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  1. #1
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    When Torture Is The Only Option....

    When torture is the only option ...


    DAVID GELERNTER
    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.) proposed legislation incorporating into U.S. law the Geneva Convention ban on mistreating prisoners. The bill, which bans cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, passed the Senate 90 to 9. To say it's got momentum is putting it mildly.

    But President Bush says he will veto the bill unless the CIA is exempted. Vice President Cheney has led the administration's campaign for the exemption. It's a hard sell; pro-torture politicians are scarce around Washington.

    But of course you don't have to be "pro-torture" to oppose the McCain amendment. That naive misunderstanding summarizes the threat posed by this good-hearted, wrong-headed legislation. Those who oppose the amendment don't think the CIA should be permitted to use torture or other rough interrogation techniques. What they think is that sometimes the CIA should be required to squeeze the truth out of prisoners. Not because the CIA wants to torture people, but because it may be the only option we've got.

    McCain's amendment is a trap for the lazy minded. Whenever a position seems so obvious that you don't even have to stop and think — stop and think.

    Americans will never be permitted to use torture as punishment or vengeance. A criminal might deserve to be tortured; we refuse to torture him nonetheless, because to do so degrades us. But if torturing a terrorist (or carrying out some other form of rough interrogation) is the only way to save innocent lives, we have no right to refuse.

    Most human beings recoil from committing torture. But sometimes we have an obligation to do hard things for the good of the nation — as no man knows better than McCain, who fought for his country and suffered long years as a brutally mistreated POW.

    But his amendment lets the CIA do what he refused to do. It lets the CIA take an easy out.

    In 1982, the philosopher Michael Levin published an article challenging the popular view that the U.S. must never engage in torture. "Someday soon," he concluded, "a terrorist will threaten tens of thousands of lives, and torture will be the only way to save them."

    Suppose a nuclear bomb is primed to detonate somewhere in Manhattan, Levin wrote, and we've captured a terrorist who knows where the bomb is. But he won't talk. By forbidding torture, you inflict death on many thousands of innocents and endless suffering on the families of those who died at a terrorist's whim — and who might have lived had government done its ugly duty.

    Those who defend McCain's amendment and attack Cheney and Bush feel a nice warm glow, as if they're basking in virtue, as in a hot tub, sipping Cabernet. But there is no virtue in joining a crowd, even if the crowd is right — and this one isn't.

    McCain is a bona fide hero. But there's nothing courageous in standing firm with virtually the whole cultural leadership of this nation and the Western world, under any circumstances. It's too easy. To take a principled stand that you know will make people loathe and vilify you — that's what integrity, leadership and moral courage are all about. This time Cheney is the hero. McCain is taking the easy out.

    Of course, saying "never" instead of "almost never" is a trap that well-meaning, lazy people have been falling into for a long time. In a celebrated passage in "The Brothers Karamazov," Dostoevsky tells a story designed to end that error forever — about a rich, powerful general and an 8-year-old boy serf who "hurt the paw of the general's favorite hound." The next morning, the child is stripped naked. The general looses his pack of wolfhounds on the boy, who is torn to pieces before his mother's eyes.

    What should be done to the general? The gentle monk Alyosha, who can't stand the thought of bloodshed, answers, "Shoot him." He has decided that capital punishment should be "almost never," not "never."

    In the end, this column is indeed about willful, cheerful torture — committed not by the CIA but by terrorists whose bombs leave bewildered innocents maimed, blinded or wracked with pain for the rest of their lives, or ripped to pieces. Why? The torturers (or their friends) only smirk and tell us that "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Great").

    We do not torture such terrorists to punish them. God forbid we should do as they do. But if torture (used with repugnance) can stop even one such atrocity, our duty is hideously plain.

  2. #2
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    Re: When Torture Is The Only Option....

    So you agree with torture, IF it is the ONLY option?

    Because GOD FORBID, there might be another option.
    :rolleyes:

    D\\D\\

  3. #3
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    Re: When Torture Is The Only Option....

    Quote Originally Posted by DeeDee1965
    So you agree with torture, IF it is the ONLY option?

    Because GOD FORBID, there might be another option.
    :rolleyes:

    D\\D\\
    Ya, he already made that point clear on the Cheney for torture thread. Pwrone tends to obsess {OCD} on things like torture, abortion, war, sex fiends, liberals, pedophilia, etc... It kind of makes you wonder if that is all he's about?

    Not very interesting and very predictable and a dark personality.

    Lady Mod

  4. #4
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    Re: When Torture Is The Only Option....

    If you want to debate a point, the least you could do is demonstrate SOME understanding of the context.

  5. #5
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    Re: When Torture Is The Only Option....

    I understand the concept of torture. It is barbaric, stupid, and a waste of time. Nothing helpful or relevent is gained from torturing people. They give false or misleading information. And doing it in order to punish is against ALL international and national laws. Is there more to understand about such an unimaginative, cruel,idiotic way of dealing wth one's enemys?

    D\\D\\

  6. #6
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    Re: When Torture Is The Only Option....

    If you have captured a terrorist and he knows where a bomb is planted that will kill many people, children, but he won't tell you...

    What do you want your government to do?

  7. #7
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    Re: When Torture Is The Only Option....

    I answered that question in Lady Moderator's thread. Go read it.

    D\\D\\

  8. #8
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    Re: When Torture Is The Only Option....

    Quote Originally Posted by pwrone
    If you have captured a terrorist and he knows where a bomb is planted that will kill many people, children, but he won't tell you...

    What do you want your government to do?
    John McCain is one of the few Republicans that I respect. The man has walked the walk and can talk the talk. He knows torture first hand unlike the author of your conservative opionion piece. You are under the assumption that torture works, that a captured terrorist will till you where the bomb is planted. Not only is torture morally wrong for this country to practice, it hasn't been proven to work.

    The Torture Myth

    By Anne Applebaum
    Wednesday, January 12, 2005; Page A21

    Just for a moment, let's pretend that there is no moral, legal or constitutional problem with torture. Let's also imagine a clear-cut case: a terrorist who knows where bombs are about to explode in Iraq. To stop him, it seems that a wide range of Americans would be prepared to endorse "cruel and unusual" methods. In advance of confirmation hearings for Attorney General-designate Alberto Gonzales last week, the Wall Street Journal argued that such scenarios must be debated, since "what's at stake in this controversy is nothing less than the ability of U.S. forces to interrogate enemies who want to murder innocent civilians." Alan Dershowitz, the liberal legal scholar, has argued in the past that interrogators in such a case should get a "torture warrant" from a judge. Both of these arguments rest on an assumption: that torture -- defined as physical pressure during interrogation -- can be used to extract useful information.

    But does torture work? The question has been asked many times since Sept. 11, 2001. I'm repeating it, however, because the Gonzales hearings inspired more articles about our lax methods ("Too Nice for Our Own Good" was one headline), because similar comments may follow this week's trial of Spec. Charles Graner, the alleged Abu Ghraib ringleader, and because I still cannot find a positive answer. I've heard it said that the Syrians and the Egyptians "really know how to get these things done." I've heard the Israelis mentioned, without proof. I've heard Algeria mentioned, too, but Darius Rejali, an academic who recently trolled through French archives, found no clear examples of how torture helped the French in Algeria -- and they lost that war anyway. "Liberals," argued an article in the liberal online magazine Slate a few months ago, "have a tendency to accept, all too eagerly, the argument that torture is ineffective." But it's also true that "realists," whether liberal or conservative, have a tendency to accept, all too eagerly, fictitious accounts of effective torture carried out by someone else.

    By contrast, it is easy to find experienced U.S. officers who argue precisely the opposite. Meet, for example, retired Air Force Col. John Rothrock, who, as a young captain, headed a combat interrogation team in Vietnam. More than once he was faced with a ticking time-bomb scenario: a captured Vietcong guerrilla who knew of plans to kill Americans. What was done in such cases was "not nice," he says. "But we did not physically abuse them." Rothrock used psychology, the shock of capture and of the unexpected. Once, he let a prisoner see a wounded comrade die. Yet -- as he remembers saying to the "desperate and honorable officers" who wanted him to move faster -- "if I take a Bunsen burner to the guy's genitals, he's going to tell you just about anything," which would be pointless. Rothrock, who is no squishy liberal, says that he doesn't know "any professional intelligence officers of my generation who would think this is a good idea."

    Or listen to Army Col. Stuart Herrington, a military intelligence specialist who conducted interrogations in Vietnam, Panama and Iraq during Desert Storm, and who was sent by the Pentagon in 2003 -- long before Abu Ghraib -- to assess interrogations in Iraq. Aside from its immorality and its illegality, says Herrington, torture is simply "not a good way to get information." In his experience, nine out of 10 people can be persuaded to talk with no "stress methods" at all, let alone cruel and unusual ones. Asked whether that would be true of religiously motivated fanatics, he says that the "batting average" might be lower: "perhaps six out of ten." And if you beat up the remaining four? "They'll just tell you anything to get you to stop."

    Worse, you'll have the other side effects of torture. It "endangers our soldiers on the battlefield by encouraging reciprocity." It does "damage to our country's image" and undermines our credibility in Iraq. That, in the long run, outweighs any theoretical benefit. Herrington's confidential Pentagon report, which he won't discuss but which was leaked to The Post a month ago, goes farther. In that document, he warned that members of an elite military and CIA task force were abusing detainees in Iraq, that their activities could be "making gratuitous enemies" and that prisoner abuse "is counterproductive to the Coalition's efforts to win the cooperation of the Iraqi citizenry." Far from rescuing Americans, in other words, the use of "special methods" might help explain why the war is going so badly.

    An up-to-date illustration of the colonel's point appeared in recently released FBI documents from the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. These show, among other things, that some military intelligence officers wanted to use harsher interrogation methods than the FBI did. As a result, complained one inspector, "every time the FBI established a rapport with a detainee, the military would step in and the detainee would stop being cooperative." So much for the utility of torture.

    Given the overwhelmingly negative evidence, the really interesting question is not whether torture works but why so many people in our society want to believe that it works. At the moment, there is a myth in circulation, a fable that goes something like this: Radical terrorists will take advantage of our fussy legality, so we may have to suspend it to beat them. Radical terrorists mock our namby-pamby prisons, so we must make them tougher. Radical terrorists are nasty, so to defeat them we have to be nastier.

    Perhaps it's reassuring to tell ourselves tales about the new forms of "toughness" we need, or to talk about the special rules we will create to defeat this special enemy. Unfortunately, that toughness is self-deceptive and self-destructive. Ultimately it will be self-defeating as well.

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