Tag Archive 'torture'

Torture: Let’s just *say* we don’t.

I’d heard this opinion often enough from liberals when they discussed torture but have to thank Matt Damon for giving me a nice quote:

”Look, the best line about torture I’ve heard came from [retired CIA officer turned war-on-terrorism critic] Milt Beardon,” Damon says. “He said, `If a guy knows where a dirty bomb is hidden that’s going to go off in a Marriott, put me in a room with him and I’ll find out. But don’t codify that. Just let me break the law.’

“Which I think is right. You can’t legalize torture. But anybody would do it in that situation. You’d do it to me in that situation; you’d pull out my fingernails if you thought I knew something like that.”

How lovely!

They aren’t anti-torture. They just want to pretend, to lie, to have some fig leaf to hide behind.

I’ve got a better idea, Matt… Let’s *not* but say we do.

h/t to Big Hollywood.

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Abuse and Confession

While I’m certainly not in disagreement that maintaining a ban on torture techniques in military interrogations should be an objective of the incoming Obama administration, Joe Klein’s pitch for it in his latest column takes us somewhere far beyond the overwrought. In it, Klein openly fantasizes about watching Donald Rumsfeld stripped naked and abused, as punishment for his part in incurring the permanent national stain of Abu Ghraib. How permanent is the stain according to Klein? He wants to erect a memorial monument to the victims of sleep deprivation on the National Mall. Yeah.

But this isn’t merely theatrical, it’s a confessional revenge fantasy. By his own admission, the mere mention in a newspaper of a prisoner standing in a stress position has Klein ready to torture former government officials as an act of retribution. It should be within his capacity to imagine that in a combat theater, inspiration for reciprocal abuses is even easier to obtain.

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Method Music

Bassist Steve Benton of the aptly named metal band Drowning Pool, is pleased to learn his music is used as a torture device by military interrogators at Guantanamo Bay.

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Life Advice

Try to stay out of a if you can.

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Doing Their Dirty Work

How many of you were as excited to find out we were torturing or helping out the torture of China’s non-terrorist-but-oppressed Uighurs? That line about releasing all Uighurs despite their status as a dangerous threat is extra-rich, too: why release them if they’re “the worst of the worst,” as Rumsfeld called them? Why be afraid of sending them back to China if they’re threats? There is too much egg on too many faces here: one of Mr. Bush’s more galling legacies.

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Mukasey on Waterboarding (UPDATED)

Attorney General Michael Mukasey sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the interrogation technique known as waterboarding. Mukasey remarked that it is not an authorized interrogation technique, and that it “is not, and may not be, used in the current [CIA interrogation] program.” As in his confirmation hearings, however, Mukasey declined to absolutely declare the technique illegal:

Mukasey Letter Excerpt

The important part of that excerpt is this:

Indeed, I understand that a number of senators articulated this very concern in the fall of 2006, in the course of defeating an amendment that would have expressly prohibited waterboarding.

Essentially, Mukasey is telling Congress to declare the technique illegal if that’s what they want. He’s not going to do their job for them.

waterboardingMukasey politely adds that reasonable minds may disagree on the issue, which does not present an easy question, and that:

There are some circumstances where current law would appear clearly to prohibit the use of waterboarding. Other circumstances would present a far closer question.

He goes on to say that opining on “generally worded legal provisions” absent concrete factual circumstances is not wise, and that his reluctance to do so now is precisely because there are no such circumstances. This is typical judge-speak for not providing advisory opinions, and is a bit weaselly. Mukasey could at least identify what some of the “closer questions” are where waterboarding may be deemed legal, and I expect that he is being drilled on such scenarios in the Senate today.

My guess is that Mukasey is vaguely referring to “ticking time bomb” types of situations. He seems to be reluctant to proscribe waterboarding altogether, at least publicly, because our enemies may use that information to withhold vital information:

The principle that one should refrain from addressing difficult legal questions in the absence of concrete facts and circumstances has even more force as to this question. That is because any answer that I give could have the effect of articulating publicly — and to our adversaries — the limits and contours of generally worded laws that define the limits of a classified interrogation program.

Frankly, Mukasey’s reasoning makes absolute sense, but in this climate of highly charged partisanship regarding any matters concerning the war, all discussion is framed in terms of absolutes. Today’s Senate hearing has nothing to do with practical legal matters. Instead it is a battle for moral superiority. More accurately, it’s a highly publicized display of how morally superior the Democratic leadership on the Judiciary Committee considers itself, especially vis-à-vis the Bush Administration. In short, it’s a dog and pony show designed to make Democrats look good, and Bush (and any who agree even tangentially with him) look bad. Waterboarding is merely the current foil.

In the end, we’ve learned that the technique is not available to the CIA for use in interrogation and that, at least in some situations, it is clearly prohibited by law. However, there maybe other scenarios (presumably involving imminent and catostrophic danger) where either (a) waterboarding is not necessarily illegal, or (b) we don’t want our enemies to know we won’t use it. The rest is just stentorian drama of little to no consequence or utility (i.e. Senators blathering away).

UPDATE: Andy McCarthy reports from the Senate hearings (emphasis added):

In the hearing today at which AG Mukasey is testifying, Sen. Specter — who believes waterboarding is torture — has pointed out that his opinion is not the end of the matter. He noted that the Senate had voted down a provision that would have made it illegal. He then pointed out that, quite apart from waterboarding, the use of torture in ticking-bomb exigencies has been approvingly discussed by President Clinton, the Israeli Supreme Court, Sen. Schumer, Prof. Alan Dershowitz, and others. (He left out Sen. Clinton, but could have included her too.)

Has Specter been reading ASHC?

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