Dependable Erection

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A persuasive argument

In which Alan Dershowitz loses the last vestiges of his credibility.
Although I am personally opposed to the use of torture, I have no doubt that any president--indeed any leader of a democratic nation--would in fact authorize some forms of torture against a captured terrorist if he believed that this was the only way of securing information necessary to prevent an imminent mass casualty attack. The only dispute is whether he would do so openly with accountability or secretly with deniability. The former seems more consistent with democratic theory, the latter with typical political hypocrisy.

There are some who claim that torture is a nonissue because it never works--it only produces false information. This is simply not true, as evidenced by the many decent members of the French Resistance who, under Nazi torture, disclosed the locations of their closest friends and relatives.

See, it worked for the Nazis. Of course it will work for us. Next, we round up illegal immigrants and others without proper documentation and ship them via railroad to special camps set up in North Dakota. That technique worked out pretty well too.

(via Jonathan Schwarz at TMW)



  • Let's just call this what it is.


    Where do these neo-cons get their sense of purpose or valor from? Old Hitler newsreels? Were we so mean to these idiots when they were children that this is how they over-compensate? By dragging our ideals of justice, liberty and fair-play through the mud?

    Torture is how the current junta extracts made-up terror plots to frighten us--and keep us under control. It must end now.

    By Blogger Tony, at 10:27 PM  

  • Okay, where are we going on this???

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:31 AM  

  • Where are we going on this?

    This administration has legitimized the use of torture throughout the world. Our Democrat-led Senate just approved an Attorney General who professes not to know torture when he sees it.

    Where are we going? It seems we're already there.

    By Anonymous steve bocckino, at 6:01 AM  

  • I'm confused regarding this post and the responses following it as it relates to the article. I take from it that the use of torture is not well received. Am I right?

    With that confusion stated, what I got from the article was commentary about any potential Democrat's stance on the optional use of torture in selective situations -- extreme measures -- and using it only under presidential approval under close analysis when it was clear that, by not getting that information, an emanate attack on citizens resulting in multiple deaths would occur.

    What I did not get from the article is condoning flippant use of torture to simply obtain basic information on everyday security issues.

    What I am getting from the responses is that any torture should not be condoned and must be refused as a viable method even if it is only applied in an extreme case.

    I also possess the vague understanding that in time of war, the Geneva Convention, if still applicable, does not condone torture at all.

    Me. I'm against using torture if other methods are available. I also don't like to compare any of our elected officials to the Nazi organizers and inferring that they are in support of their skewed methods for the purpose of the ill-will (I would think everyone agrees that the Nazi's intentions were not the most sincere).

    However, as much as I don't like torture as a means of obtaining information, if the use of non-lethal forms of torture could have prevented the 9/11 attacks, I would have been all for it. But, I would also think that even with that knowledge, today some people would still say that there could have been a better alternative.

    So, considering that the demented mentality of the various terrorists like the ones who masterminded and executed the 9/11 attacks (I assume we all believe they are demented or skewed in some way), I doubt they would be in approval of our use of torture in extreme and selective situations, but would eagerly be willing to televise their torturous methods on your family member in the name of whatever screwed up view they possess.

    However, with such opposition to the detailed account on the use of such torture, I haven't seen much in the way additional solutions. In other words, it's easy to point out the shortcomings of someone else's actions, but far more difficult to take responsibility by coming up with viable solutions to grave problems (i.e. the instances accounted for in the article with respect to disastrous and lethal events that would likely occur in the future).

    Any constructive commentary is welcome because I am open to all forms of progressive learning. :)

    By Anonymous D.E.Visitor, at 12:13 PM  

  • Torture is wrong.

    I'm sure the Nazis justified their use of torture of those "decent members of the French Resistance" by saying that the information they got was needed to prevent "terrorist" attacks against innocent German citizens.

    Moral: when you lie down with the dogs, don't be surprised when you wake up with fleas.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 12:26 PM  

  • Where are we going on this?

    Right into the moral toilet, but then Dershowitz and the neocon cabal have been there for a long while.

    By Anonymous arse poetica, at 1:43 PM  

  • What's tough about this subject is the whole concept of hurting another human being in order to prevent the hurting and killing of more human beings. I don't like physically hurting people. Hell, I'll pick up a cricket in the house and release it back to the wild if I am able.

    However, knowing what I know now, would I have risked getting fleas by hanging out with the dogs in order to prevent 9/11? You bet. I would not LIKE it. But like those brave souls on flight 93 who, presumably, beat down a terrorist in the act of attempting to regain possession of their plane in order to prevent further destruction (as well as their own demise), I would have done the same if given the opportunity to prevent such murderous acts by those hijacking pilots.

    Now, by virtue of my very own nature, I would not have any normal desire to commit such an extreme act in everyday situations. Nor would I suspect the same from those lost souls on Flight 93. But, in a time of extreme measure, they acted in what some may perceive a torturous manner to prevent potential devastation to others and themselves.

    Reading that article, I did not construe that anyone was condoning the actions of the Nazi's other than asserting that their torturous methods were effective.

    Americans are not Nazi's. I would never compare an American with such evil. Even 'some' Nazi's were not Nazi's inasmuch as they were programmed and/or fearful sheep (another topic altogether). But it's extreme in of itself to compare the article's assertion with regard to torture to another organization's flippant use of such methods (as history as already outlined).

    If anything, compare the Nazi's to the terrorists; not us. Because it is frustrating for me to read how much we; our elected officials; and our American system is criticized for its methods when, in the same breath, very little is criticized about the problem that promotes such a method… the terrorists themselves. The evil that exists out there that has already proven as their mantra to kill over and over and over again as their assurance to a better afterlife.

    I don’t like killing. I don’t like hurting people. And I don’t like wars of any kind… but they exist and in many forms of varying degrees. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a pretty long drawn out war at the moment created by an elected administration that has, arguably, mismanaged a war that appears we, as a people of this nation, want to get out of and right soon. But the war exists and we must deal with it and all that war creates.

    Me, I am a survivor of violent crimes. I have spoken with many survivors of violent crimes. Close friends. And I have very little pity on those that committed or attempted to commit such violent crimes on such innocent people. I don't believe we must be barbaric with them, after the fact, but given the opportunity to have prevented such atrocities from occurring, would I have gone beyond my comfort zone to prevent those crimes? Yes. Well, maybe. I like to think I’m a better person even with such adversity. But I say that with hindsight. But most assuredly, I or any of my friends would not want to relive those crimes (some simply have not lived).

    And that's where a big problem lies with what's being asserted in the article. The torture under selective circumstances is meant to prevent a lethal occurrence that has not yet occurred (outside of the fact the article asserts condoning the infliction of pain on another human being under certain special circumstances). Usually, the future holds no real guarantees. And, therefore, the use of torture under those extreme selective circumstances may not only be incorrectly applied, but used in an abusive fashion to the point where it might become normal operating procedure. And, unfortunately, this country has indeed proven that, with respect to certain "temporary" taxes that have become permanent, such selective forms of torture could really become a regular occurrence.

    So, what do we do when our highly trained Intelligence has found someone who holds the key to, and resists providing, information that would prevent an inevitable event causing loss of life and property?

    I can't say that I would trade the lives of all those who perished on September 11, 2001 for the lives of those who still exist that planned the bloody thing because I chose to do nothing more than interrogate a suspect I know had involvement in such planning and who had the answers to prevent it. But I’m also not the person who could stomach the actual exception asserted by the article.

    Would I go back in time, however, knowing what I know now, to beat on or knock off Hitler? I’d like to think that even with such events related to Hitler, that there have been huge positives squeezed out of such crimes. So I’m not sure if changing history would be wise for fear of recreating it later down the line. However, it’s not a bad idea. And if given the chance, I’m sure if the victims were still alive today, they would go for it. Putting myself in their shoes, I would probably go against my nature, too, and go for it.

    Of course, I can't say I know that. Nor am I equipped to manage knowing that.

    Who has a clear solution? Without clear solutions, we open ourselves up to, not just threats, but actions from those who are prepared to willingly proceed with violence. Using the example from the article about the guy second in, just sitting down with him over a cup of coffee asking a few questions in hopes of getting detailed information is probably not gonna cut it. Such interrogations are not diplomatically being held with official heads of state here, these are heartless criminals they’re dealing with. I doubt they’re gonna give up their first in command over a few threats of retaliation by a government known for not following through on their supposed threats. If that works, I am 100% for it. I’d prefer it. But if it doesn’t work, then what, pray tell, does someone do in those instances where an extremely violent event is about to occur?

    Let’s do away with torture of any kind for any reason for any given time. But, I go back to my question, “So, what do we do when our highly trained Intelligence has found someone who holds the key to, and resists providing, information that would prevent an inevitable event causing loss of life and property?” This is what we need to ask ourselves while we criticize such extreme means under extreme circumstance against extreme individuals. These are not petty criminals this world is dealing with. And this nation’s citizens have it easy compared to a lot of the people overseas living in the Middle East.

    We must engage in constructive dialogue in order to create viable and, yes, humane solutions. Not just leave the means of government with criticism without providing alternatives. Because innocent people are dying out there. We need solutions. And it's important that we think clearly and realistically about those solutions.

    By Anonymous D.E.Visitor, at 3:01 PM  

  • that's the moral relativist argument.

    basically, what you're saying is, the Nazis were evil, so therefore when they committed torture, it was wrong.

    Americans are, of course, not evil, so when we torture, it's good.

    it's not the act, but the intent. and since, by definition, our intentions are good, the acts we commit are therefore good.

    That argument didn't fly 60 years ago at Nuremburg; i can imagine a time in the not so distant future when it won't fly again.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 3:12 PM  

  • d.e. visitor,

    Don't you think the Nais had their own justifications, similar to yours, for what they did ? Didn't we reject those justifications at Nurenburg?

    Your notion that torture is the only effective measure flies in the face of massive evidence that torture doesn't yield effective intelligence. Didn't you take the time to read even a little before launching your polemic?

    By Anonymous steve bocckino, at 6:03 PM  

  • Unlike others here (I'm guessing...) I actually have friends who have been tortured for no reason other than having participated in non-violent demonstrations. This isn't a vacuous academic argument for me.

    I come from a country where torture is pretty routine, and where it's approved by the courts on a racial basis. That country happens to also be strongly supported in its use of torture by Dershowitz, who has a habit of twisting the definition of torture when it suits him and his nutcase political ideologies. Sort of like the Bush administration...

    No torture is acceptable under any circumstances, since it harms people permanently, and since all the evidence points to the fact that information extracted under torture is incredibly unreliable. Torture is unacceptable, end of story.

    Could torture have prevented 9/11? Unlikely, but even if we accept that argument, repeated investigations have shown that there were dozens (if not hundreds) of flaws that could have prevented the attacks. Torturing people was never necessary, and still isn't.

    By Anonymous termite, at 8:00 PM  

  • One of the best somgs of the 20th century:
    My name is Lisa Kalvelage, I was born in Nuremberg
    And when the trials were held there nineteen years ago
    It seemed to me ridiculous to hold a nation all to blame
    For the horrors that the world did undergo
    A short while later when I applied to be a G. I. bride
    An American consular official questioned me
    He refused my exit permit, said my answers did not show
    I'd learned my lesson about responsibility.

    Thus suddenly I was forced to start thinking on this theme
    And when later I was permitted to emigrate
    I must have been asked a hundred times where I was and what I did
    In those years when Hitler ruled our state
    I said I was a child or at most a teen-ager
    But that only extended the questioning
    They'd ask, where were my parents, my father, my mother
    And to this I could answer not a thing.

    The seed planted there at Nuremberg in 1947
    Started to sprout and to grow
    Gradually I understood what that verdict meant to me
    When there are crimes that I can see and I can know
    And now I also know what it is to be charged with mass guilt
    Once in a lifetime is enough for me
    No, I could not take it for a second time
    And that is why I am here today.

    The events of May 25th, the day of our protest,
    Put a small balance weight on the other side
    Hopefully, someday my contribution to peace
    Will help just a bit to turn the tide
    And perhaps I can tell my children six
    And later on their own children
    That at least in the future they need not be silent
    When they are asked, "Where was your mother, when?"
    -- Pete Seeger

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 10:08 PM  

  • Steve, it is quite a shame your response posted so abruptly without actually allowing ample time to read my response. So I will make that response more clear:

    I do not like problems, torture, war or whiners. I prefer they not exist.

    I accept the fact that problems, torture, war and whiners do exist.

    I deal with it. I struggle with it. I do this every day.

    I want solutions.

    With that summarized, I find it shameful that no one in response to my polemic has addressed nor shown any sympathy whatsoever for those innocent people who were victims of those murderous criminals who still exist today.

    It is our choice to find unacceptable the methods this country employs to ensure our national security. It is not okay to sling mud at those who are trying to help us without offering some sort of guidance, support or alternatives in order to improve those methods.

    However, if you do not have a clue, admit it. No one expects anyone to have all the answers as much as some would lead us to believe. But at least try.

    By Anonymous D.E.Visitor, at 1:47 AM  

  • de visitor,

    I understand you perfectly, but I disgree with you vehemently. If that means I "haven't got a clue," so be it.

    What you wrote and then restated is that you find torture distasteful but that you would use it anyway, if you thought you could prevent some future hypothetical terroristic event.

    I find torture unacceptable first on humanitarian grounds, and secondarily, because it is does not produce effective intelligence. And yes, there are alternatives to torture that DO yield effective intelligence. And DO permit criminals to be accused in a court of law.

    By Anonymous steve bocckino, at 6:36 AM  

  • Steve,

    Thanks for your response. However, I do want you to understand that I not implying that you do not have a clue. I would tell you directly if I thought you did (I do think you do have a clue).

    You appear to have knowledge. And you definitely have an opinion. Yes, a valid one at that and that is much appreciated. I appreciate your opinion because it gives me an understanding what my fellow citizens are thinking, even if that thinking is different than my own.

    However, what I do appreciate even more is when someone, anyone, critiques the actions of another, that they are either prepared to offer alternatives to their actions or indicate they do not have the present ability to offer alternatives (hence the ‘do not have a clue’ remark) but are willing to brainstorm or work at finding such alternatives. Otherwise, I view the alternaive as mud slinging.

    Nonetheless, to further clarify my position (if only to aid the encouragement of a constructive exchange of ideas/opinions for others who are reading), I do find the idea of torturing someone incredibly distasteful. As much as I hate it, I still have not been convinced that it’s altogether ineffective. However, torture is, apparently, being used (when I actually thought it was not), but given the idea that it might be used as a last resort under the scenario outlined in the article… if it meant stopping the execution of a plot that would kill the lives of innocent people, say, in a skyscraper or airplane versus the torturous experience of a confirmed terrorist, looking at those two options, I could clearly accept what I perceive to be the lesser of two evils and attempt to save the innocent people by, yes, torturing the suspect for information (again, providing that it was clear that some psychological testing and/or any other benign observation indicated that torture would be effective on the particular individual as there are those who could accept a heavy degree of torture without fail, thus providing no degree of efficacy).

    I am certain, however, that the situation leading up to such a decision would be far more methodical, yet urgent, that what I outlined. In the end, however, I would certainly want to see innocent souls spared if a given method proved effective under the scenario given.

    Unless there was some other effective means to get that same information out that particular criminal under that particular scenario. Unfortunately, I do not have any knowledge of those means. Hence, the reason for my knowledgeable shortcoming and plea for more education and thoughtful exchanges of ideas.

    So, Steve, if there exists alternatives that DO yield effective intelligence, your statement alone indicates, to me, that you have some clue as to those alternatives. I would beg you for the sake of this discussion to help me (and others) understand those alternatives by outlining a few, or many, since that is the primary theme of my argument. Mind you, there exists a scenario pointed out in the article, and since I am only responding to, what the article asserts, the effective method already in place under that scenario, please outline what alternative would work under that scenario.

    This is simply a request. I am not putting you on the spot, but yet I am putting you on the spot since your comment indicates that you might have information that could help in this discussion.

    Thank you for responding!

    By Anonymous D.E.Visitor, at 6:49 PM  

  • Here are 3 articles from military professionals on the use of torture.

    The first article from the Center for Defense Information, written by Maj. (Ret.) Anthony F. Milavic, USMC outlines the principal arguments against torture.

    The second article is by Malcolm Nance, a former Navy interrogator, who spoke before the House judiciary subcommittee last week regarding waterboarding in particular.

    The third is an article from Parameters, the US Army War College quarterly, by Lt. Col. (Ret) Lou DiMarco, USA on the use of torture by the French in Algeria and its counter-productive consequences.

    By Anonymous steve bocckino, at 5:21 AM  

  • Two articles affirmed my distaste for such methods. The third link did not link successfully.

    Can we now all agree that torture is bad? And, given the examples, that torture is arguably ineffective.

    Now, the alternatives. The real meat and potatoes. I may have missed it, but the articles did not outline these. Odd.

    What are some thoughts? Steve, you had clearly mentioned you knew of some. Please cite them.

    The need for this sort of information gathering method must stop. However, if it is indeed being implemented, then certainly we must come up with ideas effectively replace it. Is it worth pursuing?

    Brainstorming is a good start. I like brainstorming because it only requires creative thinking. Ideas that may be based on technology that has yet to exist. One crazy idea can lead to a realistic idea. No criticism. Just embellishing on or playing off the idea that came before.

    If it helps, I'll throw out a few brainstormed suggestions regarding possible alternatives: hooking up a computer to one's brain that will transfer a terrorist's brainwaves into words and imagery. Wine and dine the terrorists and create a super positive environment where their way of thinking changes and they see the error of their ways. Play Barry Manilow music in their cells.

    Sounds crazy, but that's how ideas are born.

    So, without further delving into brainstorming ideas, can you outline any of the alternatives so that we can consider their efficacy, or should we just simply say that the comment was an overstatement and begin fishing for more brainstorming ideas?

    Either way, not a problem. However, the problem that still exists is that no solutions are being offered (or anything near that).

    Thank you for the links.

    By Anonymous D.E.Visitor, at 12:43 PM  


    By Anonymous steve bocckino, at 5:16 PM  

  • de visitor,

    This is the 3rd link on the effects of torture in Algeria, (it was truncated):

    By Anonymous steve bocckino, at 5:20 PM  

  • The Algeria-torture link was truncated again.

    If you google "dimarco parameters" it will be high on the results list.

    By Anonymous steve bocckino, at 5:24 PM  

  • I'm glad you posted the information about Hanns Scharff. Though none of his techniques were outlined, by clicking on the various footnotes, I was led to information that could possibly help me locate details. I am now curious to learn more about his techniques.

    However, the Wikipedia article certainly begs the question, "Scharff’s name was again brought to the forefront as investigators questioned why his methods, which continue to be taught in military intelligence and interrogation schools, had been ignored in favor of more physically abusive tactics by U.S. military personnel and U.S. defense contractors alike to obtain desired information from Iraqi detainees."

    I wonder, since Intelligence forces are trained in Scharff's techniques, why such methods were not used? Or, if so, how did they fail?

    See. Now, my interest is piqued. When mud is slung, all I see is a big fat mess when those who sling it don't clean up. I'm all for opinions, but offer me alternatives so that I can improve.

    This one citing, at least, makes a difference. It starts a dialogue. And provides an alternative.

    Until further investigation. Thx, Steve!

    By Anonymous D.E.Visitor, at 1:24 AM  

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