Right Thinking From The Left Coast
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it - Henry David Thoreau

Grow A Brain, Morans!
by Lee

In the last few days many of you have mentioned how, during WWII, some interrogators chocked, beat, “put their nuts on radiators,” or engaged in some other aspect of torture.  Nobody ever provides any examples of documented proof (I wonder why), but they make the claim as if it was fact.  So it was with great relish that I stumbled upon this article in The Atlantic about a legendary WWII USMC interrogator who greatly influenced the widespread adoption of these techniques. 

Six months before the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison broke into public view, a small and fairly obscure private association of United States Marine Corps members posted on its Web site a document on how to get enemy POWs to talk.

The document described a situation very similar to the one the United States faces in the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan: a fanatical and implacable enemy, intense pressure to achieve quick results, a brutal war in which the old rules no longer seem to apply.

Marine Major Sherwood F. Moran, the report’s author, noted that despite the complexities and difficulties of dealing with an enemy from such a hostile and alien culture, some American interrogators consistently managed to extract useful information from prisoners. The successful interrogators all had one thing in common in the way they approached their subjects. They were nice to them.

Nice to their prisoners?  Those goddamned fucking pussies.

But it is hard to imagine a historical lesson that would constitute a more direct reproach to recent U.S. policies on prisoner interrogation. And there is no doubt that Moran’s report owes more than a little of its recent celebrity to the widespread disdain among experienced military interrogators for what took place at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo when ill-trained personnel were ordered to “soften up” prisoners. Since the prison scandals broke, many old hands in the business have pointed out that abusing prisoners is not simply illegal and immoral; it is also remarkably ineffective.

“The torture of suspects [at Abu Ghraib] did not lead to any useful intelligence information being extracted,” says James Corum, a professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the author of a forthcoming book on counterinsurgency warfare. “The abusers couldn’t even use the old ‘ends justify the means’ argument, because in the end there was nothing to show but a tremendous propaganda defeat for the United States.”

Corum, who recently retired as a lieutenant colonel after twenty-eight years in the Army and Reserves, mostly in military intelligence, says that Moran’s philosophy has repeatedly been affirmed in subsequent wars large and small. “Know their language, know their culture, and treat the captured enemy as a human being” is how Corum sums up Moran’s enduring lesson.

Of course, all you real men who piss red white and blue will disagree with this. 

Part of why Sherwood Moran became such a legendary figure among military interrogators was his cool disregard for what he termed the standard “hard-boiled” military attitude. The brutality of the fighting in the Pacific and the suicidal fanaticism of the Japanese had created a general assumption that only the sternest measures would get Japanese prisoners to divulge anything. Moran countered that in his and others’ experience, strong-arm tactics simply did not work. Stripping a prisoner of his dignity, treating him as a still-dangerous threat, forcing him to stand at attention and flanking him with guards throughout his interrogation—in other words, emphasizing that “we are his to-be-respected and august enemies and conquerors"—invariably backfired. It made the prisoner “so conscious of his present position and that he was a captured soldier vs. enemy intelligence” that it “played right into [the] hands” of those who were determined not to give away anything of military importance.

No, no, no!  You gotta beat it out of him, or freeze him, or some other macho manly stuff.

Moran’s report had an immediate impact. The Navy and the Marines recruited second-generation Japanese-Americans to teach an intensive one-year language course for interrogators that included a strong emphasis on Japanese culture. James Corum notes that the graduates of this course were among the most effective interrogators in the Pacific Island campaigns of 1944 and 1945: Marine interrogators deployed to the Marianas in June of 1944 were able to supply their commanders with the complete Japanese order of battle within forty-eight hours of landing on Saipan and Tinian.

In contrast, in late 2002 the military’s Southern Command had so few interrogators and interpreters that it was forced to employ inexperienced and untrained civilian contractors to perform these jobs at Guantánamo. The officer in charge of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib had no interrogation experience himself and no skilled interrogators or interpreters working underneath him. He, too, turned to civilian contractors. Government auditors criticized these deficiencies in early 2004 and noted that several of the firms that supplied civilian contractors had no experience in such work. Yet the shortage of military interrogators continues, and the Department of Defense continues to employ people outside the military for some of this work. “They let a bunch of out-of-control contractors, CIA freelancers, untrained military-intelligence people, et cetera get turned loose under the promise and pressure of getting quick results,” Corum told me.

No, no, no!  Those were just a few bad apples in the Army, and they’re all in prison!

This guy obviously has no idea about how to interrogate anyone.  Pfft, not torturing them?  He clearly doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing.

Posted by Lee on 05/30/07 at 11:47 PM (Discuss this in the forums)

Comments


Posted by on 05/31/07 at 06:07 AM from United States

Great find.  There are two famous studies from the 1970’s that are relevant to the torture issue.  The guards at Abu Ghraib behaved in a predictable manner.

There was a 1974 study perfomed by Stanley Milgram at Yale that showed that people will generally follow orders and escalate violence.  A similar 1971 study at Stanford showed similar results.  The Stanford Experiment was a complete cluster fuck and had to be terminated early because the “prisoners” were breaking down.  The picture of “Prisoner #416” is especially haunting in light of Abu Ghraib.

Posted by Para on 05/31/07 at 06:11 AM from United States

Really , Lee

Exactly who are you writing these anti-torture posts to?  Most if not all of us on this site seem to agree with you. Then again, there have been so many posts about torture that I tend not to read them anymore because they are always make the same point, so I may have missed a comment or two.

I think the problem is that anything we do to a prisoner can be considered torture by someone. ANYTHING. I think we need a real clear definition of torture, Lee.

I’d like to see your definition.

In fact, here’s an idea for your next post on torture:

You are stationed in Iraq, and you just caught a guy setting a roadside bomb. Under the current rules of engagement, you can’t kill him, you must risk your life capturing him. Now he’s back at the CP and you want to know three things.1) Did you place any more bombs anywhere 2) Where is the rest of your bomb making material 3) Where did you get the bomb making material.

Keep in mind, you caught the guy because he was setting a bomb on a road that you regularly patrol. The bomb was set to kill you, and you still have to patrol that road. If you do not get the information from this guy, it is likely you may actually become a victim of his bombs.

Exactly what techniques would you authorize to get the information from this guy , to save your life and the life of your buddies.

Would you threaten him with incarceration? (torture)

Would you tell him that he may never see his family again? ( torture)

Would you tell him you will get him a drink of water AFTER he starts talking? (torture)

Would you keep the handcuffs on him during the interrogation? (torture)

Would you yell at him, “WHERE ARE THE REST OF THE BOMBS!!!???”? (torture)

Would you not stop so he couldn’t take a nap before midnight? ( torture)

Would you refuse to halt the interrogation so he could pray ? (torture)

What torture-free techniques would you employ in this situation.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 08:01 AM from United States

Lee is arguing with an extreme position that he’s made up in his own head.  Here’s the straw man:

Torture is the only means by which information should be extracted from terrorists.

That is what he’s arguing with.

I’ve yet to see anyone make this claim.

Throughout many courses of this debate he has ceded that torture has a use.  On the subject of the ticking time bomb scenario his exact words were “Any manner of barbarity.” He’s also advocated “mind fucking” (whatever that is) and many other methods of interrogation that could be interpreted to violate the GC guidelines on humane treatment.  I have to assume then that he feels the people he is arguing with would use torture to the exclusion of any other method of interrogation.

You gotta beat it out of him, or freeze him, or some other macho manly stuff.

There it is illustrated in the above post.  He’s arguing with the people that believe torture must be used in all scenarios.  Who are these people Lee?

Also, Lee asked for evidence that torture works.  Lee, if you didn’t feel it was an effective tool, why would it be appropriate in the ticking time bomb scenario?

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 08:12 AM from United Kingdom

Also, Lee asked for evidence that torture works.  Lee, if you didn’t feel it was an effective tool, why would it be appropriate in the ticking time bomb scenario?

It problably wont work, in fact my guess is this is the least likely time for it to work because the terrorist has a set time he knows he has to hold out for to achieve his ends.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 08:28 AM from United States

It problably wont work, in fact my guess is

This is an uneducated guess based on what physiological, and psychological data? 

And “It” means what exactly?  Torture has a very broad definition.  Physical pain is not the only topic that falls under the heading “torture.”

Furthermore, based on your assumption, is it not futile to conduct any interrogation using any method at all based on the fact that “the terrorist has a set time he knows he has to hold out for to achieve his ends.”

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 08:36 AM from Japan

There it is illustrated in the above post.  He’s arguing with the people that believe torture must be used in all scenarios.  Who are these people Lee?

It doesn’t work. Period. One in a million cases you might get some desperately needed information in time to stop something happening. However, as a result of allowing a general principle of torture:

1. Your international reputation has been destroyed.
2. Your lack of moral stature has driven people into the arms of the opposition. Looks great on recruitment posters!
3. Your battlefield has become a nightmare with the enemy refusing to surrender (knowing what awaits), resulting in increased casualties on your side, higher civilian deaths, greater loss of infrastructure.
4. Morale on your own side is lower as a consequence of all of the above. It’s getting harder and harder to get people to sign up for the forces.
5. And as Padders said, the more important the information, the more immediate the threat, the less likely the suspect is to spill the beans.

The one in a million case of the ticking time bomb is irrelevant. You ban it completely, or not at all.

Game over. Play again?

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 08:39 AM from United States

fangbeer:

The Jack Bauer “ticking time bomb” scenario is quite rare and limited in scope.  There is much less risk from grabbing the butcher, baker and candlestick maker when a specific incident is actually in progress.  The risk/reward ratio is much higher than if 40 Arabs are grabbed in the vicinity of a terrorist safe house because they “might” know something.

The studies I referenced above show what happens when you dehumanize a group of people.  The risk is very high that innocent people will be tortured when they are culled from the population at large.  Ok, so?  Isn’t it worth the risk?

Well, no.  And I think that this is where Lee is coming from.  We are putting our own troops at risk and creating the very circumstances that we are trying to resolve.  I fear very much for the safety of captured US soldiers, however, we look bad now whether they torture our troops or not.  If they ARE tortured, we have little groud to stand on.  If not, then we look like the animals.  Given that the intel garnered from such methods is

If I were a terrorist that captured 5 US soldiers, I would film them eating very well and talking conversationally my fellow captors about the ME situation.  I would do my best to win them over to my cause and subsequently release them unharmed.

Research Stockholm Syndrome.  When I was robbed at gunpoint 20 years ago, the robber was courteous and actually moved the gun away at my request.  I gave him the money and he left.  I had the most bizarre feelings of gratitude that he didn’t hurt or kill me that I was almost relieved that he wasn’t caught ...

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 08:41 AM from United States

whooopsie. 

Given that the intel garnered from such methods is unreliable at best, it isn’t worth it in the long run.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 09:05 AM from United States

It doesn’t work. Period.

Congratulations.  You win at the internet.  I can’t possibly offer a rebuttal to an unsupported assertion that is followed with the sentence: Period.

The risk/reward ratio is much higher than if 40 Arabs are grabbed in the vicinity of a terrorist safe house because they “might” know something.

Who has advocated the broad use of torture on people who “might” know something? 

We are putting our own troops at risk

There is no evidence to support the idea that our enemy will go easy on us if we go easy on them.  If this was the case, why would it be exclusive to the interrogation room, and not extend onto the battle field itself?  ie: we put our soldiers at risk by bombing our enemy.  It only makes them want to bomb us back.

I would film them eating very well and talking conversationally my fellow captors about the ME situation.

They do do this.  How many Vietnamese era confession videos have you seen?  Was this evidence that U.S. soldiers were not tortured by the North Vietnamese?

Research Stockholm Syndrome.

How many other people was your attacker “nice” to I wonder.  Are you sure it was everyone he attacked?  Could it possibly be that violence also got him money out of people’s wallets?

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 09:08 AM from Japan

1. Your international reputation has been destroyed.

When I said ‘Your’ here, I wasn’t refering to the US, but generally.

It’s getting harder and harder to get people to sign up for the forces.

Just on that: Apparently recruiting is 42 percent below targets for the last three months.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 09:15 AM from Japan

Congratulations.  You win at the internet.

Wow. I’m overwhelmed. Thanks, I’d also like to thank my mom, and my cat, Blanche…

I can’t possibly offer a rebuttal to an unsupported assertion that is followed with the sentence: Period.

It had a certain drama to it which I thought added a certain artistic versimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing statement.

I did, however, follow it up with a bunch of suporting arguments (which I have posted before with a whole range of links - I can’t be bothered doing that again, though).

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 09:15 AM from United States

fangbeer, the point of my anecdote about being robbed was that my response was irrational, not that the robber was a super guy that I want to hang with.  It took a long time to work through that.  It is the basis for the “good cop, bad cop” interrogation method that is highly effective.  Are you even interested in effective interrogation methods?

They may not be easier on the soldiers in captivity if we are “nice”, but they may be a lot harder if we torture them.  The battlefield is a wholly different place than the interrogation room, isn’t it?  Don’t most people understand the difference?

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 09:30 AM from United States

fangbeer, the point of my anecdote about being robbed was that my response was irrational, not that the robber was a super guy that I want to hang with

What your point fails to address is the effectiveness of the use of force by the criminal.  All you’ve shown is that being nice might work.  What you haven’t shown is that shooting you in the knee would not have worked.

Are you even interested in effective interrogation methods?

Again, you’re arguing to the extreme.  At no point have I stated that being nice is not affective - ever.  I think it should be obvious that sometimes it’s not affective.  Nice is not the only tool that should be, or is available to an interrogator.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 09:53 AM from United States

To expound:

Consider your situation a little further.  The criminal was nice, and you complied.  What do you think would have happened if you failed to respond to his nice tactic?  Let’s say: You asked him to lower his weapon, he complied.  He asked you for money and you say, “no.”

What’s the next step?

He continues to be nice until you comply?
He sternly demands your money? 
He points the weapon at you again?
He smacks you in the back of the head with the butt of his gun?

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 09:53 AM from United States

Also, Lee asked for evidence that torture works.  Lee, if you didn’t feel it was an effective tool, why would it be appropriate in the ticking time bomb scenario?

There are two explanations:

1) Lee can’t stop frothing at the mouth about how Bush is destroying the United States lone enough to see this logical contradiction, or

2) He just likes a little rhythm (the ticking bomb) to complement his own bloodlust fueled love of screaming Arabs that he accuses “pro-torture” folks of having.

And Lee, you can’t use the “Well I might approve of torture in THOSE circumstances, but look at how much better I am than all of you” argument, because you’ve already made it clear that no one else can use it when comparing the techniques used by the US to the techniques used by the enemy.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 10:23 AM from United States

Shooting me in the face would have worked here, too.  Not as much in the interrogation room.  Make no mistake, fear was the reason I gave him the money, it was my (days) later reaction that was noteworthy.  If he was caught, I don’t know if I would have been able to testify against him.

But, you have said what I am saying, just in a different way.  Force can work in short-term situations to coerce someone into doing something they wouldn’t otherwise do, but has minimal consequences.  In this case, the 8 dollars in my purse just wasn’t worth my life.  To get me to give up the location of a loved one or foul up suicide mission, force could lead me to give very bad intel that would get an innocent party harmed or killed.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 10:26 AM from United States

Consider your situation a little further.  The criminal was nice, and you complied.  What do you think would have happened if you failed to respond to his nice tactic?  Let’s say: You asked him to lower his weapon, he complied.  He asked you for money and you say, “no.”

Just so I am clear - I didn’t give the money because he was nice.  I was very aware that this was armed robbery.  The reaction I was referring to was later on when the police were interrogating me for the crime.  I empathized with the robber at that point ...

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 11:18 AM from United States

The reaction I was referring to was later on when the police were interrogating me for the crime.

Your reaction after the confrontation is irrelevant.

What is relevant was your reaction during the negotiation.

You perceived a threat of violence.  You assumed the attacker would use that violence.  That’s what fostered your subsequent reaction.  The violence itself then was a tool; one that could have been used during the course of the negotiation for your money.  And that’s my point.

Here’s another logic experiment:

An interrogator creates a threat of torture with a mock beating of someone posing as an inmate.  The real inmates are allowed to hear the screaming, and see a battered mock inmate returned to his cell.

Were the real prisoners tortured?

The Geneva Convention says, Yes.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 11:58 AM from United States

Your reaction after the confrontation is irrelevant.

fangbeer, you are really missing my point.  IT IS MY LATER REACTION THAT MATTERS IN THE CONTEXT OF THE DISCUSSION.

I was talking about our reputation and how if I were a terrorist I would use a Stockholm Syndrome method for dealing with captives in lieu of brutality.  I was giving an example of how a 5-minute event (a robbery) managed to skew my thinking quite a bit because the guy did not behave in a stereotypical manner.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 12:12 PM from United States

I would use a Stockholm Syndrome method for dealing with captives in lieu of brutality.

The Stockholm Syndrome does not exist without the threat of brutality.  In fact, the irony of the syndrome is that it exists DESPITE the use of brutality.

That’s why it’s a syndrome and not a normal logical reaction to the conflict.  It’s not something that can be used in lieu of brutality.  It exists because of brutality.

the guy did not behave in a stereotypical manner.

That’s not what creates the stockholm syndrome.  It’s the utter dependence on your captor that forces you to identify with the captor’s goals so that you can appease the captor and keep yourself from harm.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 12:43 PM from United States

We are out of sync here.  The threat of brutality exists in both of these situations by default.  From what I understand about SS, it isn’t appeasement, but a genuine empathy and affinity for the captor.

What I experienced wasn’t textbook SS, but my emotional reaction was not normal.  Even today, I am fairly detatched from the outcome.  If he was a real armed robber, and not performing some kind of fratboy hazing, I expect that he eventally wound up in jail.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 01:08 PM from United States

From what I understand about SS, it isn’t appeasement, but a genuine empathy and affinity for the captor.

SS stems from the need for self preservation.  You identify with your captor, magnify the positive things he does for you, and minimize the terrible things he does to you as a self defense mechanism. 

You’re empathy isn’t really genuine.  Your subconscious just has you tricked into thinking it is.  In your situation, you’ve minimized the fact that the guy who held you up risked your life by pointing a firearm at you, and deluded yourself into thinking that he didn’t really hurt you, and he probably wouldn’t really hurt anyone else.

He did this through the threat of violence.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 01:17 PM from United States

I forgot to mention that this phenomenon is still possible even if he does physically harm you.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 01:47 PM from United States

He did this through the threat of violence.

That’s what I said.  There is an implied threat of violence by default in an armed robbery.  We are saying the same things and disagreeing.  SS itself is a mindfuck, but the same techniques are used successfully in interrogation when “good cop” arrives to save the day.

It is logical that it is a self-preservation mechanism, but in my case most of the effects happened after the event and some of it was the interrogation that I went through when the store owner accused me of the crime.  I probably transferred the negative emotions to the store owner since, arguably, the robber treated me better.  I have first hand experience with good cop, bad cop :).  Bad cop claimed that they wanted to pin it on me because then they wouldn’t have to investigate an armed robbery.  Nob.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 01:50 PM from United States

I forgot to mention that this phenomenon is still possible even if he does physically harm you.

Of course.  This is what accounts for domestic violence cases where the woman keeps coming back because the hubby is all lovey-dovey afterwards.  She drops charges because he promises never to do it again.

Posted by Lee on 05/31/07 at 02:00 PM from United States

There are two explanations:

1) Lee can’t stop frothing at the mouth about how Bush is destroying the United States lone enough to see this logical contradiction, or

2) He just likes a little rhythm (the ticking bomb) to complement his own bloodlust fueled love of screaming Arabs that he accuses “pro-torture” folks of having.

And Lee, you can’t use the “Well I might approve of torture in THOSE circumstances, but look at how much better I am than all of you” argument, because you’ve already made it clear that no one else can use it when comparing the techniques used by the US to the techniques used by the enemy.

I’ve answered this question so many times I’m not even going to bother doing it again.  Read this and this and the comments to this post.  Also read this post.

It’s not a difficult question to answer.  Here’s one for you:

If you could prevent a nuclear device from being detonated in Manhattan by covering your children in kerosine and burning them alive, would you do it?  Surely the lives of a few kids are nothing compared to the devastation that a nuke would do to Manhattan and this country.  So, would you do it?  Would you burn your kids alive to save America?

And if you say yes I’ll call you a fucking liar.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 02:02 PM from United States

Would you burn your kids alive to save America?

Not a fucking chance ...

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 02:22 PM from United Kingdom

All these moral dilemma type scenarios are beside the point, where is the actual physical proof that torture yields worthwhile intelligence? What’s the point in torturing someone in a ticking bomb scenario if torture is less effective than using psychological legal methods?

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 02:34 PM from United States

Psychological means can take a long time.  A time bomb may tick for an hour or a day, etc.  The intelligence is not necessarily any better, just a better risk/reward ratio.  It is a waste of precious time to torture someone that you aren’t damn sure knows something concrete.

I am on the fence on ticking time-bombs.  I tend to agree with it only because I know I’d torture the fucker myself if he had a bomb at my son’s school.  But deep down I believe that torture is wrong.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 02:45 PM from United Kingdom

Psychological means can take a long time.  A time bomb may tick for an hour or a day, etc.  The intelligence is not necessarily any better, just a better risk/reward ratio.  It is a waste of precious time to torture someone that you aren’t damn sure knows something concrete.

Thing is though, where is the evidence proving even that?

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 02:48 PM from United States

We are saying the same things and disagreeing.

No, we’re not.

You’re saying that we don’t need to use torture if we take advantage of the Stockholm syndrome. 

if I were a terrorist I would use a Stockholm Syndrome method for dealing with captives in lieu of brutality.

I’m trying my damnedest to communicate to you that torture is not exclusive of Stockholm.  Brutality is a necessary aspect of the syndrome.

You can’t create the syndrome in an adversary without the actual abuse that motivates it.  The abuse part is key.

Now, in your mind the abuse might not encroach upon your definition of what torture is, but it certainly must violate the GC terms of humanitarian treatment.  Bottom line: you can’t point a weapon at a prisoner of war. 

Regardless, if your threat of violence is only a bluff, it’s only effective up to the point when someone calls that bluff.  In your scenario the negotiation for your money would necessarily come to an impass at the point when you say, “No, you can’t have my money.” Then, the robber has to either make good on his threat of violence, or not get what he wants from you.

That aside for a moment, a robber’s motivation: money, is a whole lot different then a terrorist’s motivation: ideology.  For you to give up 8 bucks we’re really not talking about a huge decision when weighted against your life.

With Stockholm syndrome usually the hostage is not the one who stands to lose anything major when the criminal gets his way.  A bank teller, for instance, doesn’t really give a crap that their captive is going to make off with 8 million in company money. 

A terrorist on the other hand, is not going to convert to atheism just because you treated him with a little respect.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 02:58 PM from United States

less effective than using psychological legal methods?

Not all psychological methods are legal either.

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 03:10 PM from United States

If you could prevent a nuclear device from being detonated in Manhattan by covering your children in kerosine and burning them alive, would you do it?

How does burning my kids alive save America?

Your IF statement is grounded in the supposition that such an outlandish situation could possibly arise.  It’s a ridiculous, specious argument.

If such a situation were possible, how then could it hypothetically be deemed impossible that burning the kids might indeed be the viable option?

As rebuttal I’ll offer that I would indeed burn my kids because the space aliens would come and use their magic to resurrect them from the dead.

Posted by Lee on 05/31/07 at 05:00 PM from United States

How does burning my kids alive save America?

Your IF statement is grounded in the supposition that such an outlandish situation could possibly arise.  It’s a ridiculous, specious argument.

That’s exactly the point.  The “ticking timebomb” scenario is so outlandish and unlikely that to formulate policy based on it is ridiculous.

But let’s, for the sake of argument, say that we have a terrorist, there is a nuclear device, and he knows where it is and how to deactivate it.  (Talk about your outlandish suppositions!)

So we have this guy in custody, and we’re trying to find out where the nuke is.  He says, “Let me test your will.  I am willing to die and kill for my beliefs, are you willing to do the same?  Bring your children to me, and burn them alive.  When I see the degree of your will, I will tell you where the bomb is.”

This hypothetical situation is no more outlandish, stupid, or unlikely than the ticking time bomb scenario itself.

Tell me, can anyone name an instance where there actually was a ticking time bomb and torture was successfully employed to defuse it?  Other than in 24 and in the minds of Hollywood screenwriters.  I’ve provided scores of examples of actual, professional interrogators, many of whom are currently interrogating terrorism suspects, who say that inflicting pain not only doesn’t yield good intel, it actually makes it less likely that the subject will talk.  Surely it should be easy for you to find, say, 5 instances of a major catastrophe being averted using torture, right?

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 05:33 PM from United States

Thing is though, where is the evidence proving even that?

I think Lee just answered your question.  It has rarely happened if it has happened at all.  It is fantasy for all intents and purposes ...

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 06:53 PM from United States

This hypothetical situation is no more outlandish, stupid, or unlikely than the ticking time bomb scenario itself.

Sure it is. 

I am willing to die and kill for my beliefs…

But I cannot tell a lie.  After I kill your kids, I sadly have no choice but to honor my word as a fanatical murderer.

Right…

Now, in the ticking time bomb scenario, you’re out absolutely nothing for trusting the word of the person responsible for the death of your loved ones.  And what of the strength of that word.  That is certainly what you’re getting at when you ask if terrorism works, right?  I’ll turn it around on you.  What is it about torture that you can prove would make a terrorist more apt to lie? 

Tell me, can anyone name an instance where there actually was a ticking time bomb and torture was successfully employed to defuse it?

Torture is not exactly something that’s politically correct to study in the civilized world.  It’s also not exactly politically correct to openly admit to it’s use.  Then again, the word itself is vague and often misunderstood.  It can be anything from the most grotesque physical abuse, to the least humiliating act of degradation.  One man’s torture can be another man’s daily routine.

Is your mind fucking just as bad? Is it more or less useful then physical torture?  Seems to me there are folks that will tell you that they’re both wrong to use.

Frankly, I can’t imagine any perfect method for creating the cognitive break necessary for a detainee to offer details against his will.  I don’t think we can look for 100% assurance of results.  That sort of success rate just isn’t going to happen.  Torture isn’t the be all end all, but it is a tool in the toolbox.  A tool that you yourself have admitted has an obvious potential for success.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 07:38 PM from United States

A terrorist on the other hand, is not going to convert to atheism just because you treated him with a little respect.

That, of course, is a statement that nearly everyone can agree on.

I started with SS, but I think it is part of a spectrum of disorders and conditions like Battered Women Syndrome, PTSD, etc.  You are trying to oversimplify a complicated mental process.  An implied threat of any type of harm is often sufficient to start the ball rolling.  I have experienced PTSD-like symptoms after stressful life events that have nothing to do with violence, but are remarkably anxiety producing.  These have long lasting effects on me and have spiraled me into bouts of anxiety and depression requiring medication.

Most of the above is why mindfucking is considered torture.  Sticks and stones and rifle butts mostly leave wounds that heal up, but the mind is fairly resistant to a quick bandaid.  I am not quite sure that I approve of it, but I do think it has potential that outweighs brute force in terms of getting information.  The other problem is, a lot of intense pain will cause PTSD anyway, in a kind of torture two-fer.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 09:17 PM from United States

Lee, the statement I made was something I learned from the History Channel. If there sources were wrong and they aired it on national television, then i’m a douchebag. But on this occasion i will trust that History did their fact checking.

I still don’t see how what we did in World War II made us on par with Nazi’s. Thats why I disagreed with your posts on how torture makes us on par with Terrorists. Please explain the difference.

Posted by on 05/31/07 at 09:18 PM from China

Para,

I think the problem is that anything we do to a prisoner can be considered torture by someone. ANYTHING. I think we need a real clear definition of torture

There have been clear definitions for over half a century - I doubt you had this same problem understanding the definition when you were beating the war drum in 2003, talking about saddam’s torturing. The only difference now is that it’s US, and if you can be honest with yourself, you think the sand monkeys deserve it, but you also have to retain the idea that the US is an inherently “good” force in the world, so you don’t want to admit to yourself that this is torture.

The US’s rhetoric, lumping all the sand monkeys together, leads to their dehumanisation, then you end up with normal good people quite happy with the idea of torturing and imprisoning them, guilty or not. You know that the populations of germany, russia and china and not inherently evil people, but they stood by and supported terrible things, for exactly this same reason. You know that right?

How about if you end up dead, battered or insane? Is that a good definition? You know this is happening right? Do you know that? Do I have to dig up the links that everyone else has seen?

People are being tortured by anyones definition - instead of accepting that, like Gen. Petraeus has, you want to argue over definitions of words.

Here is a question for all of you, I’d love to hear your answer, especially you Para. It’s a true situation, just happened.

2 weeks ago a chinese man threw a burning ball of oil or something at chairman Mao’s picture in tiananmen square. Obviously the police stepped in pretty damned quick, closed the square, arrested the man.

The government might be justified in thinking perhaps this was part of a larger plan, perhaps this was a sign for other people to rise up, perhaps there was going to be riots, who knows? In a very real way the government were facing an immediate threat to the security of their country.

My question is this:

Are the chinese government justified in torturing this man to find out if he is part of a bigger plan, this is a very real ticking bomb scenario, and you can be sure he has been tortured already.

So are they right to torture him in this situation? The security of the whole country is at stake!

Thats my question. It’s a pretty simle one.

Oh and the last person to do this, a protester who threw eggs filled with red paint during the protests in 1989, was recently released from prison, totally insane.

Posted by on 06/01/07 at 06:09 AM from United States

So are they right to torture him in this situation? The security of the whole country is at stake!

Thats my question. It’s a pretty simle one.

Your question doesn’t speak to the ethics of torture.  It speaks to the morality of the cause for its use.  Is a fire ball thrown at a picture a real threat to the security of the whole country?  Do you honestly believe that?  A very real threat to security?  Come on.  It’s a threat to the vanity of the dear leader perhaps, but around here the action itself would be a misdemeanor charge if anything at all.

The use of a tool of war must be proportionate.  You don’t drop an atom bomb on someone who’s holding a few hostages at bay with a 9mm.  I don’t think anyone here advocates the use of torture to find out who left the toilet seat up, or who put the milk jug back in the fridge with only a few drops left. No.  It should only be used when the situation calls for it.

Also, so that you all don’t think that I advocate prisoners being flayed with cats of nine tails and burned at the stake, my position is that we need to be more rigorous then this:

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

Allows us to be. 

How about if you end up dead, battered or insane? Is that a good definition? 

What’s the difference between this and a dead battered or insane soldier on the battlefield?  What’s the difference between this and a dead battered or insane grandmother who was knitting on the porch when a firefight across the street took her house out too?

If there is collateral damage in the physical war being waged, then there is collateral damage in the ideological war.  After all, it was the ideological war that created a need for physical war.

Posted by on 06/01/07 at 07:22 AM from United Kingdom

What’s the difference between this and a dead battered or insane soldier on the battlefield?

Cos on the battlefield, the course of actions to you are limited. thats why there are different rules for fighting in the battlefield, treating soldiers in captivity, arresting criminals, and punishing naughty children.

So is anyone going to address my post I have posted twice now?

Kay. I have a question. 5 Britons got captured today, and more than likely are going to be handed over to some terrorist cell or another.
For arguments sake, say they are tortured in order to gain information about the allies movements and plans (this is not out of the question...). For arguments sake, they are deprived of sleep, and suffer psychological problems for the rest of their lives. One chap, with a little girl of 4 years old, and a pregnant wife at home is permanently mentally disabled from the experience, so much so that his newborn daughter never gets to know the man her mother married. Fuck it, lets say that something goes wrong, and a 50 year old faulklands war hero actually dies during interrogation.
Is this
a) The work of barbaric, evil, bloodthirsty savages; with absolutely no moral or ethical basis to their ideology; the sort of ideology we should all fight against.
or
b) Fair cop. Its a war.  “These people want to hurt them in a very bad way”, so any means is fine. At least they didn’t feed their genitalia to a bear.
The point is, Thrill, that using your arguments, I can defend everything that the Terrorists do. (Does that make you a terrorist sympathizer? ;-))

One final interesting point. In the film ‘a few good men’ - it seems like it is exploring the same debate - on what side of the fence do people fall here?

Posted by on 06/01/07 at 08:03 AM from United States

The point is, Thrill, that using your arguments, I can defend everything that the Terrorists do. (Does that make you a terrorist sympathizer? ;-))

In order to defend their actions you must believe them justified in their cause.  Are they justified in the cause to attack you on the battle field?  If they are, why do you fight them back? 

You can’t defend actions that are born from an indefensible cause.

Posted by on 06/01/07 at 09:46 AM from United Kingdom

but your rationale for treating them that way is that “These people want to hurt us in a very bad way”. Your rationale wasn’t that you disagreed with their ideology.

so, answer a or b. or does the answer depend on the nationality of the torturer?

Posted by on 06/01/07 at 01:56 PM from United States

“These people want to hurt us in a very bad way”.

Who are you quoting here?  It’s certainly not me.

or does the answer depend on the nationality of the torturer?

I just told you that it depends on whether their cause is defensible or not.  If you feel their cause is defensible, you don’t go to war with them.  You don’t kill them on the battle field.

Posted by on 06/03/07 at 10:39 PM from United States

Lee -

Way to miss my point completely…

You cannot hold these two positions simultaneously:

1) I do not support torture because it is ineffective and any information gathered is useless.

AND

2) I support torture in a TTBS.

The probability of a TTBS occurring has nothing to do with the logical contradiction.

To answer your question, no, I wouldn’t burn my kids alive to save Manhattan.  Of course, I can safely say that I wouldn’t burn ANYONE alive to save Manhattan… Or San Fransisco… Or Little Rock… Or any other city.

If this scenario came to pass, my conscience would remain clear because ultimately, it wasn’t me who blew up the city.  It was the sick fuck who told me to light my kids on fire.

My committing an act of evil (burning my kids) wouldn’t remove the evil intent of the act of planting the bomb.  Just like the evil act of torturing a prisoner for information won’t remove the evil intent of [insert theoretical nefarious terrorist plot].

But I digress…

Your positions on torture are logically inconsistent.  Either man up and call torture wrong regardless of how outlandish the situation, or drop the position that torture won’t garner good intel.  Since we know the latter to be accurate (i.e. - torture = bad intel), there is no reason to torture EVER, even in a TTBS.

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