Posts Tagged ‘Torture’

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Please, Someone Explain Why Torture isn’t Morally Reprehensible if for American Security

11.20.10

For a myriad of reasons – whether its simply a misguided obsession with safety and national security or going so far as involving a dangerous level of xenophobia coupled with bloated American exceptionalism arrogance – Republicans overwhelmingly support torture. Or, at least (and arguably worse), they deny that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were even torture when we did them and that they were morally justified because of how “evil” the enemies are.

Brian Michael Jenkins has been studying terrorism since back when its perpetrators were called “urban guerrillas.”  He’s sought out for guidance by politicians on both sides of the political divide.  And Jenkins down for an incredible interview with LA Times’ Patt Morrison which is well worth your time to read.  Just an excerpt:

I don’t think torture belongs in the American arsenal. I think torture is illegal, is immoral, but I would go further and argue that it doesn’t work. These silly scenarios [in which] the terrorist knows where the bomb is that’s about to go off in 30 minutes — that’s not reality. Further, you have to judge what you get in information versus the strategic loss that you take when it is revealed, as it will be inevitably, that a country is employing torture…

Finally, you take into account that [using torture] changes the nature of our own society, and that is a tremendous cost.

Let’s break that down into ideas that everyone can understand:

  1. Homeland Security isn’t run by Jack Bauer
  2. Legalizing torture taints our collective moral fiber

Just the other day on Facebook I got into a discussion about George W. Bush’s new book Decision Points where someone said that he was “glad to see him so content.”  It evolved from there to the point where the same commenter ended up defending torture, saying: “I don’t fault him for a natural disaster [Hurricane Katrina] or using techniques on 3 top terror suspects to gain insightful information to save lives.”

To that I ask:

What insightful information?

What lives were saved?

The false narrative in people’s minds about how torture actually worked is debunked by the reality of what happens when these tortured terror suspects go to trial:

A federal jury in New York yesterday returned a guilty verdict against accused Terrorist Ahmed Ghailani on one count of conspiracy to blow up a government building, a crime which entails a sentence of 20 years to life, but acquitted him on more than 280 charges of murder and conspiracy relating to the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Last month, the federal judge presiding over the case, Lewis Kaplan, banned the testimony of a key witness because the Government under George Bush and Dick Cheney learned of his identity not through legal means but instead by torturing Ghailani.

I cannot understand the defense of torture.  That mentality must come from an out-of-control fear combined with an unfortunate misunderstanding and conflation of torture and justice causing a warped moral view.  What’s the most troubling is that moral view then considers itself to be the moral authority, trumping all other viewpoints.

But what makes us different than the Khmer Rouge?  Even if the people we torture are truly evil, while the Khmer Rouge were torturing some not truly evil people, don’t you realize that the morality of torture isn’t dependent on the quality of the person being tortured? If we’re so much better than the people we’re torturing, we wouldn’t be torturing them in the first place — not because they’re not bad people, but because we’re not bad people.

Unless we are.

But I don’t think we are.  We deal with serial killers, murderers, rapists, child molesters and all sorts of homegrown reprehensible creatures without resorting to torture. And until 9/11 and the absurd outrage against all Muslims as being inherently un-American, we didn’t torture our own terrorists: we didn’t waterboard Timothy McVeigh and we gave him the death penalty and caught his co-conspirators.  See also: Bomber, Una.

So, please, someone who disagrees with me, explain why:

  • Torture is necessary and acceptable in prosecuting terror suspects.
  • In defending our nation against those who want to destroy it with violence, it’s okay to destroy our own nation through the voluntary abolishing of our own civil protections.
  • The notion of smaller government only pertains to programs that help Americans but not when it means unprecedented power to spy on and torture Americans.

Anyone?

(H/T The Daily Dish)

Image courtesy of shalawesome’s Flickr Photostream.

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Torture Advocate Wants Terrorists Brought Back Alive for More Torture

02.11.10

The CIA just reported that they have successfully killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban in a drone attack in the area volatile region of Waziristan.  It’s another in a long line of most-wanted terrorists being killed in drone attacks that President Obama has escalated to continue the war on terrorism, which has gained approval from even the most vocal of his political opponents.

But not all.  Apparently the killing of top terrorist operatives is actually a bad thing, according to torture advocator Marc Theissen:

Today, the Obama administration is no longer attempting to capture men like these alive; it is simply killing them. This may be satisfying, but it comes at a price. With every drone strike that vaporizes a senior al Qaeda leader, actionable intelligence is vaporized along with him. Dead terrorists can’t tell you their plans to strike America.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Dead terrorists can’t tell you their plans to strike America, this is true.  But they also can’t carry out those plans either.  And if the goal in the end is to make America safer, then it is working.  But, of course, Theissen doesn’t want these terrorists killed in sterile drone attacks.  In his sadistic world, he wants these terrorists brought in alive so that they can be sent down to Gitmo and tortured within inches of their lives, or worse.  In his world, that is the only way to make America safe.  Any other way is soft on terror.

The recent strike on Qasim al-Raymi, a senior military leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is a case in point. After having been caught blind by this terrorist network’s near success in blowing up an airplane over Detroit, why not try to capture and interrogate its senior leaders alive instead of killing them? Wouldn’t it make sense to get these men to reveal whom they have trained, where they have been deployed, and what their plans are for the next attack? But the Obama administration is not even trying to do this.

Not even trying?  That’s unfair.  How about the FBI has Abdulmutallab in custody and even has the assistance and cooperation of his own family to gain intelligence about his terrorist network?  Granted, we only have Abdulmuttab in custody because of his failed terrorist attack, but regardless, we have a live terrorist here for interrogation.  And the information authorities have obtained hasn’t been completely tainted and tarnished by war crimes that would render them inadmissible and most likely completely unhelpful.

The problem is that Theissen doesn’t see any difference between torturing terror suspects in a covert base in Cuba and the collateral damage of bombing a country during war:

Obama’s drone campaign is costing the United States vital intelligence, and it has also exposed him to the charge of hypocrisy. The president has claimed the moral high ground in eliminating the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, saying that he rejects the [sic] “the false choice between our security and our ideals.” Yet when Obama orders a Predator or Reaper strike, he is often signing the death warrant for the women and children who will be killed alongside the target — individuals whose only sin is that they are married to, or the children of, a terrorist. Is this not a choice between security and ideals? And why is it a morally superior choice? Is it really more in keeping with American ideals to kill a terrorist and the innocent people around him, when the United States might instead spare the innocent, capture the same terrorist alive, and get intelligence from him that could potentially save many other innocent lives as well?

(My emphasis.)

He compares the age-old debate of innocent casualties accidentally caught in the middle of a war to the institutionalized torture program that breaks all moral and ethical codes across the board.  He assumes that if we were to bring in these terrorists alive that not only would innocents not be killed, but even more would be saved.  I’d like to know where the figures are on how many innocents have been saved from the torture program down at Gitmo.  From things I’ve read, it’s put countless more innocent lives in danger by spreading anti-American sensibilities across the Islamic world.

Of course collateral damage must be minimized and the drone program has many concerned that too many innocents are be killed along with the terrorists.  It’s valid to question just how precise these drone attacks really are and if there is room for improvement.   But Theissen isn’t doing that.  It’s one thing to drop a bomb on a spot that you know for sure houses terrorists but may also have innocents in there as well.  It’s quite another to use barbaric techniques out of the Khmer Rouge torture handbook to simulate drowning 183 times on the same individual:

When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was located in 2003, the United States did not send a Predator to kill him. It captured him alive and got him to give up the details of the plots he had set in motion. That decision saved thousands of lives.

Did it really save thousands of lives?  Whose lives?  And where are the statistics to prove that?  Theissen has nothing.  He also doesn’t bother to get into just how difficult the terrain is there on the ground in the region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  What about all of the American deaths that would certainly increase if we were to send more troops on the ground in efforts to maybe capture some terrorists alive?  Haven’t we lost enough soldiers in the past nine years of this conflict that sending unmanned drones to strike known terrorist hideouts is worth the risk of collateral damage?  And haven’t we already sunk to unspeakably new lows with Theissen’s so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” that, sadly, innocent deaths in an act of war is actually an improvement on the morality scale?

I’d say so.

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Waterboarding is the New Spanking

02.08.10

U.S. soldier Joshua Tabor waterboarded his own 4-year-old daughter because she couldn’t recite the alphabet.

Waterboarding, you might remember, was one of the staple techniques of the Bush/Cheney “enhanced interrogation” methods also known as torture.  It involves the simulated drowning of a victim by elevating one’s legs and then pouring water over her rag-covered face, stopping just short of drowning.  It had previously been reserved for totalitarian regimes like the Khmer Rouge, but then became part of America’s way of treating both foreign and domestic terror suspects, and now apparently, has been co-opted by one man as a method of reprimanding toddlers.

This is what happens when torture becomes legalized and mainstream.  It’s not even called torture by the mainstream media and is defended and approved by federal appellate court Judge Jay Bybee and former Department of Justice official and current law professor John Yoo, who believes that it’s in the president’s powers to crush the testicles of an innocent child if he believes that the child’s father could provide sensitive information.

The brave men and women who serve our country are bound by their duty to follow orders.  They didn’t torture Khalid Sheikh Mohammad because they just came up with it on their own; they waterboarded him 183 times because they were ordered to do so by the highest powers of government.  And those very people are getting away with it completely scot-free. (Notice how in Newsweek they only write the word “torture” with quotes around it, as if it’s not really torture at all.)

And while these men who turned America into a nation that tortures its own citizens (Notice how Time magazine uses the phrase “equivalent to torture” instead of just saying “torture,” suggesting that even though these techniques might be equivalent to torture they might not actually be torture necessarily.) manage to ascend in their legal professions with nary a charge against them, GI Joshua Tabor gets arrested for assault.

Now, Tabor should be arrested for assault.  It’s unconscionable to think of a father torturing his own daughter for any transgression, let alone something as small as not having memorized her ABCs.  He should be charged for this crime and, if found guilty, given a lengthy prison sentence.  I just don’t understand how, when in the context of a man and his daughter, this torture technique is immediately greeted with appalling and repulsive reactions and formal charges, yet when it’s done 183 times to terror suspect, it’s legal, promoted, and encouraged.

Torture is torture.  It should always, always be illegal and those who condone and conduct it must be held accountable in a court of law.

(H/T Memeorandum)

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“Enhanced Interrogation”

04.17.09

george-w-bush-picture

Andrew Sullivan:

[George W. Bush] was either therefore a fantastic liar on one of the gravest matters imaginable or so psychologically compartmentalized and prone to rigid denial of reality and so unversed in history, law and morality that he had no reason being president.

If you haven’t read about the release of the Bybee memos regarding the use of torture authorized by Bush/Cheney and “legalized” by their team of attorneys who took oaths to uphold the law, you owe it to yourself to check them out.  You can read Andrew Sullivan’s continued discussion on his blog.

Remember that Clinton was impeached because he lied about having a personal, extramarital affair.  Bush endorsed the torture of prisoners-of-war while condemning the horrors of Abu Ghraib prison.  For all of those who are screaming bloody murder about how Obama is taking America into a social-fascist state, open your eyes.  Administering torture techniques used by Stalin, the Gestapo, and the Khmer Rouge is fascism.  Taxing Americans at the same rate they were 10 years ago is not.  It’s depressing and shameful that people have the energy, time and audacity to protest the American president on Tax Day simply because they are greedy and whiny when true atrocities are happening and have been happening under the previous administration’s watch.  Funny how those same people voted for Bush and McCain – essentially endorsing torture methods that really are the strongest attack on civil liberties imaginable – yet now claim that Obama is the socialist.  It would be funny if people weren’t so stubborn in their beliefs.

This isn’t some good news.  This doesn’t make someone like me – who was staunchly opposed to Bush – happy.  I’m not glad to see proof that he truly was as awful as I thought he was.  I’m not sure what was his bigger downfall: believing that he really was ordained by God to be president, or his sheer, utter stupidity.  I suppose one begat the other.

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George W. Bush: War Criminal

03.16.09

It’s amazing how quickly we forget what a totally corrupt and illegal presidency we just endured for the past eight years now that we have a president who actually understands that he is not above the law.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, and the whole lot should be tried for war crimes. I bet they’d be found guilty.  You can’t just throw the rules out the window because we had an attack on our soil.  Remember when we threw Japanese-Americans into internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor?  And now we consider that to have been a horribly inappropriate, unjust, and illegal act that no one condones.  This is one of those same things.  And we should take those responsible to court.  Even if it’s the former president.

Andrew Sullivan states it rather simply:

The question you have to ask yourself is a relatively simple one. Does this treatment amount to “severe mental or physical pain or suffering” in the pursuit of intelligence? If it does, then Bush and Cheney have to go to jail for the commission of war crimes.
Why is this a difficult question to answer?

It’s not difficult.  And maybe if Bush hadn’t completely decimated the world’s economy, our current government could put more effort into making him pay for his actions.

I’d be very curious to hear how anyone could defend Bush right now.  Please, feel free to explain it in the comments.  And do so without making some ridiculous correlation to Obama.  Obama wasn’t president then so leave him out of it.  One person’s mistakes don’t make another’s okay.