White House Lawyers vs. Military Lawyers on Torture

One thing that’s also worth noting in the debate over the Bush Administration’s torture program is that while the Office of Legal Counsel did sign off on the techniques used (with memos so bad that the lawyers in question are soon to be under investigation for a breach of their professional duties), the fact remains that the Administration also sought the expertise of military lawyers. And then promptly ignored their findings. This is ably summarized in the Senate Armed Services Committee report released last year. Here are some important snippets:

[Department of Defense’s Criminal Investigative Task Force]’s Chief Legal Advisor wrote that certain techniques in GTMO’s October 11, 2002 request “may subject service members to punitive articles of the [Uniform Code of Military Justice],” called “the utility and legality of applying certain techniques” in the request “questionable,” and stated that he could not “advocate any action, interrogation or otherwise, that is predicated upon the principle that all is well if the ends justify the means and others are not aware of how we conduct our business.”

[…]

The Chief of the Army’s International and Operational Law Division wrote that techniques like stress positions, deprivation of light and auditory stimuli, and use of phobias to induce stress “crosses the line of ‘humane’ treatment,” would “likely be considered maltreatment” under the UCMJ, and “may violate the torture statute.” The Army labeled GTMO’s request “legally insufficient” and called for additional review.

[…]

The Navy recommended a “more detailed interagency legal and policy review” of the request. And the Marine Corps expressed strong reservations, stating that several techniques in the request “arguably violate federal law, and would expose our service members to possible prosecution.” The Marine Corps also said the request was not “legally sufficient,” and like the other services, called for “a more thorough legal and policy review.”

The bottom line? These legal opinions were rejected by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.

On January 15, 2003, the same day he rescinded authority for GTMO to use aggressive techniques, Secretary Rumsfeld directed the establishment of a “Working Group” to review interrogation techniques. For the next few months senior military and civilian lawyers tried, without success, to have their concerns about the legality of aggressive techniques reflected in the Working Group’s report. Their arguments were rejected in favor of a legal opinion from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel’s (OLC) John Yoo.

Shortly after this, torture techniques were re-authorized by Rumsfeld. And they continued at both Gitmo and in Abu Ghraib.

It’s also worth noting in the Armed Services report that the OLC memos by Yoo, Bybee et al. were actually rejected by the Office of Legal Counsel in 2003. Additionally, the Department of Defense was notified at that time that it should not rely on those opinions.

As the events at Abu Ghraib were unfolding, Jack Goldsmith, the new Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel was presented with a “short stack” of OLC opinions that were described to him as problematic. Included in that short stack were the Bybee memos of August 1, 2002 and Mr. Yoo’s memo of March 2003. After reviewing the memos, Mr. Goldsmith decided to rescind both the so-called first Bybee memo and Mr. Yoo’s memo. In late December 2003, Mr. Goldsmith notified Mr. Haynes that DoD could no longer rely on Mr. Yoo’s memo in determining the lawfulness of interrogation techniques.

It is worth noting that despite the fact that the DoD was notified that Yoo, Bybee, and Bradbury’s memos were not to be relied upon anymore, torture continued under Rumsfeld’s watch.

Read the whole report. And my hat’s off to the many, many brave members of the United States Armed Forces who did not sit idly by while this was going on. They did their duty in notifying the chain of command that interrogators were being ordered to violate the law. Their notifications were clearly ignored.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, National Security, , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Alex, I noticed in your bio you have a bs in biochemistry. I suggest the bs you have is on the subject of torture. You can label chocolate vanilla. However that does not make it so. Water boarding is only torture to those who oppose any method of getting information from the unwilling that does not consist of offering milk and cookies. The left has had the opportunity, through the media to label water boarding as torture. Once that is done the argument is as good as won. That is BS. People have volunteered to endure waterboarding. No one volunteers to be tortured. Why is it you hate the United States of America? I would think anyone here would do whatever is necessary to protect our citizens from attack by an enemy who has sworn to kill our citizens (has done so) and bring down our nation. You ever been in a fight? What were the rules?

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    Zelsdorf,

    Waterboarding prisoners has been punished as a crime in the United States for decades. Soliders who waterboarded enemy combatants were court-martialed way back when Teddy Roosevelt was President.

    The rule of law matters, and American ideals are about more than mere survival. To quote Patrick Henry, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”

  3. Steve Plunk says:

    Every day some of the best lawyers in the land argue opposing views of the law in our nations courts. One side can win and the other will have their legal opinions rejected.

    So in this case some legal opinions were rejected and others embraced as correct. As hard as people might try to make this something big it is not. The torture debate is becoming so tiresome and unproductive.

  4. One thing that’s also worth noting in the debate over the Bush Administration’s torture program is that while the Office of Legal Counsel did sign off on the techniques used (with memos so bad politically unpopular with the new powers that be that the lawyers in question are soon to be under investigation for a breach of their professional duties), the fact remains that the Administration also sought the expertise of military lawyers.

    There, fixed that for you.

    But seriously, take a step back and look at your monomania on this topic. We get it, you think its bad and everyone who doesn’t agree with you is wicked.

  5. Drew says:

    Steve Plunk soberly observes:

    “Every day some of the best lawyers in the land argue opposing views of the law in our nations courts. One side can win and the other will have their legal opinions rejected.”

    Charles Austin soberly observes:

    “But seriously, take a step back and look at your monomania on this topic. We get it, you think its bad and everyone who doesn’t agree with you is wicked.”

    And this is the quality of commentary we get from AK:

    “One thing that’s also worth noting in the debate over the Bush Administration’s torture program…”

    Their “torture program??”

    Please, Alex. We may disagree on the issue, but that phrase belongs in Comic Book Resources, not here.

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Drew,

    Torture has a precise legal defintion. The techniques used by the Bush Administration meet that definition. Ergo, they tortured. This isn’t about aggrandizement. This is about recognizing that words have meaning.

  7. Ben says:

    In Alex’s posts about torture throughout the week, you guys fell all over yourselves to demand that Alex:
    1.) provide evidence that there are innocents still at gitmo
    2.) provide evidence that the techniques outlined in these memos are actually considered torture by legal experts
    3.) provide evidence that there was significant dissent within the Bush Administration about these techniques (which is being kind)

    Alex has now made more posts providing said evidence, and you’re now accusing him of being obsessed with the topic and you’re ignoring what he’s presented. Pathetic.

  8. Davebo says:

    I thought the right had gotten beyond arguing that waterboarding isn’t torture and since moved on to “it was worth it because of all the intel we got”?

    It’s been a fascinating timeline really.

    First, “The US doesn’t torture”

    Then, “The US does use enhanced interrogation techniques, but they don’t amount to torture”.

    Finishing up with “OK, it is torture but it was worth it because it saved hundreds of thousands of lives!”

    Seriously, if the situation were reversed and even if it pertained to another subject, how much credibility would you give someone who has gone through such contortions?

  9. Eric Florack says:

    Waterboarding prisoners has been punished as a crime in the United States for decades.

    So, law is the final arbiter of morality?

    Finishing up with “OK, it is torture but it was worth it because it saved hundreds of thousands of lives!”

    Not quite. The response is “Even if it was… and it isn’t…. it still saved lives.”

    The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful and the right thing to do.

    The intelligence officers who questioned the terrorists can be proud of their work, proud of the results, because they prevented the violent death of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people.

    Our successors in office have their own views on these matters. By presidential decision last month, we saw the selective release of documents relating to enhanced interrogations. This is held up as a bold exercise in open government, honoring the public’s right to know. We’re informed, as well, that there was much agonizing over this decision.

    Yet somehow, when the soul-searching was done and the veil was lifted on the policies of the Bush administration, the public was given less than half the truth. The released memos were carefully redacted to leave out references to what our government learned through the methods in question.

    Other memos, laying out specific terrorist plots that were averted, apparently were not even considered for release.

    For reasons the administration has yet to explain, they believe the public has a right to know the method of the questions, but not the content of the answers.

    Exactly so.
    Spare us the false moral posturing.

  10. Drew says:

    Alex –

    Pure crap. And pathetically poor commentary. Torture may have a precise meaning. But you have decided what occurred its torture. In fact, that’s the whole debate: Was it, or was it not? And that debate is what has previously transpired, and what is going on now.

    But you have gone down a path declaring the debate over and decided to label a “Bush Torture Program.” That commentary would be worthy of Code Pink nuts, perhaps MoveOn.

    Is that where you reside?

  11. Alex Knapp says:

    Drew,

    Considering that I am arguing that the Bush Administration ordered the use of torture as defined by U.S. Law, it seems altogether appropriate for me to use the legal term “torture.” You are welcome to argue that they were not torture, but since I disagree, I will continue to refer to them as torture unless there is a compelling reason to state otherwise. Because that’s the side I’m debating.

  12. Alex Knapp says:

    Eric,

    Are you a utilitarian? Because that seems at odds with your professed Christianity, which is more of a deonotological school of ethics.

    Just curious.

  13. anjin-san says:

    Was it, or was it not?

    Christopher Hitchens says it is, he did the research and is hardly in Obama’s pocket.

  14. anjin-san says:

    Not quite. The response is “Even if it was… and it isn’t…. it still saved lives.”

    Yup. And Saddam has WMD and we know where they are…

  15. Eric Florack says:

    Are you a utilitarian? Because that seems at odds with your professed Christianity, which is more of a deonotological school of ethics.

    Hardly. It’s about time you figured out, Alex, that in the secular context, morality is a function of culture , not law. Put another way, law does not define morality. Nor, in fact, can a law ever capture in amber the essence of morality. Your constant appeals to authority, that is, the law, when you’re trying to make a moral argument, therefore, is at least incongruous if not nonsensical.

    Since our “chosen one” has decided to leave out the pertinent information that was gathered by such interrogation methods, were forced to make assumptions. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that are vital information that saved lives was in fact obtained through such interrogation methods. are you really arguing that allowing more people to die under those conditions, so that we don’t have to upset a terrorist, is the moral option?

    I not only question your morality, I question your sanity. Your Bush derangement syndrome has pushed you over the edge of the last. I rather had hopes for you. So much for that.

  16. Waterboarding is torture. Fine. No argument from me on that topic.

    Permitting waterboarding to be used repeatedly on exactly two people who the authorities had ample reason to believe knew something that they would otherwise not reveal is hardly a torture program. You do yourself a great diservice to abuse the language this way. Further, conflating these specific acts with the abuses at Abu Ghraib is intellectually dishonest.

    Stop imagining that many of us are cheerleaders for torture or that members of the Bush administration were high-fiving themselves going, “Alright, we can torture people now!” I accept that waterboarding is torture and have no real problem that was used as it was under these specific circumstances. Suprisingly, apparently to you at least, I think a lot of people agree with me, perhaps even a majority.

    The sideshow on offer here makes no distinctions between types of torture, who is being tortured, or why. Using branding irons to obtain a bogus confession from a prisoner, or sexually humiliating them for kicks (as at Abu Ghraib) are not the same thing as using waterboarding to get information from KSM about Al Qaeda’s organization and plans. And perhaps you didn’t notice, but people did go to jail over thier actions at Abu Ghraib. There is no paper trail from White House lawyers authorizing what happened there. Conflating the abuses at Abu Ghraib with the treatment of KSM is, as noted above, intellectually dishonest.

    The Obama administrations selective leaking of some memos and not others has already bitten Nancy Pelosi in the backside. Let’s have some sunshine and release the memos that VP Cheney has asked for. Then let the public decide whether they’d agree with me that this specific, limited torture of these specific limited captives under these specific, limited circumstances that produced whatever information was worth it, or whether a blanket prohibition of whatever you or anyone else wants to call torture, not just waterboarding mind you, under any circumstances regardless of the outcome is strictly verbotten. I hope I haven’t too grotesquely mischaractized your position.

    Anyway, nice 9/10 mindset you got there. And you might want to be careful if you are going to criminalize policy differences post hoc. President Obama and the Democrats won’t be in power forever, or do you know something I don’t?

  17. Eric says:

    So, law is the final arbiter of morality?

    Not precisely, but the law has always embodied our morality. Ever has it been thus, Bitsy.

  18. Eric Florack says:

    The sideshow on offer here makes no distinctions between types of torture, who is being tortured, or why. Using branding irons to obtain a bogus confession from a prisoner, or sexually humiliating them for kicks (as at Abu Ghraib) are not the same thing as using waterboarding to get information from KSM about Al Qaeda’s organization and plans. And perhaps you didn’t notice, but people did go to jail over thier actions at Abu Ghraib. There is no paper trail from White House lawyers authorizing what happened there. Conflating the abuses at Abu Ghraib with the treatment of KSM is, as noted above, intellectually dishonest

    Exactly so. And, well put.

    I would add to your comment, Charles, that trying to make a moral judgment, much less a moral argument, absent the understanding of the difference between the two, is impossible. On that basis, I submit anyone making such an argument is merely self-serving, and in fact immoral.

  19. Ben says:

    Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that are vital information that saved lives was in fact obtained through such interrogation methods. are you really arguing that allowing more people to die under those conditions, so that we don’t have to upset a terrorist, is the moral option?

    “so we don’t upset a terrorist” is a fantastic combination of strawman and poisoning the well fallacies. It’s about guaranteeing that the government can’t do that to YOU someday, if it decides that it wants to call you a terrorist.

    Regardless, yes, it is the moral option. Apparently you are arguing that “ends justifying the means” is a moral argument. Which is one of the most immoral codes I can think of.

    Anyway, nice 9/10 mindset you got there.

    If your mindset is different from what it was on 9/10, then that means that you think human rights are only important as long as its everyone else under attack. Apparently, once we get attacked, we’re no longer held to any standard of conduct whatsoever.

  20. Eric says:

    The response is “Even if it was… and it isn’t…. it still saved lives

    I love it when I hear this excuse and variations of it. It reminds me of that old joke about the guy who comes upon another guy clapping his hands and asks, why are you clapping? The other dude says, “To keep purple elephants away,” to which the first guy responds “There’s no such thing as purple elephants!” The second guy then says, “See?”

    LOL, torture lovers. Keep on trying to prove your negatives.

  21. If your mindset is different from what it was on 9/10, then that means that you think human rights are only important as long as its everyone else under attack. Apparently, once we get attacked, we’re no longer held to any standard of conduct whatsoever.

    Pick up a mirror next time you want to criticize someone else for using a strawman or poisoning the well.

  22. LOL, torture lovers. Keep on trying to prove your negatives.

    See, we either agree with Alex or we are torture lovers.

  23. Ben says:

    Pick up a mirror next time you want to criticize someone else for using a strawman or poisoning the well.

    Please, by all means, explain what you really meant by that comment then. If 9/11 really did change your mindset regarding torture, then why is that? I would seriously like to know.

  24. Grewgills says:

    charles,
    I appreciate the clarity of the argument you laid out.

    Waterboarding is torture. Fine. No argument from me on that topic.

    Would you also agree that torture as legally defined is illegal by both US and international law?
    Would you agree that if an argument for special circumstance in this matter of law is to be made the appropriate place for that would be in court of law?

    The Obama administrations selective leaking of some memos and not others has already bitten Nancy Pelosi in the backside. Let’s have some sunshine and release the memos that VP Cheney has asked for.

    Better yet release them all.

  25. Grewgills says:

    I would add to your comment, Charles, that trying to make a moral judgment, much less a moral argument, absent the understanding of the difference between the two, is impossible. On that basis, I submit anyone making such an argument is merely self-serving, and in fact immoral.

    Wow Bit, you just skewered yourself.

  26. Mike says:

    The fall out of the service judge advocates opposing the DOD general counsel and others on this issue, whether the Geneva Convention applies to enemy combatants etc… is that Mr. Haynes – DOD General Counsel under Bush – tried to make it such that he had the power to have a say in who the TJAGs would be for each service. Thankfully, Haynes is gone now. MG Black, now LTG Black, and others showed a lot of integrity in not bowing down to the white house like the appointee hacks.

  27. Steve Plunk says:

    I have seen no definitive evidence of innocents at GITMO. I have seen no definitive legal interpretation that water boarding is torture. I do not see the relevance of dissent within Bush administration over these techniques.

    I have seen reasonable disagreement about whether water boarding is torture. Those who think it is have good arguments but are far from winning the overall argument. We also have the question of whether this is justified in the circumstances. I just can’t bring myself to draw a simplistic line of where it justified and where it isn’t. I do find it off putting when some claim the high moral ground and treat the rest of us with contempt. That posturing is filled with false assurance and arrogance. It is also a refuge to avoid the more unpleasant realities of what we are talking about.

  28. anjin-san says:

    Fascinating that bit, who is pretty much obsessed with the evil of government “coercion” has no problem with the government torturing people.

  29. Eric Florack says:

    Not precisely, but the law has always embodied our morality

    So, are all laws moral, then? I think even you would argue they are not. I submit that law is at best an imperfect embodiment. Among the reasons for this, are that laws when written cannot see all ends, or conditions.

    LOL, torture lovers. Keep on trying to prove your negatives.

    There seems an easy way to answer the question. The Chosen One won’t do it, however. To do so would destroy a major Democrat Party Talking point.

    Wow Bit, you just skewered yourself.

    Somehow, I just knew that you would be among the few to come to that bass ackward conclusion.

  30. Drew says:

    Alex –

    You have come on this forum as a presumably responsible commentator, and made reference to an extremely important and highly contested issue, with the childish: “..Bush Administration torture program….”

    If I had come on this forum, with a disagreement with the Obama Administration’s point of view, and called their relevant department “The Obama Administration Terrorist Lover and Support Program,” I would have made a similarly childish point, and no doubt would have drawn – rightfully so – your wrath.

    You may agree or disagree with either Administration’s approach. But to cheaply label the actions of a government, any government, in the context of legitimately contested approaches, as the “torture department” qualifies you, as I said, as a Code Pinker.

    I do not see similar hysterical commentary from JJ’s other routine crew.

  31. Alex Knapp says:

    Drew,

    “Torture” is a legal term with a precise definition. “Terrorist Lover and Support” is not. I’m sorry that you find the word torture to be emotionally loaded, but I don’t. It’s a legal term, it has a definition, and the Bush Administration technqiues, including prolonged sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, stress positions, and sensory deprivation, were all performed by a government entity with the intent to inflict severe mental or physical pain or suffering with the intent to procure information. That’s the law. That’s the definition.

  32. Drew says:

    Alex –

    I’ve investigated the “torture” definition. Critical portions of the UN definition include subjective words like “severe” and “emotional (as opposed to physical) distress.”

    Hence a stiff, mean glare could be defined as “torture” if it causes, in the eyes of the beholder “severe emotional distress.”

    The obvious result is to create legitimate debate over what is, and what is not. And as I pointed out, that is what the whole current debate is about.

    I repeat, just because you come down on one side of the argument does not justify the cheap declaration of a government entity as the “torture department.”

    It really is beneath this site.

  33. Eric says:

    “Torture” is a legal term with a precise definition… .

    Alex, I find it bordering on absurd that you even have to explain such elementary concepts here. The very same people who demand that you (i.e., we) not call it torture are the very same people who have no difficulty in calling/insinuating that, oh, I dunno, Obama is a Muslim, Obama is a commie, Obama was really born in Indonesia, etcetera, etcetera. And all with a straight face.

    Of course, on the one serious issue–torture–suddenly we are not to use that term because, US and international law notwithstanding, Dick Cheney and Co. dispute it.

    LOL! “Enhanced Interrogation”… the torture that dare not speak it’s name! (Sorry, couldn’t resist the Wilde reference).

  34. Alex Knapp says:

    Drew,

    You are free to call what occurred not torture if you don’t think the law covers it. But torture is a legal term and I will continue to use it. We don’t see eye to eye on this.

    I’ve investigated the “torture” definition. Critical portions of the UN definition include subjective words like “severe” and “emotional (as opposed to physical) distress.”

    Which, in the statues that created the operation of the Convention within the United States, were defined as being equal to those measures falling under “cruel and unusual punishment” in the 8th Amendment. Federal Courts have consistently ruled that stress positions, sleep deprivation, etc. constitutes such under the 8th Amendment.

  35. Davebo says:

    Torture does indeed have a legal definition.

    Enhanced Interrogation Techniques or Enemy Combatants?

    Not so much. In fact, the terms didn’t exist prior to 2001.

  36. Eric says:

    I’ve investigated the “torture” definition. Critical portions of the UN definition include subjective words like “severe” and “emotional (as opposed to physical) distress.”

    Hence a stiff, mean glare could be defined as “torture” if it causes, in the eyes of the beholder “severe emotional distress.”

    Drew, well, I’ve not read the UN toture definition, but given the number of people already tried at the UN over the last 70 years for such things (and similar) I doubt that there is any confusion over what exactly constitutes torture. And certainly “a stiff, mean glare” is pure hyperbole. Alex has provided very solid evidence supporting the position that so-called “enhanced interrogation” constitutes torture. The bottom line is that you are simply trying to split hairs here in order to create a semblance of doubt where there is, in fact, none.

    Another thing: I and I daresay a clear majority here appreciate Alex’s contribution to OTB, and I’m sure Dr. J would agree as well. Alex provides thoughtful and well-researched commentary and I, for one, welcome his opinions on OTB.

  37. Eric says:

    Fascinating that bit, who is pretty much obsessed with the evil of government “coercion” has no problem with the government torturing people.

    Y’know, Anjin, I’ve always been struck by the disconnect (one among many, I guess) of the wingnuttery. On the one hand they are totally distrustful of government as a rule, and even now go on endlessly about Obama this, Obama that, black helicopters, Dem-cum-Socialist, blah, blah, blah. Yet, as you say, when it comes to their boy and his policies, suddenly they’re all bending over backwards insisting that, y’know, we trust what the government did. The funniest part: they don’t even realize how contradictory (some might say hypocritical) they are being!

    Anyway, just sayin’.

  38. The bottom line in this debate is that many people simply believe that if the United States of America engages in an action it must be okay, especially if it done in the name of keeping us safe.

    If Saddam Hussein had captured and waterboarded American pilots, or had engaged in any number of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that Cheney and company find so vital, the American people would have been outraged. We would have had no problem calling it torture.

    And this is not just speculative hyperbole, because the US government has classified these things are torture in the past when conducted by other governments.

    If one wants to embrace these procedures as legitimate, at least own up to what one is embracing: tools used in the past by governments considered evil by US standards. This is an incontrovertibly true historical fact.

    Let’s just admit that in our fear of another 9/11 we are willing to throw around whatever power we like, morality and values be damned. After all, they’re just a bunch of foreign criminals anyway, right? So really who cares about what we do them them? Further, since we know the American government to be infallible, it will never, ever abuse these powers. Heck no.

    Let the flaming begin…

  39. Alex, you are missing the point (intentionally?) in your back and forth with Drew. He is addressing the tenor of your commentary as much as the content and you keep trying to respond as though it is all a definitional issue. You are being dismissive, obstinate and contemptuous of those who aren’t agreeing with you. That’s your right, but it is less than we expect.

    As to torture being against the law, I have perhaps less faith in the law than you, especially international law, as I watch policy differences become criminalized and the movable feast of what constitutes torture. As I said, I do regard waterboarding as torture, but not the same kind of torture as using knives, drugs, or heated brands, and I firmly believe that some people do put themselves beyond polite society’s protections. You are free to consider me the lowest of the low for expressing that opinion, but I can live with that. FWIW, I also do not confuse or conflate morality and legality as you seem to by self-righteously quoting definitions and laws as though they are the end all and be all of morality.

    Ben, I am hesitant to respond because it would take a long, long time to fully explain and caveat appropriately. I will briefly note that I don’t think my mindset changed much after 9/11. I’ve always thought the world is a dangerous place inhabited by a lot of people who do not share our values or wish us well, and that we may well have to fight fire with fire from time to time. If anything changed for me it was just the awareness of how close, dare I say imminent, the danger really was. Your comment finished with a false dichotomy of either adherence to someone’s (yours? Alex’s?) rules or that there are no rules were the only options available. I reject that out of hand. I believe that some things that you may call torture are permissible under some circumstances. I’m not trying to weasel word anything here but this issue is a lot more nuanced than a black and white “Torture, you either with us or against us” caricature will allow.

  40. Dr. Taylor, you also seem to be saying that it’s either remain pure as the driven snow or carry the stain of being the worst of the worst. Whatever happened to nuance or complexity? The arguments are being flipped on their heads now as many of the Obamanauts (note, not necessarily you) see this as an absolutely black and white issue when everything else seems to come in shades of gray.

    Say, are you demanding unhypocritical behavior from our politians? Please.

    I will also note that I fundamentally disagree with attempts to treat the terrotists, detainees at Guantanamo, etc., as a criminal issue. We did that back when the World Trade Center was bombed back in 1993. It didn’t seem as though our enemies respected our adherence to our values to cease and desist then. I’m reminded of the old joke about bringing a knife to a gunfight, but you don’t even have a knife but a pen. If time permitted I’d get into dueling aphorisms about the pen and the sword, or all power flowing from the barrel of a gun, but I digress.

    As I wrote above, I believe some people put themselves beyond polite society’s protections. That doesn’t mean it’s open season to, say, feed them into a plastic shredder feet first like Saddam did (see there are degrees here, not just your a torturer or not), but to reiterate I has no problem submitting KSM to waterboarding to get information when it was time critical. I don’t think it would be appropriate to be waterboarding him now as punishment or to get any more information out of him. And we must note that most, if not all, of our enemies have tortured our troops in just about every conflict we have been involved in. We still hold a moral high ground, if not the moral high ground. It may not be on top of the hill but it is farther up that hill than any of our enemies reside.

    I realize that drawing the lines short of absolutism are hard, but if we can’t do it with pornography (IIRC, the legal standard at one point was I know it when I see it) why do you think we can do it when people think our survival is at stake?

    FWIW, I didn’t trust the Bush adminstration, I don’t trust the Obama administration, and I don’t think anyone should automatically trust any government to do the right thing.

  41. Tlaloc says:

    Torture does indeed have a legal definition.

    Enhanced Interrogation Techniques or Enemy Combatants?

    Sure they do:

    Enhanced Interrogation Techniques n. Euphemism for torture.
    Enemy Combatant n. Euphemism for prisoner of war.

    Pretty easy really.

  42. G.A.Phillips says:

    lol

  43. Eric says:

    Wow. This just in:

    And so it went Friday morning when WLS radio host Erich “Mancow” Muller decided to subject himself to the controversial practice of waterboarding live on his show.

    Mancow decided to tackle the divisive issue head on — actually it was head down, while restrained and reclining.

    “I want to find out if it’s torture,” Mancow told his listeners Friday morning, adding that he hoped his on-air test would help prove that waterboarding did not, in fact, constitute torture… .

    Turns out the stunt wasn’t so funny. Witnesses said Muller thrashed on the table, and even instantly threw the toy cow he was holding as his emergency tool to signify when he wanted the experiment to stop. He only lasted 6 or 7 seconds.

    “It is way worse than I thought it would be, and that’s no joke,”Mancow said, likening it to a time when he nearly drowned as a child. “It is such an odd feeling to have water poured down your nose with your head back…It was instantaneous…and I don’t want to say this: absolutely torture.”

    “I wanted to prove it wasn’t torture,” Mancow said. “They cut off our heads, we put water on their face…I got voted to do this but I really thought ‘I’m going to laugh this off.’ “

    Well, well. It’s beginning to seem that the only way to convince the pro-torture crowd (<– is that euphemism better, Mr. Austin?) that waterboarding is indeed torture is to actually have them waterboarded.

    Bitsy, Chuck, Drew, et. al., ready to step up to the plate and take one for the 101st Fighting Keyboarders?

  44. anjin-san says:

    Bitsy, Chuck, Drew, et. al., ready to step up to the plate and take one for the 101st Fighting Keyboarders?

    I doubt it. Hannity totally pussed out when he had a chance to stand up.

  45. Eric, try actually reading the things I’ve written before trying to be clever. It will make it easier to take you seriously if you had noted that I have never said waterboarding wasn’t torture. In fact, I think I’ve said it is torture several times in this thread alone. Really, make an effort instead of just assuming that everyone you disagree with can be pigeonholed with the same ludicrous one size fits all caricature you imagine works for “the other.” I’m pissed off at George Bush for a lot of things, but holding some folks at Guantanamo and waterboarding KSM aren’t on the list.

    Anjin-san, no reason to insult me with any comparison whatsoever to Sean Hannity. I think he’s a hyper-partisan wingnut who makes no useful contribution to the ideals I hold dear. Did I mention that I’m not a Republican?

  46. Eric says:

    Eric, try actually reading the things I’ve written before trying to be clever. It will make it easier to take you seriously if you had noted that I have never said waterboarding wasn’t torture.

    OK. Fair enough. I mistakenly lumped you in with the torture deniers. My bad. However, I do not feel I have pidgeon-holed anyone–they have done that to themselves. I think most people, like me, believe torture admits no degrees, and moreoever, they instinctively know this. That’s why the euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” is, well, a euphemism–it tries to hide the truth.

    Nonetheless, the issue that is then brought up is still germane to this discussion: Whether one admits waterboarding is torture or not, why is it ethical to waterboard at some times and not others? Why is torture not morally wrong in any and all cases? (By the way, I don’t think the evidence shows that KSM was waterboarded because of a ticking time bomb scenario.)

    OK. I’ve made my apology and now my effort.

  47. anjin-san says:

    Sorry Charles sometimes I post in haste…

  48. Ben says:

    Ben, I am hesitant to respond because it would take a long, long time to fully explain and caveat appropriately. I will briefly note that I don’t think my mindset changed much after 9/11. I’ve always thought the world is a dangerous place inhabited by a lot of people who do not share our values or wish us well, and that we may well have to fight fire with fire from time to time. If anything changed for me it was just the awareness of how close, dare I say imminent, the danger really was. Your comment finished with a false dichotomy of either adherence to someone’s (yours? Alex’s?) rules or that there are no rules were the only options available. I reject that out of hand. I believe that some things that you may call torture are permissible under some circumstances. I’m not trying to weasel word anything here but this issue is a lot more nuanced than a black and white “Torture, you either with us or against us” caricature will allow.

    Charles, thank you for answering me, even if you feel it wasn’t a complete answer. I will admit that what I did above was absolutely a strawman, and it was intentional, to get you to define what you meant by that statement.

    As for the content of your answer. I think that saying that some torture is ok, and some isn’t, puts us on the same moral field as our enemies (who admittedly don’t care at all about human rights), and the difference between us becomes one of degree rather than kind.

    As for people “putting themselves outside the protections of polite society,” I just simply disagree. In my way of thinking, every person has basic human rights, whether they are the president, a bum on the streets, someone who murdered my child, or blew himself up along with 1,000 others. That may be naive and idealistic, but I feel our country was founded on that concept, and I refuse to abandon it simply because we lost 3,000 people and may possibly lose thousands more if we don’t torture.

  49. Wow, three apologies in a row, that’s gotta be a record of some sort. 🙂 Thanks to each of you.

    Eric, I don’t know if the ticking bomb scenario applies or not, but it seems clear that some useful or valuable information was obtained from KSM that most likely would not have otherwise been obtained, and certainly not as quickly. Don’t know what else to say that I’m ok with that and do not have any great fear that we are sliding down a slippery slope that makes us just like our enemies. Really, that comparison is hard to distinguish from saying that Truman and Churchill were as bad as Hitler. Of course, some people do say that.

    Ben, at some point we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I think we are all already on that moral field with our enemies whether you want to believe so or not. Perhaps the Quakers would remain true to their pacifism, bow down and be slaughtered to the last man, woman and child rather than defend themselves. Hopefully, we will never have to find out. But for everyone else, you’ll find their sense of morality is a little more changeable, especially when it comes to very real threats against home and hearth. When it comes to protecting us we ask rough men to do rough jobs under difficult circumstances. I am loath to expect them to always be choir boys or utopian paragons of virtue, and damn sure aren’t going to second guess them for not playing by Marquis of Queensbury rules. Please note, that is far from saying anything goes and I don’t think I’ve implied that. But the more brutal things get and the unlikely the outcome the more circumstantial and flexible the public’s sense of what is prudent will become.

    Anyway, our ideals are like the stars, we can never reach them but we contnue to set our course by them. Even when we have gone off course due to cloud cover or foul winds. US forces did a lot, and I mean a lot of things in WW II that wouldn’t be acceptable today after many years of relative peace. We were the good guys, not the perfect guys. Somehow we kept our souls and got to where we were on 9/10. We will recover our souls this time too. But I have no hope they will remain unstained forever.

  50. An Interested Party says:

    …but it seems clear that some useful or valuable information was obtained from KSM that most likely would not have otherwise been obtained, and certainly not as quickly.

    What is the proof of this?

  51. anjin-san says:

    To quote Patrick Henry

    Dude! Why do you hate America?

  52. sam says:

    @Charles

    [O]ur ideals are like the stars, we can never reach them but we continue to set our course by them. Even when we have gone off course due to cloud cover or foul winds. US forces did a lot, and I mean a lot of things in WW II that wouldn’t be acceptable today after many years of relative peace. We were the good guys, not the perfect guys. Somehow we kept our souls and got to where we were on 9/10. We will recover our souls this time too. But I have no hope they will remain unstained forever.

    Exactly, Charles.

    In Aeschylus’s play Agamemnon, the chorus condemns Agamemnon, not for sacrificing his daughter to appease the god, an act the chorus believes necessary, but for having no remorse for his action. He is blamed even though he acted under the yoke of necessity. Indeed, he is blamed precisely because he conformed his feelings to the necessity visited upon him by the god’s command. He extinguished all human feeling toward his child, looking up her slaying as if she were no different than an animal. That the chorus says is his crime. Even necessity should not force us to give up our humanity: We act as we must, but we hate the acts we must perform.

  53. Rick Almeida says:
  54. Rick Almeida says:

    Re: my previous post. That BB discussions appears to be from 2007. It was passed along to me in conversation, and I didn’t see the dates when I first read.

    Sorry.

  55. G.A.Phillips says:

    Not precisely, but the law has always embodied our morality. Ever has it been thus, Bitsy.

    Gods Law Given to you By God before you were even born. Please tell me that I’m wrong because you worship trees, monkeys, donkeys, and your own very small intellect, please.

  56. Eric says:

    Gods Law Given to you By God before you were even born. Please tell me that I’m wrong because you worship trees, monkeys, donkeys, and your own very small intellect, please.

    Spare us the religious gobblydygook and stay on topic, G.A. Besides… you’re wrong.

  57. Eric Florack says:

    Fascinating that bit, who is pretty much obsessed with the evil of government “coercion” has no problem with the government torturing people.

    Because the actions you’re mindlessly bitching about come under the heading of defense, which in turn is constitutionally mandated. The coercion matters we ahve discussed in the past lack that advantage.

    Enhanced Interrogation Techniques n. Euphemism for torture.

    Hmmm. Let’s see.
    Man Made Catastrophe: Terrorism
    “overseas contingency operations”: War.

    Gee, this is FUN…

    What is the proof of this?

    That Obama won’t release what was learned by such methods, leaps to mind. If it was worthless, don’t you figure he’d have used that tidbit to his political advantage?

    But no, he won’t. The information isn’t being released. Reason: It doesn’t work to his advantage. Logically it follows that the info obtained did save lives, was genuine, and is thereby an embarrassment to Obama.

    And apparently, his mindless followers.

  58. Eric Florack says:

    That’s your right, but it is less than we expect.

    Actually…. no, it’s not.

  59. An Interested Party says:

    But no, he won’t. The information isn’t being released. Reason: It doesn’t work to his advantage. Logically it follows that the info obtained did save lives, was genuine, and is thereby an embarrassment to Obama.

    If the unreleased information proves that using torture was so beneficial, why didn’t the Bush Administration release it when it had the chance…what you’re saying is a bit of a reach, almost like proving a negative…”since he won’t release something, what is unknown must be bad for him!”…still, it’s nice to see that you seem to be in favor of a truth commission so that we can learn everything…good boy, good boy…

  60. anjin-san says:

    Because the actions you’re mindlessly bitching about come under the heading of defense, which in turn is constitutionally mandated.

    Ah, so. The constitution directs us to torture people.

  61. G.A.Phillips says:

    Spare us the religious gobblydygook and stay on topic, G.A. Besides… you’re wrong.

    lol, I’m always on topic and I’m not wrong.

  62. anjin-san says:

    We can end this debate pretty easily. Lets have Liz Cheney and Hannity step up and endure 20 seconds of water boarding on camera. If they can do that, I will happily concede that it is not torture…

  63. Eric Florack says:

    If the unreleased information proves that using torture was so beneficial, why didn’t the Bush Administration release it when it had the chance…

    And the answer is rather simple. Of the two, Obama was the only one with something political to gain by releasing the information. Bush, onj the other hand, who had nothing political to gain by releasing the information was apparently more properly concerned with the security of the matter, with the war still being pursued.

  64. Eric Florack says:

    Allow me to commend to your reading, the following:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/05/water_boarding_the_view_from_t.html

  65. anjin-san says:

    Bistsy if you are going to be commenting on the credibility of websites, you should really cease posting links to “The American Thinker”, where the concepts of both “American” and “Thinker” have absolutely zero to do with site content.

  66. anjin-san says:

    Really bit, does even a rather obtuse individual such as yourself buy into this stupidity? You strap someone down, and you do things to him that break his will and force him to talk. There is a name for that. Torture. And while we are at it, do something about that creepy photo of yourself.

  67. An Interested Party says:

    Allow me to commend to your reading, the following…

    LOL… ah, yes, now there’s a credible site, more credibly named “American Torture Apologist”…

  68. G.A.Phillips says:

    Really bit, does even a rather obtuse individual such as yourself buy into this stupidity? You strap someone down, and you do things to him that break his will and force him to talk. There is a name for that. Torture. And while we are at it, do something about that creepy photo of yourself.

    lol, Anjin you made a funny, congrats.

    Torture
    Infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion.
    An instrument or a method for inflicting such pain.
    Excruciating physical or mental pain; agony: the torture of waiting in suspense.
    Something causing severe pain or anguish.

    so your saying that waterborading gives you a headache?

  69. G.A.Phillips says:

    Excruciating Excruciating mental pain; agony: the torture of waiting in suspense.
    mental pain; agony: the torture of waiting in suspense.

    I’m thinking that this part was written by a liberal, but I’m sorry for torturing a lot of you guys buy telling you the truth and using common sense on you and getting your little gerbil cage to spin to fast.

    Forgive me.

  70. An Interested Party says:

    I’m thinking that this part was written by a liberal…

    Yes of course because even dictionaries have a liberal bias…by the way, you give yourself far too much credit by assuming that anyone is tortured by what you write…amused, maybe, but not tortured…

  71. Eric Florack says:

    Let me toss a question to the room, I think the responses will be instructive, no matter how it’s answered.

    By the time most of you read this it will be Memorial Day. So I’m going to ask Alex in particular, but the remainder of you as well what you guys think of the service of Brigadier-General Paul Tibbets.

    Is he, as some have held, a coward? Someone to be tried for war crimes? Or was his service to be respected for doing the job that needed to be done?

  72. G.A.Phillips says:

    Yes of course because even dictionaries have a liberal bias…by the way, you give yourself far too much credit by assuming that anyone is tortured by what you write…amused, maybe, but not tortured…

    lol, as the real cool Merlin would say:A joke to some a nightmare to others, or something like that.

  73. anjin-san says:

    Is he, as some have held, a coward? Someone to be tried for war crimes?

    Why on earth would he be tried for anything? He was the captain of a bomber, he dropped a bomb on an enemy city during a time of war. He was lawfully ordered to do so. In my mind, there is no question that he served honorably and well.

    Bit, don’t cheapen this Memorial day by trying to use the memory of this man to somehow justify your support of torture.

  74. Eric Florack says:

    Why on earth would he be tried for anything? He was the captain of a bomber, he dropped a bomb on an enemy city during a time of war. He was lawfully ordered to do so. In my mind, there is no question that he served honorably and well.

    Well, as it happens, I agree with you here.

    Then again, look at the logic employed, here.

    Paul Tibbetts did not die a hero to America. I’m sorry, but it does not take a brave person to strap a bomb to a plane, fly high above a sleeping city, and then drop an atomic bomb on it! Only a coward could be proud of himself after doing something like that. You can argue that he was taking commands from his higher ups. That would be one thing…if he felt a shred of compassion as to what this one act on humanity did. Nope. All we got to hear over the years is ‘people were going to die anyways’, so dropping a bomb on this city killing 80-150,000 at once was the only way to save America. Oh please! Coward!

    Not only was a he a typical reich winger throughout his life, meaning he had zero compassion for the people of our planet, but he managed to be the typical reich winger upon his death by being a coward. Why? He told his loved ones that he didn’t want a stone or a marker for his grave. Why? Well, apparently this “big brave reich winger” didn’t want Americans to stand around his grave protesting what he had done in WWII! Wow! If you’re a big brave hero who saved America, wouldn’t you think that you would want Americans TO USE THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS THAT YA FOUGHT FOR IN WORLD WAR II for the opportunity to dissent against your own barbarianism? Nope! Typical reich wing coward ole Tibbetts was.

    Not surprised. Rest in peace if you can Paul! Spit. Good riddance.

    The point that the left was supposedly all about acceptance’s one another aside, it strikes me that the arguments being employed here are remarkably similar to the left and it’s constant harping on “torture”. Certainly, there is a legal point as regards bombing supposedly innocent civilians. In terms of the left’s definition of the law the civilians killed incidental to the two bomb drops on Japan are similar to those “civilians” captured and imprisoned incidental to the Iraq war.

    As an example; might it be said that there is some doubt as to the culpability of the civilians who died in those attacks, to the Japanese war effort?

    Would you care to engage in a little pin-head dance for us, and demonstrate the difference between the two, Anjin?

    On what basis does your forgiveness extend to Tibbets, and not to the military in Iraq?

  75. anjin-san says:

    The commentator you cite speaks for himself. Not “the left” not “Democrats”. Himself.

    I have never said that the military in Iraq is in need of forgiveness, so for the umpteenth time, don’t put words in my mouth.

    I will say it again, don’t cheapen this Memorial Day by trying to somehow use it or the countless brave men and women who have served our country to justify you support of torture. Signing off.

  76. anjin-san says:

    The commentator you cite speaks for herself. Not “the left” not “Democrats”. Herself.

    I have never said that the military in Iraq is in need of forgiveness, so for the umpteenth time, don’t put words in my mouth. It’s cowardly, even by your standards. I know kids that are serving right now & could not be more proud of them.

    I will say it again, don’t cheapen this Memorial Day by trying to somehow use it or the countless brave men and women who have served our country to justify you support of torture. Signing off.

  77. anjin-san says:

    On what basis does your forgiveness extend to Tibbets

    BTW, I made it quite clear that I don’t feel Tibbets did anything wrong, and I do not feel he has any need for my forgiveness.

    You just can’t help yourself, can you? You have to try and use the memory of this man, on Memorial Day to score a cheap political point. Dude, you are a real prick.

  78. Eric Florack says:

    The commentator you cite speaks for himself. Not “the left” not “Democrats”. Himself.

    LOL… First off it’s a she. Secondly, she speaks for far more than herself, as I think you already know, given the volume of the shouting.

    I have never said that the military in Iraq is in need of forgiveness, so for the umpteenth time, don’t put words in my mouth. It’s cowardly, even by your standards. I know kids that are serving right now & could not be more proud of them.

    Fine. Now, answer the question. Or are these shoes just a little tight for your comfort? Why is it that every time you get asked to stand up for a principle, you suddenly start looking for the exit?

  79. Eric Florack says:

    And by the way, Anjin, since the topic of the post is Torture, why is it you call me a prick and charge me with trying to make a political point, and not Alex? You tell me; How am I not being directly responsive to the thrust of the post?

    Nice try.

  80. anjin-san says:

    Buzz off jerkweed. If you want to try to pimp the people who serve to justify your support of torture, you can do it in an echo chamber.

    And like I said, try to find a photo of yourself that does not look like a dead flounder.

  81. Eric Florack says:

    Justify my position? Nothing of the sort. I’m attempting, albeit without success, to get you to define YOURS. On what principle do you hold the two situations different, Anjin? Sparkle us … dazzle us with your wisdom on this topic.

  82. anjin-san says:

    Flounder! Take a hint. Take a hike.

  83. Eric Florack says:

    (Chuckle)
    So, you can’t handle the matter of principles. For all the preaching about ‘courage’ it appears in the end, you have none.

  84. anjin-san says:

    Just not in the mood for a debate with the village idiot. Now run along fella…

  85. An Interested Party says:

    The point that the left was supposedly all about acceptance’s one another aside, it strikes me that the arguments being employed here are remarkably similar to the left and it’s constant harping on “torture”.

    Bullshit…as Anjin pointed out, this is simply the opinion of one person, nothing more…nice try though trying to conflate what Tibbets did to the torture practiced by the Bush Administration…

    And by the way, Anjin, since the topic of the post is Torture, why is it you call me a prick and charge me with trying to make a political point, and not Alex?

    Oh that’s easy…you were the one who dragged Tibbets into this conversation, trying to murk things up, not Alex…

  86. Grewgills says:

    On what principle do you hold the two situations different

    How is it you see them as the same?

  87. anjin-san says:

    Guys I don’t even think we should engage flounder on this crap. If he wants to pimp people who have served honorably in his twisted attempt to justify torture we should not give him any oxygen.

    Bottom line on a guy like him is that he will make all sorts of noise about supporting the troops, but will not hesitate to drag them through the mud to support his political agenda.

  88. Eric Florack says:

    How is it you see them as the same?

    If I do or do not isn’t the issue. I said the arguments used are remarkably similar… I made no comment as to their validity.

    Again, I’m trying to get Anjin to define or at least identify the pricniple he’s using to consider them as being different… and he’s trying desperately to avoid that.

    Why he’s so desperate, should be rather obvious.

  89. Grewgills says:

    If I do or do not isn’t the issue. I said the arguments used are remarkably similar…

    Accepting your assertion for the moment, that the two arguments seem similar to you says nothing about the validity of either argument.
    and, it is the issue now. How are they the same?
    How is piloting a bomber the same as strapping a man to a table and repeatedly forcing to believe he is drowning? Help me here, I just don’t see it.

  90. Eric Florack says:

    As best I can make out, her logic involves both causing pain and suffering on people whose guilt hasn’t been established, and who therefore, in her mindless, are innocent.

    It’s an argument I’ve seen several times; it’s hardly new.

  91. Grewgills says:

    As best I can make out, her logic involves both causing pain and suffering on people whose guilt hasn’t been established

    OK, as far as it goes. I think just about everyone recognizes the difference between conducting a bombing run on an enemy country during a war and mistreating people that you have complete control over. Different principles are involved as the two situations are almost entirely dissimilar. That much is obvious and has been stated here by Anjin and others.

    As to your characterization of the atomic bombing of Japan,

    Certainly, there is a legal point as regards bombing supposedly innocent civilians. In terms of the left’s definition of the law the civilians killed incidental to the two bomb drops on Japan are similar to those “civilians” captured and imprisoned incidental to the Iraq war.

    Why were the inhabitants of Nagasaki and Hiroshima “supposedly innocent civilians”?
    and how is it you think that the civilians killed in those to attacks were “killed incidental to the two bomb drops on Japan”? Do you use some alternate definition of incidental?