer's writings? This is all about the English coming to grips with the honour and legality of utilizing torture-derived evidence to detain and/or deport "[non-]British citizens, whose presence in the United Kingdom the Secretary of State reasonably believed to be a risk to national security and whom the Secretary of State reasonably suspected of being terrorists". It deals almost exclusively with civil proceedings and criminal trial evidence ("legal system", "civil law jurisdictions", "admissible ... in any proceedings as evidence", "put on trial before a jury", etc.), not with collecting intelligence for the purpose of winning a war. And, in any case, I can't see where it ever defines torture, except with a reference to the "rack" and occasional slippery slides down to mere "cohersion". Thanks for your effort, but I'll second the opinion left by others in comments to your earlier posts, which is that you're becoming increasingly less readable.

Posted by: ewb at December 27, 2005 03:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Like so many of the slippery slope arguments we are now getting on the phone privacy of terrorists, or the dirty bomb storage rights of private citizens, I think you are indulging in a fundemental error in logic. I just am unmoved by this monomania on "torture." Your arguments parallel the man on the soapbox who says this week you let the government collect your rubbish at the curb, next week they'll be up on your lawn taking your picnic table and the week after that in your house in bed with your wife. Look I've agreed with you that Rummy should have been sacked, I agree the mismanagement and lack of effective staffing at Abu Ghraib should have ended some senior careers. (I also think those actions would have drawn 95% of the potency of this issue.) I do not think disorienting bloodthirsty killers in order to trip them up in interrogation is the same thing as extracting confessions on the rack. This is the last time I will re-rehash this issue on this site. I really wish you would move along.

Posted by: WKS at December 27, 2005 03:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You know Greg, it would be a less tedious chore to read your blog if you just removed that useless left margin. I mean, when you excerpt a chapter or more of other material, it just makes wading through it, easier on the eyes instead of rows three words wide, eleventy-fifty-seven rows deep.

Just a suggestion. Carry on.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 27, 2005 04:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you would like to review a truely troubling account of eroding civil liberties under the august Law Lords, read the Christmas Day account "Liberty's too Expensive" at this link;

http://anglosphere.com/weblog/

Posted by: wks at December 27, 2005 04:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you would like to review a truly troubling account of eroding civil liberties under the august Law Lords, read the Christmas Day account "Liberty's too Expensive" at this link;

http://anglosphere.com/weblog/

Posted by: wks at December 27, 2005 04:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg...

20 minutes? Perhaps someone with an extensive background in the history of British and continental jurisprudence who was also a speed reader could get through that in 20 minutes --- but for the rest of us mere mortals, it would take hours (and we probably wouldn't understand a great deal of the references....)

That being said, it was good to see that the Law Lords of Britain recognize that torture is completely antithetical to civilized behavior, and that those who find torture acceptable are no better than the ostensible terrorists against whom it is used.

And it is sad, but not unexpected, to see that a number of your readers still haven't figured that out for themselves.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 27, 2005 04:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Like so many of the slippery slope arguments we are now getting on the phone privacy of terrorists, or the dirty bomb storage rights of private citizens"

That has got to be the biggest straw man I ever seen, He must be ten miles high.

Utterly, spittle-down-the-chin-stupid.

Posted by: avedis at December 27, 2005 06:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All this verbiage and not a word on what constitutes torture. Does putting panties on someone's head equal putting someone on the rack? Can any reasonable man allege that? How about giving a Muslim only pork to eat? Playing Neil Diamond songs would be torture to me. But this is a live issue. All the moonbats who assert the Bush administration has been torturing everywhere all the time are simply lying about what constitutes torture.

How about telling a suspect he will go to the electric chair unless he turns state's evidence? How about when death is an overwhelmingly likely outcome, and the "threat" is thus a true statement? Is this torture? And why are the lives and mental contentment of murderers and psychopaths more important than the safety of innocent civilians? Isn't it honorable to use (real) torture in some situations and utterly DISHONORABLE not to? The opinion of the Law Lords in many situations is a reliable guide to what not to do.

Posted by: Robert Speirs at December 27, 2005 02:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

America's right-wing political culture is certainly a collection wimps and defeatists. They will give up on liberty and freedom for authoritarianism in a heartbeat.

What a collection of bootlickers for the nanny-state!

Posted by: NeoDude at December 27, 2005 04:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All this verbiage and not a word on what constitutes torture.

Torture can generally be defined as the deliberate infliction of physical, mental, or emotional pain with the intent to coerce or punish.

And if that's not good enough for you --- you can define torture as anything that you would object to in the treatment of your daughter if she was captured by al Qaeda.

it takes a truly twisted and sick personality to insist that we determine exactly how badly you can treat someone before it crosses over the line into "torture." Get some counselling, Spiers --- it might actually prove beneficial for you.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 27, 2005 04:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well I wouldn't want my daugher to be interrogated by Sipowitz on NYPD Blue - slamming his fist on the table to frighten her, threatening her with a long prison term, intimidating her with sudden movements that threaten to hit - slapping her in the face

UNLESS - she had joined the jihadi's and said she had planted a bomb and was waiting for it to go off in 1 hour and wouldn't say where it was

Of course - all of the above is actual practice - don't think Sipowitz is just TV - this is what actually happens in police custody all over the world - and worse than what is shown on TV

And this just to get a suspect to loosen up and talk - implicate his friends - turn states evidence

So what does Luka say again

"Torture can generally be defined as the deliberate infliction of physical, mental, or emotional pain with the intent to coerce or punish."

Surely our Police Detective is guilty of inflicting mental and emotional pain with an intent to coerce in the above scenarios

Scenarios which, again, are taking place every day in every nation on earth

There are Sipowitz's in France and Germany and the UK too

And they are appluaded when they get results - when they get the killers to confess


No - the cowards here are those who take the Luka line - who evade personaly responsibility for taking a position on the issue of legitimate interrogation techniques with some idiotic statements containing absolute and total bans on any such activity

Activity that is taking place this very day in the city you live in

March down to City Hall and demand to be present for every interrogation that takes place when some accused rapist or murderer is brought in

Be there yourself to make sure that no "emotional pain is used to coerce information" from such a suspect

( "you're going to jail where they like pretty boys like you unless you talk" - Whats that - TORTURE! )


Will you people never get down from your ivory towers and try to reason through this issue as rational adults?

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 27, 2005 05:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ewb has it exactly right, Greg. Will you stop pussyfooting around with historical drival and just tell whether you think Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, given all circumstances at the time of his capture, should have been waterboarded or not?

Posted by: frank at December 27, 2005 06:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yes, anyone who questions the Law Lords needs counseling. That's the kind of government we need! The antiwar collectivists have gone over the edge. I'm so glad they're losing!

Posted by: Robert Speirs at December 27, 2005 06:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Ewb has it exactly right, Greg. Will you stop pussyfooting around with historical drival and just tell whether you think Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, given all circumstances at the time of his capture, should have been waterboarded or not?"

Ewb/frank: It amazes me that people like you read Greg's blog. Why not just check in with powerline and townhall and call it a day early?

It also amazes me how thick-headed you guys can be. Greg does not think people should be waterboarded. Ever.

And lastly: When you torture-apologists who call yourselves "conservative" advocate a dramatic shift away from a 400-year old legal tradition, what is it you seek to "conserve"?

You guys are probably not aware of this but the ideology which you think you've adopted used to draw inspiration from its literal name.

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at December 27, 2005 06:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You make interesting points, but miss the basic issue.

When people act with no rules -- according to what is known as the law of the jungle, outside the protective umbrella -- according to reciprocity they CAN be treated the same in return. A terrorist accepts the possibility of being treated according to "no rules" by his/her act of terrorism.

But, simply because one can justify the use of torture, doesn't men it is a good idea to resort to it. That has nothing to do with taking the moral high ground, but with the hope, over the long run, of bringing everyone under the protective umbrella of peaceful problem resolution, for our own long term safety.

In other words, the law judges conclusions are interesting, but only academically, and are unnecessary when it comes to deciding what to do.

Posted by: sbw at December 27, 2005 07:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you need to think about what torture is and think about what you can do and what you can't, and delineate your findings in exquisite detail in government memoranda, you are probably thinking about committing torture and avoiding the consequences. There is something fundamentally indecent about that.

I admit to not being able to follow all of Greg and Andrew Sullivan's arguments about what this and that treaty provides. So what? I also find myself unable to read to what has been done to some of the prisoners in our custody. It doesn't much matter to me if the folks doing the acts carefully studied the powerpoint slide presentation in their "Effective Interrogation Techniques" training class.

I understand the ticking bomb argument, or having a smirking Khalid Mohammed in front of me, chock full of knowledge about stuff our countery would be better off knowing. And my heart does not break if someone oversteps a treaty in dealing with such a situation. Frankly, the law's answer of "well, you can't use that in court" is a pretty good corrective to that sort of thing.

But the systematic study of precisely what sort of pain you can inflict on whatever underling you are able to capture. That is what the Bushies were up to. That is what causes the revulsion that they are at such a loss to understand

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at December 27, 2005 07:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Whom is Kvalsvik talking to? I have never considered myself a "conservative". And I am definitely not one because anyone else says so. To all of you who think that anyone with whom you disagree must be a "conservative", I say, wake up and look around you. Many other ideologies exist which do not kowtow to PC collectivism. In fact, the essential weakness of "conservatism" is its reluctance to discard outworn cliches.

Posted by: Robert Speirs at December 27, 2005 07:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kvalsik - spare us the "why don't you go back to LGF" suggestions

This is about the weakest statement possible. It also highlights a general truism of the Left - they do not want to hear disagreement and dismiss any alternative to their pre-set ideology

Not to say many on the Right don't have the same failing - but what most amuses is the way Leftists consider themselves superior in this, and indeed ALL, regards : )


As for some of the rest - I too would like to hear Gregs opinoin on Khalids waterboarding - and on the "emotional suffering" meted out by our local police every day

Does he agree with Luka?

And Appalled said "But the systematic study of precisely what sort of pain you can inflict on whatever underling you are able to capture. That is what the Bushies were up to. That is what causes the revulsion that they are at such a loss to understand"

What does this mean - and the statament above which read

" And my heart does not break if someone oversteps a treaty in dealing with such a situation. "

So you accept the need for some techniques - but find it repulsive that the Bush admin is considering the issue in detail to limit the permitted techniques?

Surely its better to have an adult think about such things rather than sticking ones head in the sand ( or in another place ) and making blanket statements about complete bans of ALL techniques one would not want used on ones daughter - and are being used every day in your own home town - if you have any crime at all that is

If you live in Cloud Cukkoo Land with Luka then you are ok : )

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 27, 2005 07:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue:

My position is actually pretty similar to McCain's -- a realization that in an extreme situation, an individual is going to take the law into his own hands. It's not the most logical position, and I don't think Kant would think much of it. But it is the one that most resembles real life. And it is the one that is going to limit any violations to a small group of people, or ones caught in the midst of violent acts.

My field is one where people frequently are on the hunt for loopholes, so that they can get by with what the law isn't supposed to allow. I recognize the conduct that surrounds the action of trying to get the law to provide for the opposite of what was intended. Pogue, the only folk who know more about the law than lawyers are the law breakers. So, no, the intense study of the law on torture to me suggests an intent to torture as much as possible.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at December 27, 2005 08:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

pogue...

do yourself a favor, and look up the word "coerce" -- pay particular attention to the distinction between "persuasion" and "coercion"---- then get back to me about my definition.

Here's a hint....

There is a difference between saying "If you don't confess, we'll kill you" and "If you don't confess, and you are found guilty in a court of law, you will be executed." The first is a direct threat (coercion), the second is an explanation of consequences of failing to confess (persuasion.)

Posted by: lukasiak at December 27, 2005 08:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yes, anyone who questions the Law Lords needs counseling.

Spiers, that is not what you did, and not why you were criticized. You demand that a specific line be established to define "torture" -- the fact is that no such line can exist, because everyone's pain threshhold--and psychological vulnerabilities--are different.

Its a completely sick and twisted point of view that you hold -- one that suggests a deep-seated sadism. Get counselling.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 27, 2005 08:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lukanic is at it again. Wouldn't want to spoil a single hair on those dearies heads now would we? Of course, the logical reductio, if you must capture, but not harm, oh heavens no, or interrogate, for that might be stressful and humiliating to the poor terrorists/jihadis/insurgents/freedom fighters/democrats, is to...wait for it...to kill them.

By not commiting the lesser sin, you force the greater. Else you merely put troops in harms way, after all they must face, again, those same dearies tha you want to put into a court of law with nary a scratch or foul word spoken in their direction when they get out of jail, or bail, or whatever.

I'm soooo glad Lukaniac continues to embody the moral stupidity of the Left. It saves me time having to search for examples.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 27, 2005 09:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey guys, let's all not talk to each other, it's easier that way.

Posted by: perianwyr at December 27, 2005 10:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The same time that Blackstone was describing England's opposition to torture on grounds that the practice lacked "honour," England had an imperial empire where torture, cruel treatment, and slavery were common.

It's a bit strange to see the British tradition cited approvingly to critique modern U.S. policy, when England made a clear distinction (in pratice if not always in law) between affairs between the treatment owed to fellow Englishmen and that owed to so-called "uncivilized" persons.

To play devil's advocate, did England's allowance of torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of imperial subjects and slaves lead to a slippery slope where torture permissible in England and the whole country finally collapsed into barbarism? And if it did not, why should we believe it will happen to the U.S. if it treats foreign terrorist suspects harshly?

Posted by: Gene at December 27, 2005 11:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've read that imprisonment with rations of only bread and water is still a legitimate punishment in the British system. But make sure there are no Israeli flags around.

Posted by: wks at December 28, 2005 12:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Uggh.

Welcome to
"The Belgravia Dispatch...on Torture"

We get it - Torture bad. Can we call it covered? Can we just have a big hotlink archive on the right-hand side? Maybe Assad's head?

But, as someone said - let's find some common ground. Let's move to the singularity:

Do the operators give a flip about torture? No. We '5-S' 'em to the rear and hand them off to the spooks. Done and done. We've no interest in anything except the killing. And not even that, once the moment's over - we'd really rather be sleeping or eating.

But what about our hides? Do we care that others torture? Well, yeah - we don't want to be captured - I'm sure it's not 'Hogan's Hereos', but you can't guarantee the other bastard's wont torture, regardless of what the avediis commit us to.

Best way not to be tortured? Don't lose. And that's all there is to it - at our level.

But why is there torture? You're not going to want to be reminded of this Luka, DJ, Ave - but the concerned citizens of this republic don't want us killing ten of thousands in war anymore. And what has grown up in that absence? This huge spook aparatus that exists to deal with keeping from having large hot wars. You people have professionalized the torture industry by encouraging all this cloak and dagger nonsense for the sake of your favorite passtime -talking-head diplomat jet-setting. Aren't you so fabulous - you and your cab companions.

Me and my mates will gladly trade your lot the torture issue for unrestricted bombing - Any Takers?

No.
I thought not...

Posted by: Tommy G at December 28, 2005 01:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My whole problem with this whole thing is that you seem to base everything as if the only use of this information is in the court of law. I am sorry but in the real world that we are now in, one in which we are at war, the main use of information is to prevent attacks or save lives or protect your men. When you are out there in the field and under the gun literally, you just do not have the time to delay the questioning while you call up the law lords and ask them if "please sir, am I allowed to do this if the detainee is not a citizen and I am not in the country?"

That is why I find this whole question tiresome. It is one thing if you are trying to get information to use in a criminal trial. We are not doing that if we are in the information business. We are trying to save our country and our civilization.

These people just don't seem to be on the same page at all. Frankly I do not give a damn if this POS terrorist is kept up all night with lights in his face if he can tell me that the house where we picked him up is next door to the local arms depot for the rest of the terrorists. I really do not care if he is brought before a US court for trial or not. The Iraqis will set up their own court procedures and those are the ones most of these terrorists will be tried under and the British law lords really can only function as advisors to the Iraqis under those circumstances. I realize that they feel better for saying that they are very civilized but they have really not accomplished damn all with these statements except for cases that go to trial in Britain.

The international definitions of torture that I have read are so broad you could drive a truck through them. They pretty much depend on local custom for defining what is torture. I am certain that the North Korean definition or the Rwandan definition or the Ivory Coast definition or the Iranian definition are not the same as the British definition and the law lords really have no enforcement jurisdiction in those countries at all. After all we are still arguing over whether the detainees in Gitmo are subject to the Geneva Conventions as warriors or whether they are not. In one of the articles I read they are not defined as soldiers while in another they are defined so. The MSM seems to use the terms militants or insurgents to cover both cases so they don't have to decide. Based on that just what do the law lords think they have accomplished with this stuff they published.

Posted by: dick at December 28, 2005 02:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My whole problem with this whole thing is that you seem to base everything as if the only use of this information is in the court of law. I am sorry but in the real world that we are now in, one in which we are at war, the main use of information is to prevent attacks or save lives or protect your men. When you are out there in the field and under the gun literally, you just do not have the time to delay the questioning while you call up the law lords and ask them if "please sir, am I allowed to do this if the detainee is not a citizen and I am not in the country?"

That is why I find this whole question tiresome. It is one thing if you are trying to get information to use in a criminal trial. We are not doing that if we are in the information business. We are trying to save our country and our civilization.

These people just don't seem to be on the same page at all. Frankly I do not give a damn if this POS terrorist is kept up all night with lights in his face if he can tell me that the house where we picked him up is next door to the local arms depot for the rest of the terrorists. I really do not care if he is brought before a US court for trial or not. The Iraqis will set up their own court procedures and those are the ones most of these terrorists will be tried under and the British law lords really can only function as advisors to the Iraqis under those circumstances. I realize that they feel better for saying that they are very civilized but they have really not accomplished damn all with these statements except for cases that go to trial in Britain.

The international definitions of torture that I have read are so broad you could drive a truck through them. They pretty much depend on local custom for defining what is torture. I am certain that the North Korean definition or the Rwandan definition or the Ivory Coast definition or the Iranian definition are not the same as the British definition and the law lords really have no enforcement jurisdiction in those countries at all. After all we are still arguing over whether the detainees in Gitmo are subject to the Geneva Conventions as warriors or whether they are not. In one of the articles I read they are not defined as soldiers while in another they are defined so. The MSM seems to use the terms militants or insurgents to cover both cases so they don't have to decide. Based on that just what do the law lords think they have accomplished with this stuff they published.

Posted by: dick at December 28, 2005 02:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dick...

Do you care if people who are innocent are tortured? If the other side captured your daughter, and tortured her in order to "save their own lives and protect their country", would that serve as an adequate excuse for their treatment of her?

Posted by: lukasiak at December 28, 2005 02:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Me and my mates will gladly trade your lot the torture issue for unrestricted bombing - Any Takers?"

Your mates? You mean the other residents of the assylum?

So, for the record Tommy, you're saying there exists a dichotomy. Either we are allowed to flatten villages and kill all inhabitants - men, women and children alike - or we are allowed to torture anyone who looks suspect to us.


Dick, you are exactly the type of coward I was referring to in the opening comment.

Posted by: avedis at December 28, 2005 03:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Do you care if people who are innocent are tortured?

There it is, the crux of it all. Terrorists are innocent. They're freedom fighters after all, fighting freedom across the world.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 28, 2005 03:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There it is, the crux of it all. Terrorists are innocent. They're freedom fighters after all, fighting freedom across the world.

there it is....the crux of it all. Despite the considerable evidence that people with no connection to terrorism have been detained and tortured, anyone who cites the torture of innocence is automatically declaring that terrorists are "innocent" freedom fighters.

They don't call you folks "wingnuts" for nothing, y'know!

Posted by: lukasiak at December 28, 2005 04:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"There it is, the crux of it all. Terrorists are innocent."

Please tell me that you are not so abysmally stupid as to actually believe the above has any merit as a debating point whatsoever.

Just in case you are serious and, therefore, that extremely mentally challenged, may I offer my assistance.

"Do you care if people who are innocent are tortured?" can be taken at face value. If there any words in there between the quotation marks (the things that look like this ") that you don't understand copy and paste them and I'll play Mr. Dictionary for you.

Once we are sure that you are past basic reading comprehension we can go to the next lesson. It's called "thinking" about what you read.

Getting back to the idea that the statement can be taken at face value we can *think* about those who are incarcerated and tortured by the US. We know for a fact that many who have been incarcerated were only *suspected* of having terrorist connections. Many of those have been later determined to *not* have terrorist/insurgent connections. Some of those have been tortured.

Therefore, as was (and is) inevitable, innocent people can get tortured along with the not so innocent and the totally guilty people.

So, getting back to the question, how do you feel about that (innocent people getting tortured) Mr (Ms) Vercingetorix?

Of course, you completely missed the point of Greg's post.

But that's enough for tonight. I wouldn't want you to get a headache from excessive concentration. One lesson at a time, now.

Posted by: avedis at December 28, 2005 04:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ahhh. The evidence. Like, you know, the impeccable submissions by the accused themselves? Got anything to say about Saddam's proof of torture?

I say we impeach Bush and usher in a social-democrat utopia, the first one to ever work! That b@stard didn't let Hussein change his underwear, the horror! And those photos of him being deloused! The humanity! We created ten thousand Bin Ladens just with those humiliating shots!

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 28, 2005 04:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I would never wish that anyone would ever be jailed, tried, and convicted of a crime they didn't commit.... but Verc is coming very close to changing that.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 28, 2005 04:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

“how do you feel about that (innocent people getting tortured)”
About the same as incarcerating innocents for life. Or arresting them, plain. We shouldn’t do it. On the other hand, I won’t forgo the provision of jail just because we might make a mistake.

But back to my ‘reading comprehension…’ The frank unseriousness of Lukaniac’s, and Greg’s, treatment of interrogating terrorists/jihadis/Stalinist Baathists caught violating the laws of war means that A) you don’t believe these people are threats to our deployed troops or B) believe that your embarrassment at getting your hands dirty, those mistakes, somehow outweighs all other concerns. So we should just summarily execute those we capture, if we cannot do anything else.

I could care less about a bunch of guys in drag, pontificating on the legalisms of torture. You refuse to concede to torture even in the ticking time bomb scenario even if Jesus-Age-Christ came down and pointed him out, said ‘that one right there,’ even if there was a guilty party and terrible consequences for inaction. Just like you insist on extending privileges that don’t accrue to unconventional warriors (the Geneva conventions) specifically because those privileges exact responsibilities (uniforms) to protect the civilians.

You refuse the lesser sin, and so demand the greater. No torture, so we must execute. Treat terrorists as lawful combatants, suffer civilian casualties by your ‘generosity.’ M-o-r-a-l I-d-i-o-t-s.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 28, 2005 04:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I would never wish that anyone would ever be jailed, tried, and convicted of a crime they didn't commit

Hmmmm. Cute. Hugs and Kisses [big smoocheroo to you].

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 28, 2005 05:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

at some point someone is going to have to explain how we can be at war with an enemy that doesn't have any forces that are recognized as "legal combatants".

Posted by: lukasiak at December 28, 2005 05:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"legal combatants?" The Geneva conventions were designed to protect civilians, above all. So if an 'army' breaks its proscriptions, blends into the civilian populace, doesn't wear uniforms to further its camofluage, to hide amongst, and behind, women and children, they are not covered by the conventions. So get a better enemy, one that doesn't execute civilians by beheading, blowing up children as strategy, surrenders and then opens fire, or that bivouacs in mosques/hospitals/schools, all illegal btw.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 28, 2005 05:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There it is, the crux of it all. Terrorists are innocent.

There it is, the crux of it all. We only torture terrorists. If they weren't terrorists, we wouldn't torture them!

How do we know they're not innocent? Let me get a waterboard and you'll have a confession in five minutes.

Verc would've been most welcome at the Hanoi Hilton, I'd imagine.

Posted by: Dustbin Of History at December 28, 2005 12:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Appalled Mod wrote "My position is actually pretty similar to McCain's -- a realization that in an extreme situation, an individual is going to take the law into his own hands. It's not the most logical position, and I don't think Kant would think much of it. But it is the one that most resembles real life. And it is the one that is going to limit any violations to a small group of people, or ones caught in the midst of violent acts. "

What can I say - can you abdicate your own moral responsibility as an informed citizen any more than you have above???

So the men responsible for our safety will use forbidden methods when they feel the need - and then face the consequences for breaking the law

At least you have salved your moral concience - who cares if you put all the responsibility on others

Revolting

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 28, 2005 03:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

waterboard? oh, please have mercy on my soul!

Maybe you'll force me to stand in uncomfortable positions [for long periods of time!], or force me to do manual labor, like carry heavy boxes for, say fifty miles in three days with only 2-3 hours of sleep a day [sleep deprivation! quelle horreur!] and only a prepackaged, Meal never Ready to Eat, MRE, to sustain me! How could anyone have the sadism to carry out such a terrible act! How could Americans do that to others?

Except I already have been there, done that. In boot camp and in the Fleet, part of becoming a basic rifleman and a Marine aviator.

Which is to say, if it was done to me, at my tender, wet-behind-the-balls eighteen year old self, it can be done to anyone, because it might have been hard, but it wasn't torture.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 28, 2005 03:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think we should return to the good old days..... we can figure out who the terrorists are by dumping them into a lake, and if they float, we will know they are terrorists. And since we'll already be conveniently located to water, at that point it makes sense to subject the known terrorist to waterboarding --- and if something goes wrong, and the know terrorist drowns---well, its God's will, isn't it.....

Posted by: lukasiak at December 28, 2005 05:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue:

The moral responsibility is on the men doing the torture, whether they can plausibly argue they were just following orders or not. At least, that's what my church believes, and I expect yours does too. And, since the legal basis of much that was done is questionable before McCain's amendment, there's a lot more legal liability for those who have been engaging in waterboarding than you care to admit. If you want to know how risky constantly acting on the advice of learned professionals who advise you to play on the edge of the law can turn out to be, ask the former employees of Arthur Andersen.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at December 28, 2005 05:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Speirs - I agree that it's a bit of a stretch to assume that all torture-apologists like to call themselves "conservative". The logic went something like this: Most of today's torture-apologists in America are Bush-backers. And most Bush-backers call themselves "conservatives" with pride. But clearly this simple reasoning does not apply to all. My apologies to you and any other torture-apologists who do not see yourselves as conservatives.

Pogue - I feel like a complete idiot but I really don't know what "LGF" stands for. I read all 26 definitions on acronymfinder.com but none of them seem to fit. Would you care to enlighten me?

Gene - if you are going down the road of discussing the moral standards of the British Empire then it might interest you to know that England was the first major European country to abolish slavery. In fact they hunted and killed captains of slave ships for nearly a century. And when the Yankees decided to take an official stance against slavery they did so in part because they knew that this would win them sympathy and military support from the major European powers (notably England and France).

wks - that is ridiculous. Take a wild guess as to which industrialized country a) imprisons the largest percentage of their population (hint: it's a virtual tie with Russia) and b) treats their prisoners the worst (measured by rehabilitation rates and other cross-country statistics). Another hint: It ain't England...

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at December 28, 2005 05:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Appalled - the moral responsibility for the acts of the state in our system of government lies with the citizens - ie: you and I

You cannot abdicate your responsibility by saying you understand and approve of selected tactics in some circumstances but you insist on a full and official policy forbidding such tactics

Then the interrogator can defend himself in court at a later date and if he is found to have been justified - then he should be ok

Some system you have in mind there

I don't imagine there will be many volunteers for this duty - maybe you would care to step forward and take up this important task under the restrictions you propose?

Of course like all such suggestions - your idea's are meant for OTHERS to suffer the consequences - either the victims of the bomber who might have talked after a few slaps to the belly - or the interrogator who must decide on his own when to step over the line you have drawn and hope he makes the right choice and you approve with your 20/20 hindsight

Can you really say you are not abdicating your moral responsibility

LGF stands for Little Green Footballs -

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 28, 2005 05:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Me and my mates will gladly trade your lot the torture issue for unrestricted bombing - Any Takers?"

So, for the record Tommy, you're saying there exists a dichotomy. Either we are allowed to flatten villages and kill all inhabitants - men, women and children alike - or we are allowed to torture anyone who looks suspect to us.
- Avedis


Well, of course not flatten villages. Flatten cities , you silly little man. Entire blocks of cities. Beautiful, ancient, historic metropolises. Ones chock full of cultural significance. There is a price to pay for all of those men and women innocent of holding those they allow to govern them accountable.

There is a price to pay for allowing war to come to your city. And you had best not be innocent of the parental duties of getting your children out of the war zone, once you've failed to stop your enemy from coming.

Innocent? Everyone's so innocent. Innocent of what? Responsibility?

Posted by: Tommy G at December 28, 2005 06:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re: Mads Kvalsvik

"Gene - if you are going down the road of discussing the moral standards of the British Empire then it might interest you to know that England was the first major European country to abolish slavery. "

I am well aware of that fact, but I don't see how that mitigates my point: At the time when Blackstone wrote that England opposed torture on grounds of "honour," England regularly practiced torture and subjected people to cruel and degrading treatment (including slavery). While it might have been considered dishonourable to torture an Englishman, no such moral compunction existed with respect to the treatment of natives of "uncivilized" lands.

If the ill treatment of multitudes of Indians, Africans, and Chinese did not sully Britain's honour or create a slippery slope leading to the torture of native English citizens, I can't see why America should have any fears that we will collapse into social anarchy if we waterboard foreign, high-level al Qaeda agents.

P.S. Someone else can probably point out a few examples in recent decades of harsh British practices with respect to the Northern Irish, and discuss whether those practices led to the collapse of English society.

Posted by: Gene at December 28, 2005 06:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And don't forget that the current bugaboo du jour, waterboarding, is nearly impossible to harm someone with, much less kill. If you want to have a serious discussion, let's do something that is a little more harsh than what goes on in a frat party [Chug! Chug! Chug! Chug!], much less a frat initiation. I would be against pulling out the long knives and picking body parts the guy really doesn't need anyways, but what you, Greg and the anti-hazing puritans, have forwarded as torture is so laughable as to undercut your whole point.

If you want to talk about torture, then by al Mighty Gawd, talk about torture. Don't whine about daily caloric intake and a prisoner's self-esteem.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 28, 2005 07:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ah yes, the Law Lords.. preserving us from savagery. As in 1974, when Irish migrant workers were beaten into submission by police and made to falsely confess to the Guilford pub bombing and when the forensic evidence was proven in open court to be utterly bogus, the law lords came forth -- to uphold the conviction, presumably because those damn Irish (however innocent they may be in this instance) can't be allowed to make English jurisprudence look bad. Mustn't let down the side.

In the Felton case, torturing a naval officer and a gentleman would have been bad form, whereas beating members of the lower social orders, colonials, natives etc. (and of course, the Irish) in succeeding centuries was probably for the good of the Empire. No one preserves appearances as well as the British.

Torture to forward a prosecution under the law is a contradiction and an abomination. But the war with Islamofascism does not have a legal context unless and until they surrender and accept one, at which point the protection of the law would apply. But a terrorist with undisclosed information is still at war. Torture to extract wartime information from such a person ought to be governed by necessity and prudential decision-making not the illusion of law. I don't like torture. I wouldn't want to have to do it but I recognize that somebody may have to. Therefore, self-lauding pontification to the contrary is pointless.

Posted by: george at December 28, 2005 08:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gene,

You have a point, early British notions of "decency" did not apply to all men equally. Just like the US Constitution did not place much value on women and slaves, the English committed horrible acts against their subjects in the colonies.

But surely you will agree that the Constitution has played a significant, and mostly positive, role in the development of the United States?

And that is my point (and Greg's, I suspect) regarding these Blackstone writings. It was the start of a process that led to the rise of the West from a brutal and dark place.

As this excellent article on opinionjournal.com says (via Sully), the hallmark of conservative thought used to be a desire to look to history for guidance when shaping policy: "a philosophy always open to experience and judging by experience within given conditions". Many of Greg's commenters (and conserative pundits in general) seem to treat this whole GWOT/torture issue as a brand-new development unparalleled in world history. And they proceed with purely theoretical discussions of possible responses. Some of the discussions (the effectiveness of certain techniques, whether or not water-boarding leaves scars, etc) are mostly rational. But they completely ignore a huge body of human history and experience. Burke would turn in his grave if he knew what was being done in the name of "conservatism".

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at December 28, 2005 08:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gene,

"At the time when Blackstone wrote that England opposed torture on grounds of "honour," England regularly practiced torture and subjected people to cruel and degrading treatment (including slavery)."

Just to be absolutely clear, I think the issue of Englishmen conducting torture (of Englishmen and non-Englishmen alike) should be separated from the fact that the English (and Blackstone, for all I know) considered slaves and other people inferior.

Blackstone and his conteporaries initiated an end to the practice of torture. This may not have benefitted non-Englishmen at first (as you suggest). But it was an important step along the way, and when the English finally caught up and abolished slavery it benefitted everybody.

Your argument is akin to saying the entire body of thought produced by Thomas Jefferson is worthless because he was a racist. It is not.

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at December 28, 2005 08:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just to be absolutely clear, I think the issue of Englishmen conducting torture (of Englishmen and non-Englishmen alike) should be separated from the fact that the English (and Blackstone, for all I know) considered slaves and other people inferior.

this of course is obvious -- but what is even more obvious is the racism of those who try and use the argument that you are rebutting here.

I mean, why bring up the fact that the prohibition against torture was not applicable to those considered "inferior" unless one wishes to promote the same argument toward Muslims and Arabs?

Posted by: lukasiak at December 28, 2005 08:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue:

We are just not going to have a meeting on the minds on this one.

But I will say my feeling is that, under the Bush policy, such rules as were established were going to get violated on a regular basis, because the Bush approach encouraged the pushing of the envelope. So I just don't acknowledge your point about: "forcing tough decisions on the interrogators is an abdication of moral responsibility." Under Bush's policy, or the new bill, the law will likely be violated from some interrogators from time to time. I think the new bill will put a limit on those violations, and will remove the systematic nature of them.

You are free to disagree. I don't think less of your moral sense if you choose to do so.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at December 28, 2005 09:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re: Mads Kvalsvik

"Your argument is akin to saying the entire body of thought produced by Thomas Jefferson is worthless because he was a racist. It is not."

No, it's akin to saying that people arguing against racism shouldn't rely on the statements of Thomas Jefferson when making those arguments. If people are going to base their arguments against torture on appeals to authority (as Greg does with this post), they people should look for authorities besides Imperial England, given that England's human rights record was far worse than that of the present-day United States.

"And that is my point (and Greg's, I suspect) regarding these Blackstone writings. It was the start of a process that led to the rise of the West from a brutal and dark place. "

If you are against torture in any and all circumstances, I think that's a perfectly valid position to hold, even if I think it's wrong. But I think there is no basis to argue that torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment is contrary to the Western historical tradition, at least when done to persons outside and opposed to that tradition. Keep in mind, I'm not necessarily defending this tradition (at least when employed against innocents in all but the most unlikely scenarios), but I think it's a mistake to ignore it when discussing the moral permissibility of torture.


Posted by: Gene at December 28, 2005 09:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re: lukasiak

"I mean, why bring up the fact that the prohibition against torture was not applicable to those considered "inferior" unless one wishes to promote the same argument toward Muslims and Arabs?"

Substitute "known, high-level terrorists" in place of "Muslims and Arabs" and your insinuation is absolutely correct. Unfortunately, as it stands your argument is a baseless ad hominem. I have no problem calling persons who use violence in an attempt to bring us back to the Middle Ages "inferior," even though I have a big problem with calling someone inferior solely on account of their religion or ethnic background (a position not shared by a good many people in Imperial England, despite the peculiar fact that some anti-torture proponents now treat these persons as some sort of moral authorities).

Posted by: Gene at December 28, 2005 09:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Vercingetorix,
aka Brad,
seems to have come off the hinges.
get a grip dude. do you fantasize about torturing people?
"Brad spent five years in the Marine Corps where he served as a helicopter crew chief stationed mostly in Okinawa, Japan with detours into Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, and Hong Kong. At this time, he is working towards a degree in History at the University of Michigan, with a focus on the Classics."
Infantryman? You mean you went through basic?
Aviator? YOu mean you were a passenger?

Posted by: chuck at December 28, 2005 09:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It’s scary to see these right-wing nihilists incite themselves into lynch mobs.

“OUR CIVILIZATION IS THREATENED!!! THEM DARKIES ARE CUMMIN’ TO GET US!!! WE BETTER LYNCH SOME SUSPICIOUS DARKIES TO SHO' 'EM WHO'S BOSS!!!”

Cowards!

You're like elephants scared of mice.

Posted by: NeoDude at December 28, 2005 10:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gene,

"(a position not shared by a good many people in Imperial England, despite the peculiar fact that some anti-torture proponents now treat these persons as some sort of moral authorities)"

a) have you ever considered educating yourself about the history of thought that inspired the American revolution? Democracy in today's America didn't come straight from ancient Greece, it was shaped and inspired by people and thinkers in many cultures, including imperial England. You are a fool if you think the United States and all its institutions were dreamed up in some saloon in the Wild West.

b) we anti-torture proponents do not necessarily think present-day America should draw inspiration from imperial England with regards to all questions moral. But we find it peculiar that you and other pro-torture activists don't even pause for a moment at the re-introduction of a morally questionable practice that has been banned in the West for over three centuries. It would be one thing if you acknowledged this step backward as a necessary evil in your so-called GWOT. But most of you seem almost gleeful at the prospect of inflicting some torture on those well-deserving "proven terrorists". This I find incredibly disturbing.

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at December 28, 2005 10:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re: Mad Kvalsvik

1.) Come on, friend, let's keep it civil. Of course the U.S. "was shaped and inspired by people and thinkers in many cultures, including imperial England." And most if not all of these influences (e.g., Britain, Rome, and Greece) employed torture far more broadly than the modern-day United States. Say what you will about U.S. torture policy, but you can't say that it runs contrary to Western historical tradition...unless you're arguing it is contrary to our tradition because its usage is too limited in scope. I think Rome, Imperial England, and ancient Greece all had an overwhelmingly positive impact on human progress, but I don't find arguments that the U.S. is morally inferior to any of these empires to be persuasive.

2.) I don't see why you "find it peculiar that [I]...don't even pause for a moment at the re-introduction of a morally questionable practice that has been banned in the West for over three centuries." The West has NEVER stopped employing torture; it just became more particular as to when torture is justified, and used more discretion when carrying it out. If and when the U.S. uses torture on innocents, I'm outraged. But not when its employed against known terrorists. I see no contradition between being angry at Abu Gharib and supportive of interrogation techniques used on Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, just as I see no problem with treating the United Kingdom and Iran's nuclear programs differently. Context matters.

3.) With regards to your claim that most people who favor torture in certain circumstances "seem almost gleeful" at the prospect, I think you need to remember that you are on the internet and have a skewed sample group. Polls indicate that a significant majority of Americans support torture in certain circumstances. Yet no one would reasonably say that that same percentage are psychopaths. There are serious moral arguments to be made for or against torture in some circumstances, and the position you hold might ultimately come down to whether you find Kantian or consequentialist arguments more persuasive.

Posted by: Gene at December 28, 2005 11:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Substitute "known, high-level terrorists" in place of "Muslims and Arabs" and your insinuation is absolutely correct.

nice try gene, but you can't hide your racist agenda by pretending that only "known, high-level terrorists" would be subjected to torture and abuse. We know that hasn't happened in the past, and that there is no reason to believe it would only happen in the future.

IMHO, there may well be times when torture is absolutely necessary --- but those are the same kinds of occasions where we would sacrifice our lives to protect others. ONLY when someone is so convinced that torture is necessary that they are willing to DIE as a result of engaging in torture can it ever be considered appropriate. And only if we subject those who engage in torture to the death penalty -- even when their resort to torture saved lives -- can we maintain our humanity.

The advocacy of the institutionalizing torture under ANY circumstances is a sign of moral and ethical depravity. The fact that you want to institutionalize it, KNOWING full well that people who are not "known high-level terrorists" will be subject to it solely because they are Arabs/Muslims, is really just an indication of your racism and the moral depravity that is part and parcel of racism.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 28, 2005 11:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gene,

1. Ok, civil is good, my education suggestion was not necessary. As to which societies have historically practiced state-sanctioned torture I would challenge you to find an example of a Western democracy whose torture record in the past 50 years is as bad as the U.S. in the 4-5 years after 9/11.

2. I can see why you'd support torture of "known" terrorists (leaving aside the issue of how you'd know for sure). The law lords are making the case that whichever marginal benefit there may be to this is far outweighed by the moral corruption it causes in the state that sanctions torture. I believe they are right, and they have lots of lessons from history to support that view. Your view may be rational but I doubt that there are many cases in history where nation-states have actively benefitted from practising torture. If there are I'd like to hear about them. Even during WW2 the West refrained from torture, and if anything that stance contributed to victory (through increased sympathy and support from non-aligned countries). Show me a case in history where torture had a demonstrably positive effect on a country, either morally, militarily or otherwise.

3. I see your point, and I agree that this is a serious matter. I guess Greg's commenters are not representative of the average population (or even red-staters like myself).

Luka - I agree with most of your views but I'm not sure if it's correct to label these arguments as "racism". Hatred of non-Americans, yes. But I doubt that Gene is a racist in any meaningful sense of the word.

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at December 29, 2005 12:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

AM wrote

"But I will say my feeling is that, under the Bush policy, such rules as were established were going to get violated on a regular basis, because the Bush approach encouraged the pushing of the envelope. "

There is little I can say that will change your feeling about the Bush Admin. I can offer that the events of 9/11 and the GWOT have indeed led to more focus on gaining information from captured AQ

I am trying to understand why the establishing of some rules has led to worse treatment meted out - its as if in the absence of any rules the interrogators would what - not use such techniques?

I am sorry if I just don't follow this - you object to the effort to draft up some kind of rules?

"So I just don't acknowledge your point about: "forcing tough decisions on the interrogators is an abdication of moral responsibility." Under Bush's policy, or the new bill, the law will likely be violated from some interrogators from time to time. I think the new bill will put a limit on those violations, and will remove the systematic nature of them."

By new bill do you mean the McCain Bill? Doesn't it ban "any" methods we are discussing?
Thats some limit ain't it

No, all you are doing, and I frankly admire your honesty in admitting it, is abdicating your own moral responsibility in these matter and still expecting results from the people in the field

As for Luka - he should really stop throwing around "wingnuts" comments when he spews forth like this

"IMHO, there may well be times when torture is absolutely necessary --- but those are the same kinds of occasions where we would sacrifice our lives to protect others. ONLY when someone is so convinced that torture is necessary that they are willing to DIE as a result of engaging in torture can it ever be considered appropriate. And only if we subject those who engage in torture to the death penalty -- even when their resort to torture saved lives -- can we maintain our humanity."

Quite the moral absolutist we have here - so eager to sacrafice the lives of others in cyberspace


Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 29, 2005 12:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So, American right-wingers are suggesting that pedophilia is really honorable because many Greeks, Romans and Brits found great inspiration, from it....so it must be part of the great Western tradition!

Sexually molesting and raping those in lower-classes is really “traditional” according to today’s American right-winger?

THE GREEKS DID IT FER CHRIST SAKE!!!


Right-Wing nihilist, the lot of you!

Posted by: NeoDude at December 29, 2005 01:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Quite the moral absolutist we have here - so eager to sacrafice the lives of others in cyberspace

that's pretty funny, coming from someone who supports the mass murder of innocent Iraqis (30,000 dead civilians confirmed, and counting) as well as the death of over 2100 American troops....

*********************

Luka - I agree with most of your views but I'm not sure if it's correct to label these arguments as "racism". Hatred of non-Americans, yes. But I doubt that Gene is a racist in any meaningful sense of the word.

in a sense, you may be correct, insofar as Gene's contempt for certain segments of humanity is not specifically "racial" in origin. But Gene clearly isn't one of the morons who posts here -- he knows full well that any institutionalization of torture will result in people who are not "known, high-level terrorists" being subjected to torture --- and he also knows full well that the people most likely to be subjected to torture without "justification" are Arabs and Muslims. They are "others", and thus ineligible for the same basic human rights that he demands for himself and his family....and "racist" comes closest to this kind of contempt for the essential humanity of the "others" in question.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 29, 2005 03:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"do you fantasize about torturing people?"
Just one person, chuck. Machine gunner, actually, part of the 'crew chief' designation. But, let's be honest here, 'water boarding,' et. al. are the girliest definitions of torture plausible.

You take a towel, put it over someone's face, and drip water onto it. After a while, the 'victim' thinks they're drowning and acts accordingly. Hardly the stuff of Nazi Germany, Russia, or even our lily white Europhile choir, NOW btw. Or 'Invasion of Space by a Female,' oh the terrible horror of fear!

You don't have to be "pro-torture" or a "torture apologist" to be able to enjoy 'torturing' you for defining torture so ludicrously that belly slaps, panty-turbans, or naked pyramids are torture (versus even the more plausible 'assault' or 'abuse' charges, without dumbing down the term).

Again, you want to talk torture, by all means, talk torture. But leave the frat pranks out of it. And drop the outrageous insistence that 'torture' be excused only afterwards.

Think about it, you have good information that something terrible is going to happen, so you cross the line, but some a$$hole lawyer, after the fact, especially if nothing happens, makes a criminal case out of our soldier. Tell me it won't happen. I'll show you Fallujah, one exhausted Marine, one a$$-clown playing possum, and a 5.56mm steel kiss.

Nothing can be more immoral than stabbing those guys in the back when its their asses on the line. Daily. That is all.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 29, 2005 03:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Have not read the whole thing, but it appears that the question is that of admission of evidence obtained by torture as evidence in court.

This looks different from obtaining information for use in intelligence operations or military operations which would not be offered as evidence in court.

In the USA I think any statement that is obtained by coercion, such that the statement is not voluntary, would not be admissable evidence in court. So it looks like this is consistent with US law.

The opinion is available in .pdf at

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199697/ldjudgmt/ldjudgmt.htm

Of interest:

There is a cite to an 1897 Harvard Law Review article in the opinion.

The opinion is by a committee, and contains statements by each of the Lords on the committee, which seems to be a different practice from the majority/minority opinion USA practice. But I have never read one of these before so I may have this wrong.

Posted by: rich at December 29, 2005 04:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Think about it, you have good information that something terrible is going to happen, so you cross the line, but some a$$hole lawyer, after the fact, especially if nothing happens, makes a criminal case out of our soldier.

Verc, if the "information" is good enough, and the "terrible thing that is going to happen" is bad enough, there is a moral imperative to act regardless of the personal consequences.

And that is the whole point. Institutionalizing and legitimizing torture divorces torture from any moral imperative -- it normalizes torture, it bureaucratizes torture, rather than making torture something that one would resort to only in the most extreme circumstances.

People like you live in a fantasy world where everyone is Jack Bauer, resorting to torture to save the world. What they forget is that Jack Bauer was (rightfullly) deemed a criminal because of his actions, and at the end of the season Bauer had to go underground, because the US government could not acknowledge his existence without prosecuting him for his criminal actions.

Maybe Bauer's fate was an injustice --- but IMHO it was real justice. Bauer was a hero because of his sacrifice --- not because he got the answers through torture, but because he did so knowing the consequences of his actions, and those consequences were real.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 29, 2005 06:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Interesting, Lukasiak, I almost agree with you. Shocking, I know, but I said almost.

The problem is that earlier you posited a death penalty as a proper punishment for torture, yet you also consider Abu Ghraib torture. Should those troopers be sentenced to death? They have been found guilty of infractions, less than torture, I believe, but are undoubtedly guilty of abuse nonetheless. Should we execute them?

See, I agree with you in principal, Lukasiak, but only if we have a very restrictive definition of torture. Harassment is not torture. The old sailor’s wages of water and bread, not torture. Sleep deprivation, not torture. Assault, not torture. Abuse, including sexual abuses, not torture. Some of those are crimes already.

On the other hand, electric shock, torture. Cutting, piercing, ripping, lacerating, sawing off body parts, torture. Making someone stand for hours, not torture. Making someone kneel for days until their knees swell from the stress, torture. Making someone listen to Christina Aguilera, hmmmm. Making someone listen to Yanni, torture. Okay, I made the last one up.

I would be against Torture Warrants for the major principals you have advised against, the bureaucratization of torture. Moreover, I would be against the ‘wet-work’ I described above, the crushing, bleeding, cutting, and shocking methods above, in most cases, even the catastrophic. I am also against criminalizing, especially on pain of death, every interrogation technique in the book. If our guys must exercise restraint, so must our lawyers.

Again, we have sacrificed enough of our soldiers and Marines. If you keep up your insistence that the man-of-the-line’s highest honor is self-sacrifice, you’ve lost any appeal to comment on our 2100+ dead. You would sacrifice our men at home, even heroes.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 29, 2005 06:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The problem is that earlier you posited a death penalty as a proper punishment for torture, yet you also consider Abu Ghraib torture. Should those troopers be sentenced to death? They have been found guilty of infractions, less than torture, I believe, but are undoubtedly guilty of abuse nonetheless. Should we execute them?

for a number of reasons, no. The primary reason would be that the consequences of their actions (execution) would not have been established at the time of their actions. There was no clear prohibition against what was done at Abu Ghraib, and considerable evidence that such behavior was encouraged by the civilian leadership of the military.

See, I agree with you in principal, Lukasiak, but only if we have a very restrictive definition of torture. Harassment is not torture. The old sailor’s wages of water and bread, not torture. Sleep deprivation, not torture. Assault, not torture. Abuse, including sexual abuses, not torture. Some of those are crimes already.

How about this... execution for what you define as torture, and criminalization (and consistent prosecution) for all other forms of abuse. "Abuse" would be "treatment that would be considered illegal if meted out against an American citizen within the US justice system."

That being said, your list of what is, and is not, torture is a problem, because taken to the extreme things like "standing in one place for extended periods of time" is torture (not to mention the obvious fact that in order to force someone to assume a stress position for long periods, the consequences of not doing so would have to be 'torturous'), sleep deprivation is torture, "bread and water" is torture, sensory assault (i.e. Christina Aguilera played endlessly at very loud volume) is torture -- and sexual abuse is torture. (And, i would add that forcing a parent to watch while their child was sexually abused is also torture.)

And if we allow these kinds of actions as interrogation techniques, they will inevitably be taken to the extreme where they do become torture. And while coercive techniques that applied in moderation may not constitute torture, they are also not terribly likely to produce results -- so what's the point?

Again, we have sacrificed enough of our soldiers and Marines. If you keep up your insistence that the man-of-the-line’s highest honor is self-sacrifice, you’ve lost any appeal to comment on our 2100+ dead. You would sacrifice our men at home, even heroes.

I have no idea what you are saying here....

Posted by: lukasiak at December 29, 2005 01:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue:

What Mccain said, with respect to a ticking bomb scenario, is that "You do what you have to do. But you take responsibility for it." I would (and I think McCain might) expand that observation to AlQ higher-ups.

You really think a prosecuter is going to bring a case, or a jury is going to convict anyone who oversteps the rules in a ticking bomb case? Do you think that would happen with anyone who treated Khalid Mohammed roughly? Really?

The problem with our legal system today, in many respects, is that it relies too little on the good sense of those who practice within it. You worry about shifting the burden of what's appropriate and what's not to the interrigator in an extreme situation. Essentially, you want the Nuremburg defense to be available to folks who treat prisoners abusively(many of whom seem to be mere foot soldiers or even innocent). I would prefer the rules be tough -- that someone be required to think twice, three times before stepping over normal bounds.

I think the analogy here is the wiretapping that has so many folks exercised. My guess is that the President overstepped some bounds and I am not that troubled that he did so. He had good reason. But I am also not troubled he is taking political heat for it. That will keep him from overstepping the bounds without very good reason.

Again, none of this will thrill the logicians and political philosophers of our age. But logicians prefer categorical imperatives and utopias, and the world does not accommodate those.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at December 29, 2005 02:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re: Lukasiak

If you want to be taken seriously, it's best not to accuse a complete stranger of having a "hidden...racist agenda" solely on account of taking a different position than you.

I suspect Edward Said would be rolling in his grave if he saw how his critique of Orientalism was being used in such a cheap and inappropriate fashion.

Posted by: Gene at December 29, 2005 02:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You really think a prosecuter is going to bring a case, or a jury is going to convict anyone who oversteps the rules in a ticking bomb case?
What about a defense attorney, for the victim? What if the incident, if it didn't happen, especially if the circumstances were kept secret to protect whatever other operations that we have out there concurrently, doesn't materialize? How do you say, "but we prevented 9-11," when a 9-11 never happened?
And what if they fail? The guy doesn't talk, it's someone's brother who should know, he lives with him, you have all this information to suggest he was down with the program, and nothing, nada. And so the interrogaters fail to get any information.
Down the street, a bus explodes and worse than being evil, we can set our sights on someone who is incompetent.

Those are just theoreticals, of doing the "right thing" when all the chips were down, but they're mortal, they will f%@k it up. They are not civilians, do not operate in the same world as you and I; you cannot charge them with murder for doing their jobs. Nor interrogators for doing theirs.

So if you expect any reasonable person to do a thing, it is unreasonable, by definition, to exact sanctions on reasonable behavior. Not asking for much, guys, just consistency.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 29, 2005 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gene,

Can you explain the Edward Said reference? I don't get it.

Also, as you know I agree that having different standards for torture of non-Americans is not in and by itself "racism", since the term "American" does not imply a specific race (unlike, say, "German" or "Norwegian").

But what would you call this view that people who happen to have a different citizenship than your own are not entitled to the same standard of human rights and legal protections (when it comes to torture)? Is it a form of "nationalism"? Or an effect of "patriotism"? My English (not my native language) fails me. I think it's an important distinction to make though, because it seems to be one of the core values/beliefs about which the pro-torture crowd (on this blog and elsewhere) differs from anti-torture folks like Luka and myself.

In fact I would be curious to hear people's opinion on whether this is a core difference between self-described "conservatives" and "liberals" as well. Is the belief in (what some would say is the utopia of) universal human rights a predominantly "liberal" phenomenon?

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at December 29, 2005 04:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Appalled Mod - I wonder if you have read McCain's Amendment - if you haven't I reccomend you read the following article on the topic

http://www.nationalreview.com/mccarthy/mccarthy200512151421.asp


Here is the actual text of the Amendment

http://www.phrusa.org/research/torture/mccain_text.html


Now I read this to say that captured AQ in the GWOT are to be treated as captured soldiers covered by the Geneva Convention

And since AQ is not covered by the Geneva Convention - this goes againt reason and logic

The Amendment further states that the US Bill of Rights applys to captured AQ - anywhere in the world!

This is new ground indeed - and I can hardly think of a better example of using the Constitution as a suicide pact

I suggest you read the article above and consider the implications.
Torture is already banned - and always has been - and violators have been punished

What McCain seeks to do is to extend the protections of the US Constitution to captured Pakistani et al nationals who are suspected members of AQ


You ask "You really think a prosecuter is going to bring a case, or a jury is going to convict anyone who oversteps the rules in a ticking bomb case? Do you think that would happen with anyone who treated Khalid Mohammed roughly? Really?"

The easy answer to this is YES - I really believe they would - and slime like Luka would be calling for the execution of those who did the torturing to get the information. You see - this is the price they ( always they mind you - not he ) should be willing to pay in the ticking-bomb case

But what if they waterboard Kalid Mohammend instead of Khalid - make an honest error - Kalid has been boasting about being an AQ big shot all around the neighborhood and he gets swept up

He denies he is AQ ( as does Khalid ) but the evidence points to it being him

And he gets the full treatment - including the infamous water-boarding

Do you think that a prosecutor would NOT take that case?


And so again we demand perfection of others - they can make no mistakes - you would prosecute them while Luka would execute them but no matter.


You whole arguement seems to be that if we establish these 6 coercive interrogation methods as allowable - we set the stage for some to step over the line - "If I can do X then I will do Y too"

And yet you seem oblivious to the fact that captured AQ will be interrogated - and under your solution with no rules at all - or some absured application of Geneva or US Constitutional standards to foriegn terrorists - we will be much worse off

Absent ANY rules at all - surely some will still step over the bounds - seems even more likely

Or we treat captured AQ with Miranda Rights and all the rest and get zero intelligence from them - ticking bomb be damned


I find it odd that this adult and open examination of what we can and should be doing in this war is attacked so harshly.

You seem to want no such rules in place - or support the McCain effort to have vastly explanded protections extended to AQ - and yet still accept that men in the field may have to go over the line - but you trust they would never be prosecuted even after supporting the adoption of the law they are breaking ????


Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 29, 2005 04:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mads Kvalsvik,

"Can you explain the Edward Said reference? I don't get it."

Lukasiak's defense of his allegation of racism liberally yet inappropriately borrowed from Edward Said's critique of Orientalism, right down to the use of the term "the other" to characterize my views about Muslim and Arab society.

"But what would you call this view that people who happen to have a different citizenship than your own are not entitled to the same standard of human rights and legal protections (when it comes to torture)? Is it a form of "nationalism"? Or an effect of "patriotism"?"

To believe that persons are deserving of different degrees of rights based solely on citizenship is a form of nationalism.

While I think that it's necessary for practical reasons for a nation to accord its nationals with a greater degree of legal protections (e.g., voting rights, military and police protection, etc.) than persons who have no ties to the nation , in a moral sense there's no reason to treat a human being differently on account of nationality. In a vacuum, it's just as wrong morally to torture an Afghan citizen as it is to torture an American. But I think it would be, for example, far worse to torture an innocent Afghan for pleasure than it would be to torture an American psychopath who refuses to tell you where he buried a probably still-living child.

"In fact I would be curious to hear people's opinion on whether this is a core difference between self-described "conservatives" and "liberals" as well. Is the belief in (what some would say is the utopia of) universal human rights a predominantly "liberal" phenomenon?"

I don't know, I think you see a lot of cross-cutting between conservatives and liberals on the question of universal human rights. Some conservatives are deeply religious people who believe everyone has certain God-given rights. Some (I stress, only some) liberals believe that persons only have whatever rights the state/collective society grants to them.

My personal belief is that people's rights are dependent upon the acts they take, particular as those acts effect others. If you treat people in a particularly bad manner, you're deserving of no rights. And I also think the rights of innocents may, in certain extreme situations, be violated to protect a greater number of innocent lives (e.g., nuking a town where a highly contagious and deadly air-born virus has been released).

Posted by: Gene at December 29, 2005 04:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you treat people in a particularly bad manner, you're deserving of no rights.

So Bush should be prosecuted for killing tens of thousands of innocents, while perusing Hussein?


And I also think the rights of innocents may, in certain extreme situations, be violated to protect a greater number of innocent lives (e.g., nuking a town where a highly contagious and deadly air-born virus has been released).

Sounds like Stalin and Castro. Even Hussein claimed that gassing Kurds would make Iraq safe.

Posted by: NeoDude at December 29, 2005 05:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

V:

1. In these torture cases, we are dealing with non-citizens who are detainees. I wouldn't worry about the defense attorneys. If an interrogator oversteps the rules, he will be liable for punishment for that overstep. In a case where the overstep seems justified by circumstances, I am pretty certain that there won't be a prosecution or an administrative action against the employee. Given the possiblity of sanction, I presume the interrogator will not cross the line except in a clear case or a clear emergency. Though you might not like this, resolving ambiguities in favor of the prisoner is the American way and the American system and has been for generations.

2. I simply don't get your second point at all. I certainly don't expect the interrogators to get everyone or blame them if they do not.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at December 29, 2005 06:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Other commenters have said it was either duty, or virtue, or honor, or just plain reasonable, to engage in torture to preserve the greater good. That is all well and fine, but if even the reasonable course is illegal, then you are wrong.

By analogy, no reasonable person would make murder legal, but we can stipulate that murder in the course of self-defense is no crime. There is a caveat embodied in the law that allows us to preserve ourselves, and that is reasonable. The same protections should apply to soldiers, to interrogaters. Otherwise we have created an injustice, we have harmed an innocent person that would have never had blood on their hands if not for the tyranny of circumstance.

This is different from giving a blank check for torture. I am underwhelmed at the puritanism that claims that we should kill, or incarcerate, everyone involved in torture, regardless of the context, out of pursuit of some higher moral fiber for ourselves. We may, will, hurt innocents. But we may, will, save innocent lives, as we have all conceded in the theoretical at least. And we will also preserve our strongest tower of defense, our fighting men when they do something reasonable.

I break with you in calling Abu Ghraib 'torture,' when 'abuse' is much more germane. I break with you in concern over obsequies in defense of sensibilities, when such are chimerical at best and the US efforts are already ridiculously strenuous (like religious sensitivities at Gitmo). And I break with your radical attempt to preserve innocence at the expense of innocent men; are they so easy to throw away?

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 29, 2005 06:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"My personal belief is that people's rights are dependent upon the acts they take, particular as those acts effect others. If you treat people in a particularly bad manner, you're deserving of no rights."

How would you formulate a legal system around this principle? And, more importantly, how would you guard against people jumping to conclusions ("I KNOW you treated people in a bad manner") and then proceeding to strip away all rights? At what point in the process is it decided that horrible wrongs were committed beyond reasonable doubt? Will there be a system of courts to decide this? If so, then how will it be different from today's legal system?

Lastly, even though you may disagree with me, can you understand why I would be a bit worried about the unintended consequences of throwing out legal principles and practices that have developed over hundreds of years?

I recognize that you and other intelligent and well-intentioned folks who believe the "rules have changed" since 9/11 are eager to "protect America" and "fix things". But, no offense, are you really that intelligent, experienced and well-versed in judicial history that you can piece together a whole new set of legal principles and practices that are vastly superior to what most people would consider the best and most fair system of justice (that of the West) man has ever produced?

Let me know if I'm taking this too far and falsely concluding that the phrase "you're deserving of no rights" is as big of a departure of current judicial practice as I think it is.

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at December 29, 2005 07:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gene, might I add to your discussion of human rights that there are positive and negative limitations of rights. A right to speak freely, no right to threaten or slander/libel. And no right to be heard by those that do not choose to listen. A right to carry arms, no right to carry arms in prison. A right to assemble, no right to mob.

It is the same as physical limitations, you may go where you wish, but only as far and as fast as is humanly, economically or physically, possible. So too is freedom limited by possibility and necessity. Thus your freedom to speak is inferior to my right to live, so you may not threaten or intimidate me. And your right to silence is also inferior to my right to live, therefore you will be sanctioned until you speak, if you threaten.

Also, 'universal rights' cannot come from man alone, for unless he has the same laws everywhere at once, by definition, those rights cannot be the same, thus not universal. Therefore you must take the 'natural' rights of man, as I do, into account, or even divine rights of man.

For if rights are solely accorded from the state, and the state alone, and no such state is a superior authority over others, then two states may erect laws in opposition to each other, as neither can be wrong {moral equivalence and no higher law than man}. One state could create slavery, in which case man could be property, and thus by definition of property, have no rights.

Either one must give up the supremacy of posited law, for natural or higher law, or give up the whole concept of rights. Tertium Non Datur.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 29, 2005 08:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mads Kvalsvik:

When I say that certain people are "deserving of no rights," I don't mean to say that no rights should ever be given to such people...at least within a civil society (I stress the term "within"). For instance, while I'd have no moral problem with an angry mob lynching a known child killer, for practical reasons I believe that we shouldn't allow such conduct in a civil society, and even the child killer should get a trial before being executed. It's not because I care about the child killer; I care about a person who might be mistaken for a child killer.

I realize that this is exactly the same sort of reasoning you apply to the torture debate, but I think the moral calculus is far different in the context of a stable society than that which exists in the context of warfighting. We in the United States can afford to give due process rights to persons inside the U.S. without sacrificing much in terms of safety and security. But that can't be said in the context of a warzone. We don't demand that a soldier obtain a warrant before bursting into a suspected enemy hideout in Fallujah. We will bomb cities, knowing that we'll kill multitudes of innocents, if those cities contain important enemy targets. And we will sometimes torture foreign terrorists (and regretfully, some innocents mistaken for terrorists) in an effort to obtain essential information.

I'm not arguing that there should be no legal restrictions on behavior that goes on in the battlefield, and that "anything goes" in times of war. I think there should be many restrictions, including on the use of torture interrogation (a practice I support in very limited circumstances, and then only when done by trained interrogators). The Geneva Conventions should be stringently enforced (though I doubt most people, including myself, would feel that way if we were badly losing a war that threatened our continued survival as a nation). But I think it's a mistake to completely prohibit torture, just as it would be a mistake to completely prohibit the targeting of civilians areas.

Though I think your position is impractical and overly idealistic, I respect it and understand why you and so many others hold it. The fact that I believe you're ultimately incorrect does not mean I think you're being unreasonable.

Posted by: Gene at December 29, 2005 08:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There is a caveat embodied in the law that allows us to preserve ourselves, and that is reasonable. The same protections should apply to soldiers, to interrogaters.

nice try, but the "self-defense" exception in law is extremely limited, and does not include "pre-emptive" self-defense. (i.e. "knowing" someone wants to kill you, or is actually plotting to kill you, does not give you the legal right to kill him. He actually has to be actively engaged in trying to kill you at the time you kill him for "self-defense" to be used.)


**************

as for Edward Said, given Gene's advocacy of doing away with basic human rights for anyone he considers "the other" (in this case, someone who isn't of the same nationality as Gene), I seriously doubt his corpse would move the slightest bit because I used "the other" in defense of basic human rights.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 29, 2005 10:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Though I think your position is impractical and overly idealistic, I respect it and understand why you and so many others hold it."

My position is not that we should not do it because we may torture some innocents. It is simply that the benefits do not outweigh the costs. As the Law Lords point out, history shows the costs in terms of moral authority on the world scene and moral corruption of the state that condones it to be immense.

A United States that tortures prisoners (period, valid POWs or not) will no longer be a beacon of hope and light in the world. That might not be so bad if it weren't for the fact that there is no other country that can fill this role (a divided/quarraling Europe certainly can't).

If you guys spent a little more time familiarizing yourselves with the world's increasing hatred of America and a little less time debating hypothetical "ticking bomb" scenarios in minute details you might be able to see this for yourselves. Alternatively you may want to follow Greg's advice and actually read the entire opinion of the Law Lords.

At the risk (or certainty) of sounding patronizing: I know this is hard to imagine for Americans who grew up on TV, video games and a culture of materialism and individual freedom but there is more at stake here than saving a few American lives by applying torture in some obscure ticking-bomb scenario. The entire world order since WW2 depends on American leadership, both morally and militarily. Yesterday's generation of Republican leaders all knew this well (including, I'm sure, Greg's father).

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at December 29, 2005 10:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Though I think your position is impractical and overly idealistic, I respect it and understand why you and so many others hold it."

My position is not that we should not do it because we may torture some innocents. It is simply that the benefits do not outweigh the costs. As the Law Lords point out, history shows the costs in terms of moral authority on the world scene and moral corruption of the state that condones it to be immense.

A United States that tortures prisoners (period, valid POWs or not) will no longer be a beacon of hope and light in the world. That might not be so bad if it weren't for the fact that there is no other country that can fill this role (a divided/quarraling Europe certainly can't).

If you guys spent a little more time familiarizing yourselves with the world's increasing hatred of America and a little less time debating hypothetical "ticking bomb" scenarios in minute details you might be able to see this for yourselves. Alternatively you may want to follow Greg's advice and actually read the entire opinion of the Law Lords.

At the risk (or certainty) of sounding patronizing: I know this is hard to imagine for Americans who grew up on TV, video games and a culture of materialism and individual freedom but there is more at stake here than saving a few American lives by applying torture in some obscure ticking-bomb scenario. The entire world order since WW2 depends on American leadership, both morally and militarily. Yesterday's generation of Republican leaders all knew this well (including, I'm sure, Greg's father).

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at December 29, 2005 10:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re: lukasiak

"as for Edward Said, given Gene's advocacy of doing away with basic human rights for anyone he considers "the other" (in this case, someone who isn't of the same nationality as Gene), I seriously doubt his corpse would move the slightest bit..."

Actually, I wrote just a few posts ago that "in a moral sense there's no reason to treat a human being differently on account of nationality." So if Said chooses not to roll over in his grave over your misuse of the Critique of Orientalism, he still has the option to do so over your reading skills.


P.S. Vercingetorix, I missed your reply to my post. I think you're absolutely right in pointing out the distinction between positive and negative rights, and the potential problems with claiming the existence of universal human rights.

Posted by: Gene at December 30, 2005 12:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Actually, I wrote just a few posts ago that "in a moral sense there's no reason to treat a human being differently on account of nationality." So if Said chooses not to roll over in his grave over your misuse of the Critique of Orientalism, he still has the option to do so over your reading skills.

I read that. I also read where you think its okay to torture people who aren't of your nationality, despite these "moral" considerations you claim to have.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 30, 2005 12:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Okay, luka. We capture the Zarkman, Dr. Z, tomorrow. And Bin Laden the day after. It is unimpeachable that these guys know things, vital things, about their operations. Things that, if we found out about, we could save lives, not unlikely in the hundreds, or thousands. You are saying what exactly? We would besmirch our honor by rolling up those terror cells, by extracting every last bit of information from those animals? Or that, having landed the big guys, we should extract that information but then execute our interrogaters?

Who cares about our international popularity contest, which is far from all bad btw, we lost a trillion dollars on 9-11, 3000 dead. We can't afford another repeat just as we cannot afford this dissonance masquerading as moralism. You neither save lives nor preserve your honor by glad-handing tyrants or giving clemency to murderers.

I also read where you think its okay to torture people who aren't of your nationality, despite these "moral" considerations you claim to have.

Just like those racist Russians for instance, torturing those poor, poor Chechnyans...in the Caucasus. Which makes them Caucasian, in case you were taking score there, luka. 'Racism' is a stretch, but I guess you are too busy coming up with those zingers to figure out any '-ist' term for religious discrimination. By the way, have you heard any deprecating jokes lately on the Fuhrer-cum-Messiah-Bushitler lately and his religious-right sheeple?

Don't accuse others of what you are hip-deep in doing yourself.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 30, 2005 04:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Okay, luka. We capture the Zarkman, Dr. Z, tomorrow. And Bin Laden the day after. It is unimpeachable that these guys know things, vital things, about their operations. Things that, if we found out about, we could save lives, not unlikely in the hundreds, or thousands. You are saying what exactly? We would besmirch our honor by rolling up those terror cells, by extracting every last bit of information from those animals?

"animals"?

There are some problems with your little hypothetical:

1) An implied assumption that torture is the only means of extracting information

2) An obvious assumption that torture is a means of extracting reliable information

3) An obvious assumption that torture is a means of extracting actionable information in a timely fashion

4) an obvious assumption that information gleaned from torture will save lives that could not otherwise be saved

given that each of these assumptions is demonstrably false, responding to your hypothetical would be a waste of time.

You wanna know what I'd do if bin Laden was captured? I'd treat him well -- and make sure that everyone knew that he was being treated well by allowing virtually anyone to observe his treatment. And I'd arrange to have him tried under Islamic law for his crimes, so that the international Muslim community can see that his ideas and actions are a monstrous perversion of Islam.

Of course, that wouldn't satisfy the primitive bloodlust and revenge fantasies that you embrace with such passion -- the same bloodlust that has easily cost the lives of ten times as many Muslims as there were Americans killed on 9-11.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 30, 2005 01:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hilarious to see Luka - that uber defender of Saddams rule in Iraq - holding himself up as a defender of human liberty

I note with interest Mads contribution

"My position is not that we should not do it because we may torture some innocents. It is simply that the benefits do not outweigh the costs. As the Law Lords point out, history shows the costs in terms of moral authority on the world scene and moral corruption of the state that condones it to be immense."

If the Bush Admin were not being attacked for "torturing" captured AQ the world-wide bash America sorts would simply move down the line to complain that the folks in Gitmo need to be tried or released now.

"A United States that tortures prisoners (period, valid POWs or not) will no longer be a beacon of hope and light in the world. That might not be so bad if it weren't for the fact that there is no other country that can fill this role (a divided/quarraling Europe certainly can't)."

As official policy, the United States does NOT torture prisoners - we employ a set of well defined coercive interrogation methods that you choose to lable torture. And we are attacked for this.

"If you guys spent a little more time familiarizing yourselves with the world's increasing hatred of America and a little less time debating hypothetical "ticking bomb" scenarios in minute details you might be able to see this for yourselves. Alternatively you may want to follow Greg's advice and actually read the entire opinion of the Law Lords. "


I have read the opinion of the Law Lords and I find thier moral position to be at odds with reality. As for spending time familiarizing myself with increasing hatred of America - I am well familiar with the way the US has been bashed in the Euro media for "torture" in Gitmo based on some photographs of blindfolded kneeling AQ and AQ being wheeled to the infirmary

And the hoopla around the Koran desecration - another unfounded lie - and how much moral credit do we get for providing Korans, hallal meals and muslim chaplains anyway?

Sing the "you are ruining your reputation" song to a less informed audience - the blunt truth is that the Bush Admin can do nothing right in the eyes of the people who feel that way already

If we adopt every one of these reccomendations, and hinder our ability to protect ourselves, we won't get any credit anyway


"At the risk (or certainty) of sounding patronizing: I know this is hard to imagine for Americans who grew up on TV, video games and a culture of materialism and individual freedom but there is more at stake here than saving a few American lives by applying torture in some obscure ticking-bomb scenario. "

Yes - quite patrionizing. How about you look into the conditions in French prisons today - that make Gitmo look like Club Med

And the scenarios aren't obscure - we capture high value AQ operatives who most likely have information we need - I don't have any issue with a few belly slaps and stress positions to soften them up.

The worst is always attributed to America by these sorts - changing our policys won't make us loved


"The entire world order since WW2 depends on American leadership, both morally and militarily. Yesterday's generation of Republican leaders all knew this well (including, I'm sure, Greg's father)."

But this is what is being opposed today - the Franco/German efforts are aimed at creating a new multi-polar world with the EU as a competitor for this leadership role

Todays Republican leaders know this new reality - why are you acting as though this is not the case and its still 1960?

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 30, 2005 04:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

War is Truth!

Posted by: NeoDude at December 30, 2005 05:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

King of Infantry,

Notice how Paul lukasiak has problems with your 'hypothetical', but nothing to say about this:

... might I add to your discussion of human rights that there are positive and negative limitations of rights. A right to speak freely, no right to threaten or slander/libel. And no right to be heard by those that do not choose to listen. A right to carry arms, no right to carry arms in prison. A right to assemble, no right to mob.

It is the same as physical limitations, you may go where you wish, but only as far and as fast as is humanly, economically or physically, possible. So too is freedom limited by possibility and necessity. Thus your freedom to speak is inferior to my right to live, so you may not threaten or intimidate me. And your right to silence is also inferior to my right to live, therefore you will be sanctioned until you speak, if you threaten.

Also, 'universal rights' cannot come from man alone, for unless he has the same laws everywhere at once, by definition, those rights cannot be the same, thus not universal. Therefore you must take the 'natural' rights of man, as I do, into account, or even divine rights of man.

For if rights are solely accorded from the state, and the state alone, and no such state is a superior authority over others, then two states may erect laws in opposition to each other, as neither can be wrong {moral equivalence and no higher law than man}. One state could create slavery, in which case man could be property, and thus by definition of property, have no rights.

Either one must give up the supremacy of posited law, for natural or higher law, or give up the whole concept of rights. Tertium Non Datur. ???


Posted by: Art Wellesley at December 30, 2005 05:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Art, I don't blame him for punting on that, it undergirds his entire philosophy. I was going to post this…Well, Captain Obvious, now that you’ve diagramed my sentences, will any information save any lives ever? So if some information, some of the time, can be used to save a life, then some of the information derived from torture could obviously save lives, especially if there was no other way to get that information.

This is not rocket science, lukaniac. Can you get people to talk by applying pain? Yes. What can you get them to say? Anything you want. Including the truth. If only that person knows, and he doesn’t want to tell you, can you force him to talk? Yep, sure can. Should you? If you value innocent Americans more than jihadi animals, yep. You know, that whole Darwinian thing or is the alternate reality-based community over that…

But I would rather talk to someone sane. There are two ways to escape my little trap. One is through the concept of a Citizen, someone who trades responsibility for Rights, that Rights are another face of Civilization, like War and Law are the two faces of a State. The other is just to build the super-state, which will have super-legal authority. The appeals to international law and, only in part and clumsily, the UN represent that impulse; a superior, and regular, legal body greater than the parts, that will be not contradict itself.

The former is still poison to positive law, for different classes of people, slaves, Citizens, nobility, and foreigners, for instance, just recreates the problem at the small scale, diminishing the stress, but not relieving it. Thus class warfare is the path of least resistance from investing sole authority in Man to make rules. The latter, the tyrannical appeal to centralize everything, to solve everything is A) impossible and B) contradictory as all universalities are. The very basis of movement is thesis, antithesis, and synethesis, a foot pushes down against the ground, the ground pushes up against the foot and you step forward. A thesis alone is static.

A perfect law made material is a perfectly dead letter. So again, we must appeal to natural law. Anyways, manana, Art, Gene.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 30, 2005 10:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey Verc... just imagine if I were President, and I agreed with you about torture.

You'd be on the rack double-quick, because you might have information that I could use to avert a takeover of this country by far-right wingers.

I wonder how you would feel about the use of torture after that little episode, assuming, of course, you survived that little imposition on your rights,

Posted by: lukasiak at December 31, 2005 03:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm all for torture. The US tried to get Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi to link Saddam to AlQaida in order to get the much-needed Iraq occupation off the ground, but they couldn't get him to talk to script. They needed to rendition him to Egypt for torture in order to get him to say the right words. Without torture, chances of selling the US on occupying Iraq were slim. With torture, the glorious endeavour was off and running.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at December 31, 2005 04:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

projection, luka, it is a crazy thing to extend your own totalitarian impulses to others. I'm fortunate then that even with the already low qualifications Americans have for selecting their presidents, you still fall far short. Toodles.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 31, 2005 03:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, Paul, you and all your deranged typing contribute nothing to the greatness or future of this country. Neither do any of your fellow traveler here or over at TPB, who pretend to be crusading superheroes of justice, fighting the “right”. There's not one of you that comes anywhere near rating the title of hero. You are nothing but a bunch of squatters who are miserable and unhappy for who knows whatever reasons and deciding to take it out on people who they think have control over their lives. In this case, it's the President. You want things to be a certain way, your way, and when your ideas ,…You want government to have control over peoples lives, because you ascibe all of these draconian powers to the president, but the simple truth of this country is that it's the people who make this country work.

So here at least you’re honest – you want to be president – and why? Because you think presidents are kings – and if only you were the president you’d this and that. Typically – it’s you who are the fascist.

Paul? It is the people who comprise the economy. It is the people who comprise the morality. It is the people of this country who determine the ethics - and that's what you're upset about because you're in the minority. The people of this country, the people who make this country work differ from you in tremendous ways. They are religious. They are God-fearing. They respect values and morality. They know what's right and they know what's wrong, and they do their best to abide. You are offended by all that, claiming they don't have the right to make such decisions, while you sit around and make no decisions whatsoever because you're willing to totally put your life in the hands of some fictitious ideal liberal politician and that will take you off the hook for having to make any decision about your life or anybody else's. Well, that's not how the country works. This country works on the basis of an educated and informed public seeking excellence in their own lives to whatever degree they wish it. People pursuing life the best they can, using freedom, God-given freedom -- and for you to set up shop here and to come up with something as irrelevant as to say this war can’t be fought a certain way because you think that because you don’t like wars that it must follow that we won’t ever be in one as long as people like you are president. But somehow, despite all your brilliance and influence the war is taking place. Whether you agree with the fact that it's going on or not, we all have come to the decision that it's best that we win it. You haven't even joined us on that. You hope we lose it. You want to lose it because you want to embarrass the leaders of the country. What must your life be like?

”you’d be on the rack double-quick”? Is your live so baseless and void of substance that the only pleasure you get from life is through watching the misery of others and trying to cause misery for others? Are you so incapable of enjoying the God-given gift of life that you've got, that you can only do so when other people are suffering, hopefully as a result of actions you've taken? What must it be like to be you people? What must it be like to get up every day and to have to go to your calendar and write "Destroy the president today. Destroy America’s ability to wage war . Post more documents to my AWOL website"? What must that be like? When you look out across the country and you see a burgeoning economy, you see the lone world superpower -- and it's not because of any president, and it's not because of any weapon, and it's not because of any military, it's because of the people of this country and our values and our Constitution. We're no different than any other people, other than we have freedom -- and you don't even like that! You only want freedom for yourself, defined as you define it. So people can't say things that offend you, they can't do things that offend you, we can't have a united war effort. But you and your people are so miserably unhappy that you have to find ways to constantly make everybody else around you unhappy, and so you walk around your mom’s house, surfing the net, work on your little bush/awol project and then you have the audacity to roost here and tell us that you’re the great one, that you're the one that cares, that you're the one that has this country's best interests at heart.

You people on the left used to be the ones that were all for civil rights around the world. You were all for human rights. Now all of a sudden you couldn't care less about the status of Iraqis. You couldn't care less. It's gotten so absurd, that now you have the nerve to think that you have the slightest idea how things work in the field.

”And only if we subject those who engage in torture to the death penalty -- even when their resort to torture saved lives -- can we maintain our humanity."

Do you realize how patently absurd and bordering on insane that comment is? Your talking about United States citizens. No, you don't. Because you think so little of your own country, you think so little of the office of the presidency, you have such little faith in the ideals that have combined to make this a great country, and our conduct in a war, that you assume it's worse here than anywhere else, and that the reason that we’re decided to wage war, was for oil, or re-election, or racism, or whatever cockamamie, asinine, ignorant idea you can come up with. It's gotten to the point now where it is common to go on Democrat websites and read about the pleasure it would bring if the president were assassinated. Because it would help remove the right-wing menace ”that I could use to avert a takeover of this country by far-right wingers”., right?

Do you have any idea how you people are perceived? Do you have the slightest idea how the decent people who make this country work perceive you? It is not with any respect. It is with contempt and it's with sorrow. But it's also with this realization: This country, if it is to survive, cannot be turned over to you people to lead and to run, because we will cease to exist as the United States the day that happens, and mark my word. It’s not going to happen.

And ‘Alan down under’, wherever you are out there…>FYT

Posted by: Tommy G at December 31, 2005 06:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, Paul, you and all your deranged typing contribute nothing to the greatness or future of this country. Neither do any of your fellow traveler here or over at TPB, who pretend to be crusading superheroes of justice, fighting the “right”. There's not one of you that comes anywhere near rating the title of hero. You are nothing but a bunch of squatters who are miserable and unhappy for who knows whatever reasons and deciding to take it out on people who they think have control over their lives. In this case, it's the President. You want things to be a certain way, your way, and when your ideas ,…You want government to have control over peoples lives, because you ascibe all of these draconian powers to the president, but the simple truth of this country is that it's the people who make this country work.

So here at least you’re honest – you want to be president – and why? Because you think presidents are kings – and if only you were the president you’d this and that. Typically – it’s you who are the fascist.

Paul? It is the people who comprise the economy. It is the people who comprise the morality. It is the people of this country who determine the ethics - and that's what you're upset about because you're in the minority. The people of this country, the people who make this country work differ from you in tremendous ways. They are religious. They are God-fearing. They respect values and morality. They know what's right and they know what's wrong, and they do their best to abide. You are offended by all that, claiming they don't have the right to make such decisions, while you sit around and make no decisions whatsoever because you're willing to totally put your life in the hands of some fictitious ideal liberal politician and that will take you off the hook for having to make any decision about your life or anybody else's. Well, that's not how the country works. This country works on the basis of an educated and informed public seeking excellence in their own lives to whatever degree they wish it. People pursuing life the best they can, using freedom, God-given freedom -- and for you to set up shop here and to come up with something as irrelevant as to say this war can’t be fought a certain way because you think that because you don’t like wars that it must follow that we won’t ever be in one as long as people like you are president. But somehow, despite all your brilliance and influence the war is taking place. Whether you agree with the fact that it's going on or not, we all have come to the decision that it's best that we win it. You haven't even joined us on that. You hope we lose it. You want to lose it because you want to embarrass the leaders of the country. What must your life be like?

”you’d be on the rack double-quick”? Is your live so baseless and void of substance that the only pleasure you get from life is through watching the misery of others and trying to cause misery for others? Are you so incapable of enjoying the God-given gift of life that you've got, that you can only do so when other people are suffering, hopefully as a result of actions you've taken? What must it be like to be you people? What must it be like to get up every day and to have to go to your calendar and write "Destroy the president today. Destroy America’s ability to wage war . Post more documents to my AWOL website"? What must that be like? When you look out across the country and you see a burgeoning economy, you see the lone world superpower -- and it's not because of any president, and it's not because of any weapon, and it's not because of any military, it's because of the people of this country and our values and our Constitution. We're no different than any other people, other than we have freedom -- and you don't even like that! You only want freedom for yourself, defined as you define it. So people can't say things that offend you, they can't do things that offend you, we can't have a united war effort. But you and your people are so miserably unhappy that you have to find ways to constantly make everybody else around you unhappy, and so you walk around your mom’s house, surfing the net, work on your little bush/awol project and then you have the audacity to roost here and tell us that you’re the great one, that you're the one that cares, that you're the one that has this country's best interests at heart.

You people on the left used to be the ones that were all for civil rights around the world. You were all for human rights. Now all of a sudden you couldn't care less about the status of Iraqis. You couldn't care less. It's gotten so absurd, that now you have the nerve to think that you have the slightest idea how things work in the field.

”And only if we subject those who engage in torture to the death penalty -- even when their resort to torture saved lives -- can we maintain our humanity."

Do you realize how patently absurd and bordering on insane that comment is? Your talking about United States citizens. No, you don't. Because you think so little of your own country, you think so little of the office of the presidency, you have such little faith in the ideals that have combined to make this a great country, and our conduct in a war, that you assume it's worse here than anywhere else, and that the reason that we’re decided to wage war, was for oil, or re-election, or racism, or whatever cockamamie, asinine, ignorant idea you can come up with. It's gotten to the point now where it is common to go on Democrat websites and read about the pleasure it would bring if the president were assassinated. Because it would help remove the right-wing menace ”that I could use to avert a takeover of this country by far-right wingers”., right?

Do you have any idea how you people are perceived? Do you have the slightest idea how the decent people who make this country work perceive you? It is not with any respect. It is with contempt and it's with sorrow. But it's also with this realization: This country, if it is to survive, cannot be turned over to you people to lead and to run, because we will cease to exist as the United States the day that happens, and mark my word. It’s not going to happen.

And ‘Alan down under’, wherever you are out there…FYT

Posted by: Tommy G at December 31, 2005 06:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue,

First off, thanks for responding to my comment in a respectful way, even though I was being patronizing. I will try to show you the same respect.

It seems that we have narrowed down our disagreement to this key point:

"Sing the "you are ruining your reputation" song to a less informed audience - the blunt truth is that the Bush Admin can do nothing right in the eyes of the people who feel that way already."

As you know I disagree strongly with this statement. And I take issue with the implication that people who think the perception of America abroad matters are "less informed". It is difficult for me to explain this without sounding "patronizing", but I'll try anyway.

So let me use an example of somebody close to me: My own father. As a young child he witnessed the Americans and the Brits kick the hated German occupiers out of our country. As a teenager he witnessed the Marshall aid restore hope and prosperity to a war-torn Europe. He always had the deepest gratitude and respect for the United States. Like many Europeans of his generation he thought very highly of Ronald Reagan.

Unfortunately, Bush's arrogance after 9/11 has changed all that. My father still loves America but he is very disturbed by where it is going. And he thinks Bush is an arrogant fool. The younger generation, pretty much without exception, can be said to hate America with a passion. Not just the America-bashing left (which does exist and has existed ever since the Vietnam era) but moderates and even conservatives. People who travel a lot on business, people who are small business owners. They used to be staunch defenders. In 2004 my best friend from high school, who has visited me in America almost every year since I came here in 1990, cancelled his trip just because Bush's foreign policy arrogance angered him so much.

So please trust me when I say this: Present-day hatred for Bush's America is at an all-time high. If you dismiss this as the sentiments of "people who feel that way already" then it is you who are uninformed. If you don't trust me then take a trip abroad and establish some new friendships. Or talk to somebody who has.

Now, assuming you buy my argument above, you can of course argue that fine, Europeans hate Bush's at an unprecedented scale, but that has no relevance to GWOT, torture or any other issue that I care about. That is a valid opinion, and one that I admit is far more difficult to refute.

I could try by looking at parallels in history examining nations and empires that were both loved and feared for their might, as opposed to just feared. We could examine piles of literature on "soft power". Or we could compare first-hand experiences from those who went into Iraq without international support or sympathy to the experiences of those who worked in Afghanistan. But I suspect that none of this would really convince any of you hard-core Bush supporters at this point. If Greg can't convince you then I certainly can't.

In the end I think this comes down to a fundamental difference in how we view the world. Even though I am still fairly young I see myself as a citizen of "the West" -- of a world order that spans the globe but is heavily (and most recently) inspired by Western nations and values and which is anchored by a transatlantic partnership. I suspect you and most pro-torture advocates see yourselves as Americans first and foremost, and don't place anywhere near the same value on the non-American influences and traditions. In that you differ from your parent's generation of GOP leaders, and through Bush's policies tomorrow's European leaders will see things differently as well. You probably don't think this matters much. I think we are facing some troubling times. America's defence bugdet may dwarf those of other nations, but running a brutish Empire whose subjects hate you can be a very expensive and challenging affair.

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at December 31, 2005 07:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"You people on the left used to be the ones that were all for civil rights around the world. You were all for human rights. Now all of a sudden you couldn't care less about the status of Iraqis. You couldn't care less. It's gotten so absurd, that now you have the nerve to think that you have the slightest idea how things work in the field."

Ain't it the truth

I have gotten into the Iraq debate with several otherwise good and decent Democrats and when all is said and done it comes down to this

"Fuck the Iraqi's - I don't give a shit about them"

Is it any wonder I can only manage a sad smile when I read Paul Lukaniac trying to foist the guilt for the unfortunate dead = both Iraqi and CoW - that resulted from deposing Saddam

Its blatently clear he doesn't give a good God-damn about the people of Iraq - or the people of America who disagree with him

Oh yes - he'd have us all on the rack - if he got the chance

But he never will

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 31, 2005 08:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mads, might I add that priorities do matter, that a right to live far exceeds many other rights. All generalizations break down at the outlying edges, this is no different, but like Socrates, "A disorderly mob is no more an army than a heap of building materials is a house." The basis of civil society, the very basis, the contract that preserves the life of the citizen from death and harm, must be preserved. Rampant torture and abuse will negate that contract, as we have all admitted to freely, or even absolutely deleterious torture (the 'long knives'), just as random executions or persecution of political enemies, again as we have all admitted, freely.

On the other hand, we consent to use force in all sorts of situations, and in fact demand it. Arresting suspects, detaining suspects, imprisoning and keeping suspects, executing convicts. The soul of the republic is harmed not at all by such measures, it is preserved from chaos. And the opposite, being kind to perpetrators at the expense of victims, is a miscarriage of justice.

Letting a child molester stay under the same roof as his victim would be reprehensible, letting a rapist domicile with his prey terrible, or letting a murderer stalk his quarry unrestrained would be unconscionable. But why should we balk at our duty to our people because someone else has a hang-up about it.

It is not that I couldn't care less about European's perceptions, but Europe together with the other 5 billion other people in the world, even if they hated the US, will matter less than if the 300 million Americans hated it. Because it is our country and no one will chip in a dime or shoulder a rifle if we will stumble and need help.

Certainly not blood-stained Europe who may still horrify us, certainly will require it's tithe of American blood.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 31, 2005 09:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My father was truly an honourable man.

Born in 1911 of working class parents he was one of eight children. Extremely bright, he skipped two grades in in public school but left high school after grade 11 to support his brothers and sisters.

He and my mother raised 10 children on the wages of a labourer. He wore the same (his only) suit to Sunday Mass for 20 years. He worked at three jobs to support his famly and taught each of his children that life was what they made of it. Eight of his ten children completed universty and four obtained two university degrees. To improve the lot of his co-workers, many of whom were immigrants, my father worked at the then unpaid position of union secretary.

An all round athlete, he won the Toronto Beaches baseball batting championship several times and age 55 he won the 50 and over 100 yard dash at the CNE Labour Day games.


In his spare time my father flooded the local rink and umpired baseball games. I never knew my father to lie. His idea of indulging himself was to drink two beers while he ate cheese and crackers and watched the Friday night fights.


A case of 12 beer would last my father six weeks. I once saw my father drunk. It was the day his boyhood chum was convicted of assault as a result of a picket line incident durung a labour dispute.

So, I have a question for you Gregory. What kind of idiot would I be if I wanted to talk endlessly about the time I saw my father drunk?

Grow up lefies. There's a war to be won. This moral equivalency is moronic and it is prolonging the war. Three hundred thousand in mass graves and untold hundreds of thousands missing. A people in the cradle of civilization denied the right of suffrage and living under the thumb of a mass murdering stalinist. This is a just a war.

Let's treat it as such and end this stupid nitpicking. Describing what was for the most part fraternity hazing as torture is idiotic and counter-productive.

Posted by: Terry Gain at January 1, 2006 07:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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