It’s the Torture, Stupid

Responding to some rather silly comments on an Orin Kerr post about the CIA’s admittedly harsh interrogation techniques, Ogged observes,

The comments are an almost unbroken string of “that don’t seem so bad to me,” even including the old, “my frat did worse than that.” First, the stuff even idiots should understand: the difference between what a frat does (or what the military does to you in training) is that in the frat and military a) you consent b) you have an expectation that you won’t, in fact, be grievously harmed or permanently injured c) you know that it won’t go on for what could be the rest of your life. So, if we’re going to make headway on the torture debate, we have to make people understand that “torture” is a situation, not necessarily a specific act or technique.

Yep.

And, as always when this topic comes up, Jim Henley‘s reply to Alan Derschowitz is worth revisiting.

FILED UNDER: General,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    Missed the link to Ogged’s post.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Added. Thanks.

  3. Steven Plunk says:

    So my day to day worries along with the sleepless nights related to my being a small business owner is a form of torture? Having a teenage son is torture?

    Each of these cause worry that may not go away, it’s a “situation” I’m in.

    When I go on a bicycle ride I risk injury, grievous harm from a car or perhaps a pulled muscle. The physical harm could last for the rest of my life.

    In my opinion torture is not a situation, it is an act or technique in a situation, you can’t split the two apart.

    Also keep in mind these people voluntarily chose to fight. They were not just plucked from the street and tortured. Heck, we don’t even know if anyone has been tortured for real.

    Some people are making much of this debate as a tool to undermine the administration. Such as labeling Cheney the king of torture. It’s politics.

    For a real debate about torture we first have to remove our partisan politics from the discussion then we have to approach it in a more rational manner keeping the emotions out of it. It’s hard to do but true leaders can accomplish the task.

    So far we have not taken the first baby steps to a grown up way of dealing with this.

  4. Bithead says:

    Oh, come, James… let’s recall the biggest difference of all; in the frat situation there’s nobody part of an org that’s killed thousands of people and is intent on the world coming under the influence of their twisted worldview.

  5. odograph says:

    They were not just plucked from the street and tortured.

    Of course some were. When occupiers come to town it’s the easiest way to get rid of your enemies, or simply competetors.

    “Pssst, soldier … [insert name] planted a bomb, I heard him say so!”

    You know that happened.

  6. odograph says:

    BTW, have you seen “CIA Veterans Condemn Torture”

    http://nationaljournal.com/about/njweekly/stories/2005/1119nj1.htm

  7. Bithead says:

    Of course some were

    Cite?
    Proof?

  8. LJD says:

    “You know that happened.”

    You saw this somewhere, or are just making an assumption based on your extensive experience in this area?

  9. odograph says:

    cite/proof … have you guys never read histories of occupations?

    In particular, there was a story at the beginning of this occupation of a guy who was behind in his rent. He was going to be evicted. So he told the US soldiers that his landlord was an important Bathist, and off he went.

    Geez, you guys do not impress me by not knowing human history, or expecting this stuff from the darker sides of human nature.

  10. LJD says:

    Translation:
    ODO feels our troops are too stupid to cut through the BS and figure out that this guy just didn’t want to pay his rent.

    “…histories of occupations” Like the Germans in Poland, or what? Care to elaborate?

    “…off he went.”
    So you have evidence this guy was tortured for trying to collect rent? That’s certainly what you’re implying. The original subject “They were not just plucked from the street and tortured”

    …and you support the troops! (“Gee I just don’t see how getting accountability would affect troop morale…”)

    …and all of this is based on YOUR assumptions and generalizations, based on what you’ve read about “Occupations”?

    Let me get you on on something about provding evidence/links: In this country we have something called innocent until proven guilty. People like you want to extend it to the enemy, but not our own guys in uniform. It makes me sick. So what this means is, if you have accuasations, YOU have to prove it, or else STFU. I don’t have to DISprove anything. I’m still wating for the evidence. Not a poll result. Not “allegations. Proof. Period. There isn’t any and you know it.
    But hey, way to support the troops with all of your wild accusations…

  11. odograph says:

    Your basic problem is that your position requires you to ignore reality.

  12. LJD says:

    Nice blanket statement. Still waiting for the proof. I like to think Americans in uniform overwhelmingly do the right thing. If you don’t, then catch the next flight to Indonesia and blow yourself up.

  13. odograph says:

    Don’t you think statements like “catch the next flight to Indonesia and blow yourself up” kind of categorize you as a nut case?

    And if the nut cases are the last defenders of Bush strategy, what does that say?

    Anyway, I think the Daily Show nailed it:

    “While the Democrats are focusing on how we were misled to war, Bush is focusing on how to mislead us out of it. … If we were wrong about why we went in, we have to be wrong about why we’re leaving. Otherwise it sends our enemies the message that America lacks the will to remain incorrect.”
    —Rob Corddry on The Daily Show

    The nut cases hare happy to be misled

  14. LJD says:

    Nut cases blow themselves up, like the enemy. I don’t give a crap about defending the President. I should not have to defend our troops character, to those who haven’t a damn clue about what it means to serve. Our troops are a little busy now to defend themselves anyway.

    Nut cases also get their news from Comedy Central. They also allege that our guys abduct and torture people for trying to collect rent. Shame on YOU.

    Your continued ability to dodge the issues is mind boggling.

  15. odograph says:

    Comedy Central sometimes tells truths that we know, but are not always ready to admit.

  16. Anderson says:

    Heck, we don’t even know if anyone has been tortured for real.

    Where are all the smart OTB readers? Y’all need to quit abandoning the comments, folks. It’s looking grim.

    From just the latest news item:

    Harsh interrogation techniques authorized by top officials of the CIA have led to questionable confessions and the death of a detainee since the techniques were first authorized in mid-March 2002, ABC News has been told by former and current intelligence officers and supervisors.

    They say they are revealing specific details of the techniques, and their impact on confessions, because the public needs to know the direction their agency has chosen. All gave their accounts on the condition that their names and identities not be revealed. Portions of their accounts are corrobrated by public statements of former CIA officers and by reports recently published that cite a classified CIA Inspector General’s report. * * *

    6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

    According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda’s toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

    You think this is all made up? That’s despicable. The burden of proof is HEAVILY on the side on those who would deny these accounts.

    Argue that stuff like waterboarding is justifiable if you want, but don’t deny that we’re doing it, or that it’s torture. All you do is make yourself look ridiculous, like we can’t KNOW there aren’t UFO’s in gov’t hangars because we haven’t gone and looked inside them.

  17. odograph says:

    In the other thread, LJD just told me:

    If you feel so strongly, leave the CA Communist party, go overseas and help your buddies expel the “infidel crusaders”.

    That’s the level of the guys defending this stuff.

  18. ken says:

    LJD, you have not been paying attention.

    There is incontrovertable evidence that Army soldiers, Marines, SEALS, CIA, as well as the Iraqi police are torturing prisoners. Sometimes they even feel bad about it.

    Meanwhile Iragi government leaders gave the green light to the insurgentcy by proclaiming that anyone who fights the US occupaction cannot be considered a terrorist and therefore, by implication, is not doing anything illegal.

    They also said they want to know when the occupation forces will get the hell out of their country.

  19. LJD says:

    No Ken, you’re not paying attention.

    Care to guess at the percentage of the total military which is involved? By your same math and logic, as a U.S. citizen you should be locked up in an insane asylum. Nice of you to acknowledge the troops feeling bad about it, though.

    I won’t even adress the other statement. Your summation totally changes the facts of what transpired.

  20. bithead says:

    cite/proof … have you guys never read histories of occupations?

    Certainly, which prompts the question. We’ve een lied to too often by people pushing an agenda.

    And don’t worry, Odo about not being impressed by us… speakingf or me, I’ve found you totally unimpressive from the get-go.

  21. odograph says:

    So basically Bit, because I didn’t save a link when I read that guy’s story a year ago … torture is ok and we are winning the war, right?

    Amazing how you can turn away from every big picture argument about torture and the war, and make it about me.

    Oh no, you aren’t a nut …

  22. LJD says:

    Harsh negotiation techniques authorized by top officials of the CIA have led to questionable confessions and the embarassment of more than one democrat since the techniques were first authorized in mid-March 2002, ABC News has been told by former and current intelligence officers and supervisors.

    6. Cranial dislocation: The democrat’s head and feet are bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. The democrat is forced to stand up as water is poured over him. Unavoidably, there is a loud popping sound and their head is temporarily removed from their arse.

    According to the sources, CIA officers could not subject themselves to the technique, because no one could get their head that far up their arse. They said al Qaeda’s toughest supporter, Michael Moore, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to keep his head up there indefinitely.

  23. ken says:

    Care to guess at the percentage of the total military which is involved?

    What difference does that make? Just because the Bush administration changed US policy in order to employ torture doesn’t mean they are not going to require every US serviceman or women to torture someone, are they?

    Human nature being what it is, once torture is green lighted, I would guess that there is about the same percentage of tortures in the US occupation forces as there would be in any other military that approves of torture as an interregation technique. It would naturally be a small number of the overall forces because only a small number of the overall forces are involved in interregation.

  24. anjin-san says:

    “an org that’s killed thousands of people and is intent on the world coming under the influence of their twisted worldview”

    Actually that sounds a bit like the Bush admin…