15 May

It’s torture to read people defending the use of torture.

I don’t care if Democrats did it. I don’t care about any moral or expediency justification anyone can come up with as an excuse to violate domestic and international law regarding the use of violent coercion to elicit statements from detainees.

At least one commenter continually harps on the notion that waterboarding isn’t torture, and no one has declared it to be so.

The United States of America has consistently considered waterboarding to be torture, and has put people to death for committing it. That is about as definitive and declarative as an issue can get. There is no debate there. Waterboarding is, and always has been torture. If you do it, you’re hanged. The End.

Even children know this. It’s called “Chinese water torture”. Not “Chinese happy fun moist time”.

During the logical toilet-swirling that often passes for reader comments, the point was made that it can’t be torture if the US subjects servicemen to torture techniques as part of SERE training. If it’s torture for one, it’s torture – and illegal – in all instances.

This, too, is false. A simple example that anyone can understand will illustrate this.

When you punch someone in the face outside of a bar, that’s a battery – an unlawful touching. When you punch someone in the face during a cagematch, you’re a UFC champion.

Finally, we have incidents of torture right here at home. There’s the case of a criminal defendant in Niagara County whom the police tased in order to get a second DNA swab. No one had informed the accused that the police had compromised the first swab he gave and that another was needed, so he resisted. It’s also curious that the police video showing the interrogation and tasing of Ryan Smith is partly gone – the part where Smith gets tased.

Police are permitted by law to use reasonable force to subdue a suspect and do their jobs. Electrocution to obtain a DNA swab when perhaps a simple oral declaration, “we screwed up and compromised the first swab” might have been as effective, is not “reasonable”.

Not to mention incidents where baseball players decide that the best way to haze a younger player is to apparently insert objects into him.

The debate is a non-existent one. Torture is wrong and illegal. It is not what a civilized nation should aspire to. It’s not a partisan issue – it’s a legal issue. If some want to defend its use, they should be subjected to nothing more than shame and ridicule. People like Dick Cheney and his apologists. And if Democrats did it, they are just as shameful and ridiculous.

21 Responses to “Torture”

  1. Russell May 15, 2009 at 7:14 am #

    Waterboarding is not Chinese water torture. That’s a different thing altogether. It deals with a single drop falling on the person in specific increments, one at a time, over long periods. But nice try.

    If your going to make the example of punching someone in a bar versus punching someone in a cage match, then do not equate CIA interrogations with domestic police interrogations. Those are also two completely different arenas with two entirely different sets of rules. Try following your own logic, but nice try again.

    If you follow your cage fight vs. bar fight analogy, then the difference is one is done by licensed sanctioned professionals in a controlled environment with specific rules and one is not. In both SERE and CIA treatments we are dealing with both trained and santioned professionals in a controlled environment with clear-cut rules and procedures. So again your analogy is incorrect, but another nice try.

    I assume you’re referencing me when you talk about the commenter that says waterboarding is not torture. Please do not misrepresent my words. I have said clearly that it’s not the act that determines torture, but the technique used, the caveat being intention to inflict pain and suffering. I’ve clearly stated this numerous times. That was the point of the memos. It’s also illustrated in the difference between what our SEALs endure and what we put some Japanese to death for. How is this so difficult for you to comprehend? You can’t even properly represent what I’ve said.

    The debate is not non-existent. If it were, why would you post something on it once every couple days? If it were non-existent, why is the Speaker of the House being peppered everyday with questions about it? Why are so many in this administration still unwilling to call it torture?

    If your absurd claim that “if you do it, you get hanged” is true, why has no one been hanged? Why has the President of the United States recently told everyone that was directly involved in actually doing it that they will never be prosecuted for it, let alone hanged? We know of hundreds of incidents, and still no one indicted for anything remotely related to any of it. So much for “if you do it, you get hanged”.

    Quit the idealism, hyperbole and foolishness. We did it. It’s still being debated whether or not it was torture, even the current administration’s own Director of National Security will not call it torture. It’s still being debated, clearly, and there are people on either side of the issue on both sides of the aisle. It’s not as cut and dry as you claim. There is nothing in the current proceedings and discussions in DC that support your claim that it’s so black and white. Whether you like it or not, it is being debated still. Have you been living under a rock or do you just avoid new coverage that doesn’t agree with your narrow view?

  2. Russell May 15, 2009 at 7:58 am #

    You followed, “Waterboarding is, and always has been torture. If you do it, you’re hanged. The End.” with “Even children know this. It’s called “Chinese water torture”. Not “Chinese happy fun moist time”.” And now you say you know they’re not the same thing? So you were lying? Purposefully misrepresenting the facts?

    And no, it’s not more benign. It is far, far, far more painful and psychologically distressing. It may sound more benign but it most certainly is not. Perhaps now you’ll say you knew that, too.

  3. Pete at BS May 15, 2009 at 8:44 am #

    Russell, you continue to argue this point with lengthy responses and accuse me personally of round and round answers.

    So that we all know where you stand on the issue, please reply yes or no to the following questions?

    Is waterboarding torture?
    Do you believe that waterboarding is OK?

  4. Russell May 15, 2009 at 9:18 am #

    I’ve answered that repeatedly, Pete. I do not believe the form of waterboarding we used was torture, along with the current Director of National Security, the former Director of the CIA, numerous people in the Congress charged with oversight of our intelligence community and countless others. Therefore, yes, under the proper conditions and in proper circumstances, waterboarding is okay.

    BP, you don’t need to paraphrase or misrepresent my own words. What I’ve said is clear.

    Regardless of whether or not it was a different paragraph, you followed a statement on waterboarding with “even children know this.” Clearly, the “this” would refer to waterboading, not something totally and completely unrelated and not mentioned prior to the use of “this”. That doesn’t even make sense.

    And again, what does me undergoing it have to do with whether it’s torture or not? That has never been a criterion to determining what it is. No one ruling on this is suggesting that anyone must undergo it in order to speak to it. If I have to undergo it to say it’s not torture, why wouldn’t you have to undergo to say it is? This is such a stupid line of reasoning. You’re an attorney, try to think like one.

    Why am I anti-American for pointing out that waterboarding is not Chinese water torture? I know, I’m anti-American because anyone that disagrees with the open-minded left must be anti-American. They’ll stand up for free speech as long as you agree with everything they say.

    Chinese water torture is far more painful and psychologically distressing than waterboarding, regardless of what you think the supposed level of violence may be. There is not a technique that can aleviate any of that in Chinese water torture, as there is with waterboarding. There’s a reason why we waterboard our troops, but don’t use Chinese water torture in training. You can control the effects and impact of waterboarding with the proper technique, but you cannot with Chinese water torture.

  5. Russell May 15, 2009 at 9:21 am #

    And Pete, after everything I’ve said on so many posts about this issue, why did you feel you needed to ask that? How was that not already clear? Why would I be having all these discussions if I didn’t believe that?

  6. Ward May 15, 2009 at 9:22 am #

    Your congressional spokes-harpy Nancy Pelosi was shocked–shocked!–to hear that she was briefed on interrogation methods seven years ago, and had made no objection.
    As she said yesterday, “My statement is clear, and let me read it again. Uh, I’m sorry. I have to find the page … When — when — when my staff person — I’m sorry, the page is out of order — five months later, my staff person told me that there had been a briefing — informing that there had been a briefing and that a letter had been sent. I was not briefed on what was in that briefing; I was just informed that the briefing had taken place,”

    And another — Chuck Schumer: “I’d like to interject a note of balance here … I think there are probably very few people in this room or in America who would say that torture should never be used, particularly if thousands of lives are at stake. Take the hypothetical: If we knew there was a nuclear bomb hidden in an American city and we believed that some kind of torture, fairly severe maybe, would give us a chance of finding that bomb before it went off, my guess is that most Americans and most senators, maybe all, would say: ‘Do what you have to do.’ ”
    But, of course–that was in 2004.

  7. Ike May 15, 2009 at 9:30 am #

    To be far, the united states federal government now does many many things which would have been, at one time, horrifying to most of its citizens

  8. Pete at BS May 15, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    Russell, because your answers are long, often confusing, and always clearly based on arguing semantics instead of the actual point made. Just wanted to make sure I was clear. You would rather point out that I am an idiot because I said that I do not understand the law in regards to military training and the use of waterboarding in training. Truth is, you just like to argue, so I am glad you are here to make it interesting. I’ll never be willing to concede that the US should turn to the barbaric because it works, because we can, or because they’ll do it to us, but I do enjoy reading your rants to the contrary.

  9. Russell May 15, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    Pete, I never said you were an idiot. And my problem was with you saying that people willingly subject themselves to torture and that legality is determined by the victim’s willingness.

    I’m not responding because I like to argue. I’m responding because I don’t like to leave lies, misstatements and misrepresentations lying out there as if they are actual facts. Just keeping folks honest.

    Unlike you, I do accept that, at times, our government must do some ugly things that polite society would rather not talk about in order to keep us safe. I’m not saying I enjoy those things, just that I understand their necessity. Sometimes we’re left with no other options and our hand is forced. Yes, they may be barbaric and nasty, and not very photogenic, but we don’t have the luxury of using that as our criteria. It’s not all about idealism and rainbows and butterflies.

    But I do appreciate that you enjoy my rants.

  10. Pete at BS May 15, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    “And my problem was with you saying that people willingly subject themselves to torture and that legality is determined by the victim’s willingness.”

    I did not say that legality is determined by victim’s willingness. My point was that I do not know or understand the law as it relates to this topic because:
    A. The victim is willing
    B. This type of training is being used to help the soldiers withstand this type of treatment by others who are certainly not willing to be bound by the laws or simple decency.

    War certainly is hell. I am glad that my age put me at a time where I never had to experience it. Everyday, I admire and respect the people who put on american uniforms to fight for my freedoms, and my high standard of living. I simply cannot believe that this is the only way to get info. I teach kids everyday that the best way to lead is to lead by example, and that is not rainbows and butterflies. And, Russell, there is NO WAY I am giving up on my idealism. Every good thing that has ever happened in my life is a result of my idealism, and every great thing that has happened in the history of this country is because some great patriot’s idealism.

    I do agree with you that there will probably be no indictments or trials, because then the members of Congress and the past administration would have to admit that they were wrong. Not my experience that that happens very often. I hope that our new President makes it his mission on this subject to make sure that this type of behavior doesn’t happen again. If for no other reason than We are the United States, and we won’t become that which we are fighting against.

  11. Ben McD May 15, 2009 at 10:10 am #

    Is there a reward for the 1 millionth post concerning waterboarding, cuz I think we are getting close to it.

  12. Christopher Smith May 15, 2009 at 10:27 am #

    It’s refreshing to see that all of you are spending significant time considering each others opinions and not simply taking turns repeating your assertions.


  13. Russell May 15, 2009 at 10:38 am #

    Pete, many great things have happened as a result of compromise, not strict adherence to ideals. BP used to go on about this alot. He said strict idealism was actually the basis for the many of the failures and shortcomings of the Bush Administration. Most of our greatest leaders were our greatest leaders because they knew when to compromise rather than stict to ideals.

    No one ever said this is the only way to get information. And no one ever used it as the only option. Intelligence gathering is an art and the proper tools and techniques only work in the proper situation. There is no one best technique for all subjects.

    It’ll be nice when we reach a day when this issue is no longer being debated. It will be even better when we reach a point where these tactics are not necessary. Unfortunately, we are not there yet.

  14. LC Scotty May 15, 2009 at 1:16 pm #

    This question is addressed primarily to BP and BG.

    As I understand it, the following facts are not in dispute: 1) These techniques did reveal very valuable information that did thwart attacks. 2) This information would not likely have been gained through other means.

    You have repeatedly stated that simply because it worked, that is no justification for doing it-an argument that is not without significant merit. I also am pretty sure that you would much rather we never engaged in these techniques (I don’t think I’m putting words in your mouths here but please correct me if I am.)

    If you could undo this, if you could have been the one to make the decision, would you still decide to not use these techniques if you knew your wives and children would have been killed in the attack that you could have prevented?

    If we take as a given that this method thwarted attacks, then this not merely an academic question. There are people out there that are still alive-mothers daughters sons and fathers-and for whom this is not academic. They live because, and possibly (or likely-depends on who you ask) only because we chose these methods.

    As a side note, I’m pretty sure there was a lot more in the indictment of Japanese soldiers than just waterboarding. To say that that’s what they were executed for, while not untrue, is disingenuous because it glosses over all of the other horrific things Japanese soldiers did as routine practice. Things like burning GI’s alive, executions, dismemberment etc. I doubt if all they had done was waterboarding that they would have been executed.

    As for me, if I had to make that choice I would use those techniques. Not just for my own family, but for any of our families. People like KSM chose this war, chose their targets, chose their tactics and strategies-in short chose to behave like feral animals. I have no qualms about treating them as such.

  15. The Humanist May 15, 2009 at 2:13 pm #

    @ LC Scotty – “As I understand it, the following facts are not in dispute:
    1) These techniques did reveal very valuable information that did thwart attacks. 2) This information would not likely have been gained through other means.”

    Uh, no and no. In the first case, the “LA Tower Bomb Plot” was foiled months before the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Also, contrary to Deadeye Dick Cheney’s recent assertions, the CIA itself concluded that torture stopped nothing.

    In the second case, Ali Soufan, an interrogator with the FBI, testified that the FBI extracted crucial intelligence – such as identifying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks and revealing the Jose Padilla dirty-bomb plot – well before the CIA started the “enhanced interrogation (i.e. torture)” program. Besides, as BP has stated over and over – it’s doesn’t matter if it “works”….it is illegal.

    You need to fix your understanding, son.

    Also, to your oh-so-predictable scenario involving family members, let’s say the government determines that, for whatever reason, a member of your family is privy to crucial intelligence that will foil an iminent threat. Thousands will perish unless the CIA or FBI gets that information out of your brother, or your cousin…or one of your parents. You’re sure that your family member has no knowledge of the plot or any terrorist connection at all….but the government can’t take risks, now, can it? Tick-tock, tick-tock….

    All gung ho for torture, now?

  16. Pete at BS May 15, 2009 at 2:13 pm #

    “People like KSM chose this war, chose their targets, chose their tactics and strategies-in short chose to behave like feral animals. I have no qualms about treating them as such.”


  17. Sick of the same old same old May 15, 2009 at 8:29 pm #

    A question on the whole Niagara Falls thing…is Tasering someone to get them to comply with a court order really torture?

  18. Frankie May 16, 2009 at 2:20 pm #

    Shorter Russell:

    “It depends on what your definition of is is”.

  19. Frankie May 16, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

    Russell said:

    “I have said clearly that it’s not the act that determines torture, but the technique used, the caveat being intention to inflict pain and suffering.”

    Then maybe you need to tell us, just what do you consider the “intention” of what was done?

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