An Ethical Puzzler

First, the situation:

President Obama is seeking to block the release of photographs that depict American military personnel abusing captives in Iraq and Afghanistan, his spokesman said Wednesday, fearing the images could spark a hostile backlash against United States troops.

“The president reflected on this case and believes they have the potential to pose harm to our troops,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said Wednesday afternoon.

The president’s decision marks a sharp reversal from a decision made last month by the Pentagon, which agreed in a case with the American Civil Liberties Union to release photographs showing incidents at Abu Ghraib and a half-dozen other prisons. At the time, the president signed off on the decision, saying he agreed with releasing the photos.

Now, the question:

Is the president allowed to change his mind on something like this? Is he allowed to look at the information, hear the urgings of people familiar with the situation, and reverse himself, even if it’s at odds with his previous position — and the change in position has moral and ethical repercussions?

My personal take on the question  is that in a general sense a president can and should when he believes  it is necessary… but that I seriously doubt this is one of those times. There are already more than enough pictures of American forces abusing prisoners out there to serve the task of recruitment for terrorists groups and to rile up anti-American sentiment; meanwhile, holding up the release of these photos simply makes it look like there’s something more to hide. This is one of those “just rip off the Band-Aid” moments — it’s best if you do it fast, take the pain and move on.

So in this case I think Obama’s doing the wrong thing. This is based on what I know, which is, of course, different from what he knows, and perhaps in his position, knowing what he knows I’d do what he’s doing here. But from this end, it looks like a bad call.

Floor is open.

293 thoughts on “An Ethical Puzzler

  1. I agree. I think it goes against his pledge for more openness and accountability in government in general, and that is a bad thing. Of course, perhaps the photos are feared to be damning enough to warrant charges against servicemen by international courts. I cannot imagine any American administration wants to be in the situation of having its lower-level servicemembers tried as war criminals by non-American courts for a course of conduct which was sanctioned by higher-ups.

  2. I agree with you on the ethics of the matter. The politics is a different story. If he releases the photos the wingnuts will say he doesn’t care about our troops—and he may get some real resentment from the troops themselves. That won’t help him do what he needs to do.

    ISTM that stressing that the actions depicted in the photos are those of bad apples, and that they’ve been punished for their actions, might be a better choice. But of course, if they haven’t been punished that makes it a tougher sell to say the least.

    I’m disappointed in Obama over this, but it’s a drop in the ocean of my disappointment over his handling of the torture memos—another case where punishing people is important, if only to be able to say that we don’t condone their behavior.

  3. It could be that maybe he knows all this, but is doing this in part to gain political capital with the military, for doing things that he considers more urgent. He’s got a lot on his plate right now.

  4. He can certainly change his mind if he has new information. For example, perhaps some of the photos are worse than previously released photos (for example, photos that show descecration of the Koran).

  5. Just another sign Obama isn’t much different than any of the guys we put in office. Everyone knows it has happened, so the sooner we get this stuff out in the open and take our pain the better. Unfortunately, we are picking option 2: stick our head in the sand.

  6. the wingnuts will say he doesn’t care about our troops

    They’re going to do that, no matter what.

    It seems to me a bad decision

  7. I think it’s another example of his Long Game thinking — In my opinion, he *knows* that the appeal to block will be denied, and the court will release the photos anyway.

    This way, he blocks the criticism from the conservatives (on *this* subject, anyway), appears to be “doing the right thing” as far as they are concerned… and the pictures come out anyway.

  8. I wonder if the timing is related to the President’s planned June 4 “Muslim Speech”. Release of the photos could stir up trouble in Egypt now.

  9. Best explanation I’ve seen: “Obama has installed a new commander in Afghanistan who is steeped in counterinsurgency doctrine and devoted considerable resources and political capital to a new strategy there. I’m speculating, but the White House and Pentagon must not have cherished the idea of having their new start in Afghanistan undermined by the release of pictures that would further inflame the Muslim world.”

  10. No, why would should any one at any time be allowed to change their mind? That’s ridiculous.

    Thinking about issues? Learning more information? Listening to oppossing viewpoints? Who does that?

    In today’s world where everything any public official ever says is recorded, it’s almost worse to change your mind than to stick with the wrong position.

    I don’t know enough about the topic to judge whether the pictures should or shouldn’t be released.

  11. Release the photos or not. I really don’t see how it matters as long as the official line is that Americans are above the law. So they raped some people to death, so what? It’s not like anybody’s ever gonna do time for it.

  12. I generally trust that the President, in particular this one, has a good reason for doing what he does. I think it’s too bad, but I’d guess he knows something (many things!) we don’t.

  13. Yet another bad decision is a string of bad decisions over the last few months. From Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to health care reform and banking reform to the stimulus, President Obama has proven unwilling or unable to play hardball. It’s unfortunate, but he’s quickly becoming a great disappointment — at least to me, and I was a huge Obama supporter during the campaign.

  14. I agree, but I read on Wikileaks about a covered-up case where 3 or 4 US troops raped and killed a 14 year old girl in Afghanistan, as well as her 5 (?) year old sister and both parents. If there were more photos of that sort… well, yeah, I think there would be some backlash.

    But then again, there should be.

    *Note – I don’t know of the factual basis of that information, and from what I understand the perpitrators were put on trial, but the media apparently received a directive to spin it in the way the military wanted, and it was that memo that was leaked. As I hadn’t heard of it elsewhere, it was apparently effective.

  15. Well, let’s say that he is deciding between releasing them now, or in 18 months, after we are out of Iraq. Is it possible that releasing them after we are out will save a few lives? 10 lives? Is there a huge benefit to releasing them now?

  16. While I disagree with this change of policy to the extreme, leaders have to be able to change their minds and deal with changing conditions. There’s a reason we don’t get to vote to remove the president on a daily basis. The president can do what he wants, and it is us voters that will hold him accountable in three and a half years.

    Pretty much every president has had to go back on campaign promises or make decisions at odds with what the electorate wanted. Sometimes, it was the right decision. Other times (like, I think, this one) it was very much the wrong one. But the change of heart itself is not in any sense wrong.

  17. Let’s consider some facts: A) We know about the pictures. He can’t claim they don’t exist; B) We know they’re bad. They make American servicepeople look very bad. In fact, I’m guessing they’re going to be at least as bad as the ones that got Lynddie England, et. al., court-martialed. C) Obama is already dealing with cries to arrest and try the entire chain-of-command at Guantanamo.

    So if these pictures are released, we can expect that there will be cries to court-martial the entire chain-of-command at Abu Grahib as well.

    How many people will this involve? Will we turn them over to the Iraqis in six months? What else will various people demand?

    We’ve just turned over an 89-year-old man to the Germans for war-crimes prosecution. How many people in these pictures could possibly be guilty of worse crimes than John Demjanjuk? What should their fate be?

    And this is why I’m thinking that Obama is now going to not release the pictures.

    Is it bad? Yes. It’s a tacit admission that we’re guilty, and we’re covering it up.

  18. Well, the perspective from this conservative is that, not knowing what’s actually in the pictures, it’s hard for me to judge, but the bar for restricting release of something like this should be very high as an actual national security issue, and not just an attempt to prevent the release of information that would prove embarrassing.

    I’m not sure these pictures would meet that bar. Unlike, say, the release last month of the detailed report on the enhanced interrogation techniques, which definitely damaged our national security. But on the other hand, it may show that the Obama administration is beginning to grow up, realizing that much of the rhetoric they used the past 8 years is actually damaging, and hurts them while they’re in charge. That would be a somewhat positive development, but the jury is still out on that.

  19. I think it’s interesting some here are defaulting to Obama ‘knowing something we dont’… we tried that with Bush. Seems we should always question the morality of hiding our sins.

  20. He’s wrong on this. We should rlease the pictures and try the people who did the things depicted. The ONLY way we can claim any moral authority whatsoever is if we try to hold ourselves to high standards. That doesn’t mean being more moral than other human beings, but it does mean holding ourselves, up to and including the President (sitting and past) accountable for things that we claim to deplore. If we don’t do that, we should shut up about atrocities elsewhere.

  21. The key question is this: How will the release of these photos help us win the war in either Iraq or Afghanistan? A large part of every war relates to propaganda, and these photos will only give the radical imams more ammunition. I can’t see how the release of these photos will possibly benefit our troops in the field. And that is my primary concern in this debate.

    War is not an intellectual exercise. Nor can it be waged by limp-wristed standards of political correctness. In every war, both sides commit acts that could technically be described as “war crimes.” This is nothing new. For example, in WWII there were widespread instances of U.S. forces shooting Axis soldiers who were trying to surrender. (It was an official policy during much of the Leyte campaign, in fact.)

    However, it would not have served the interests of the U.S. to dwell on these abuses in 1944. Likewise, it does not serve the interests of the U.S. to dwell on waterboarding, rendition, and similar issues in 2009. I have no doubt that the U.S. government does have to do some nasty things in order to protect us from our enemies; but this has always been the case.

    Similarly, I was unable to work up much righteous indignation over the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah. If the CIA has to waterboard a few terrorists to prevent another 9/11 attack, they are welcome to run a hose from my kitchen sink. I’ll even provide the bucket, in fact.

    President Obama made the right decision. The first duty of the President of the United States is to defend the country. This more important than pleasing the sanctimonious, reality-adverse lawyers of the ACLU.

  22. Yes, a president is certainly allowed to change their mind, just like any other human.

    I also disagree with the decision, with the caveat that *maybe* it’s part of a longer-term plan based on more information than I have. But that’s my own wishful thinking.

    As far as the reaction from our own troops, based on my limited data sample, *some* would resent it. But I think far more would resent the perpetrators, and the people who cover up for them. “*Real* soldiers don’t fuckin’ do shit like that and real officers don’t let ‘em get away with it if they do”, to quote a soldier of my acquaintance.

  23. @ Edward Trimnell: I think you’ll find that the readers of Whatever have a rather higher average level of intelligence than, say, Fox viewers. That whole “prevent another 9/11″ crap doesn’t impress.

    Despite the posturings of Dick “5 Deferments” Cheney and lame movie/TV plots, torture isn’t much good for anything beyond what it was originally designed for — eliciting *fake* confessions.

  24. I agree with you wholeheartedly on this one.

    In general, I think the President should absolutely be willing and able to change his mind about something. One of Colbert’s jibes about Bush in his famous Correspondents Dinner address was that Bush “Believes the same thing on Wednesday that he believed on Monday–no matter what happens on Tuesday!” We hire a person and not a computer for the nation’s top job because people have this amazing ability to synthesize and act upon new data–an ability that Obama has already demonstrated quite an aptitude for.

    That said, I don’t understand this particular call. I’ll grant that I don’t have the same information that the president does, but from where I’m sitting, the logic isn’t clear.

    It’s unfortunate that the entire US Military gets judged on the actions of a few of its members, and far more unfortunate that we don’t provide them with the kind of support and oversight that would prevent these kinds of human rights abuses from happening in the first place. But they did happen, and we allowed them to happen, and there’s simply no denying that we’re responsible for that. Withholding information about it doesn’t seem like a particularly effective way to earn back whatever trust and goodwill these abuses cost us.

  25. Edward Trimmel:

    1) Torture is never OK. The US executed Japanese soldiers who waterboarded in on Allied service people.

    2) Even if you put its absolute moral unacceptablity aside (which I don’t believe is actually possible), is there any proof other than the assertions of people who are in the gun for war crimes prosecutions that it obtained one iota of useful evidence that could not have been obtained through normal interrogation methods.

    People talk to stop the torture. They don’t talk to give you the truth.

    Also, you seem to have an awful lot of faith in the Government to always do the right thing without telling us about it – does that mean you want them running the health care system, the electricity grid, and pretty much everything else, because they’re the ultimate guardians of our welfare? Or does faith in government only apply to right wing warmongering ones?

    On the actual topic, of course Obama is entitled to change his mind after considering the evidence and the views of the people he trusts. In this case, I think he is morally wrong to do so. In my view, the only alternative to releasing the photos publically is to try any and all crimes that the photos might reveal, and prosecute all of those responsible – if he’s worried about PR that’s the way to do it. The nasty photos don’t see the light of day, but he can say he prosecuted those responsible for the dodgy stuff.

  26. Bearpaw@25:

    “I think you’ll find that the readers of Whatever have a rather higher average level of intelligence than, say, Fox viewers.”

    That may or may not be true; but I would not want the readers of Whatever to be responsible for national security. I think we would last about as long as Belgium in WWI. I can just see you offering a Abu Zubaydah a cup of latte and threatening him with a “very stern talking to” in the event any more terrorist plots.

    One of the defining characteristics of a devout liberal is that he will not, ever, take his own side. I have no doubt that no matter what al-Qaeda and their followers did, your first concern would always be to find fault with the actions of the U.S. military. So perhaps this is a pointless effort on my part.

    I am not saying that we should not be vigilant toward our own mistakes; we should. But we need not air our dirty laundry before the world.

  27. Edward Trimnell:

    Have you completely taken leave of your senses?

    Where was the criticism of the Bush administration from the right?

    And have you noticed the bitching about Obama from, oh, off the top of my head
    – Gay rights activists
    – Paul Krugman
    – Kos
    – Americablog
    – Andrew sullivan (who’s not a liberal but was a big Obama supporter)
    – Glenn Greenwald

    Your statements are just provably factually incorrect.

  28. Bigger specific problem at this point: They’ve been talked about to death – there’s already some out there – there’s no question but that the picture in people’s head is likely to be worse than the real photographs.

    I understand Obama’s concern – but this is really a case of horse out of the barn already…

  29. Ah, yes. “limp-wristed”, “ACLU”, “politically-correct”, and now “latte” — it’s the Greatest Hits collection of the Conservative Armchair Warrior at its finest.

    The one drawback to writing military SF, I guess — you attract them like flies.

  30. Well, speaking as somebody who fought in this war and spent most of my life in the military, I’m of two minds on this one, Scalzi. As you said, an Ethical Puzzler.

    While I consider torture a cowardly, immoral, and dishonorable act – far beneath the principles of the US military and the oath we swore, and diametrically opposed to the founding principles of the United States itself – I think it is even more dishonorable and immoral to publish the names and pictures of US service members engaged in such acts, when those who sent us and sanctioned torture and ordered that it be carried out, are allowed to go unrepentant and unaccountable into the Texas sunset. Bush the Decider, that evil black-hearted toad Cheney, and that malignant carcinoma Rumsfeld, and all those nameless invisible spooks from the CIA who showed up, took over the interrogations and the prisons and the process – and then vanished into the sewers of Langley from which they came when the whole thing started to fall apart, not one of those fuckers has ever been held accountable.

    As always, we in the military are left holding the bag. And more than that, it’s always the junior folks. General Janis Karpinski lost a star and got to retire – but the troops she was responsible for went to prison. Why that bitch wasn’t tried for dereliction of duty and is not rotting alongside of her people right now is something I’ll never be able to stomach. When I led troops into harm’s way as an officer, it was with the full understanding that they were my responsibility, their actions were my actions and a direct reflection of my leadership ability, and I was fully accountable at all times. Period and no exceptions.

    There is only one way to remove this blot on our honor – and that is to hold those responsible for fostering the climate that produced these cowardly and despicable acts. Cheney himself spoke as recently as this week claiming that torture, indeed any action, is justified in the face of “terrorism.” And so do the conservative pundits and the de facto leader of the GOP, Rush Limbaugh. When these national figures, when the leaders, and movers, and shit shakers keep telling Americans that torture is justified, that the ends justify the means, when duty, honor, courage, commitment, and ideals are outdated concepts, that the Constitution is nothing but a piece of paper – well, then I think it is the height of hypocrisy to publish these pictures and invite retribution against the service members involved.

    However, we – the US military – cannot and must not allow this cancer to grow. It may be necessary to make an example of those involved, so that those who follow don’t make the same mistakes and repeat the same dishonor, whatever the orders of whoever sits in the White House.

    I’ve written extensively about this subject, and yet I find that there is always more to say. Thanks for giving us a forum, John.

  31. Eddie@29, there was a ton of bitching about Bush from the right, on quite a few issues. Just to name a few, amnesty/border security, prescription drug benefits added to medicare, spending like a drunken sailor, the Dubai ports deal, the Harriet Miers nomination. Of course, those are mostly not the same issues that the Left criticized him, but there you are. We weren’t happy with Bush, but every four years if you want your vote to count you have two choices, and in 2004 the two choices were between someone who wanted the US to win the war we were in, and someone who wanted the US to lose, whose supporters were so delusional as to not actually understand that we were even at war at the time. Under normal circumstances that should have been a blowout – it’s a testament to how poor Bush was as president that it was even close.

  32. Forgive the tinfoil hat moment, but maybe the photos have one or two of the more recognisable faces of those involved.
    Showing Lynddie England-level grunts playing with their captives is one thing, seeing high-ranking brass or CIA assets would be another (and in the case of the Virginia Farm Boys & Girls, it’s perfectly justifiable to not show the pics as a matter of national security).

    And of course if anyone on the level of, say, Cheney is in them… well, that would explain such a dramatic U-turn from Mister Transparancy, yes? And why little Dick is being so loud on the TV right now…

    Seriously, even not knowing the exact content I’d say Obama is damned either way – and should thus err on the side of disclosure nor rather than later at the hands of Seymour Hersh or similarly driven journos and/or bloggers.

  33. John, you’ve summed up the moral dilemma here in a way that neither lefty nor righty blogs has dared to do.

    In the end, though, I have to come down on the side of Obama is wrong and the pictures should be released. Yes, they may be horrendous, and yes, they may stir up anti-American sentiment, but that’s going to happen anyway. As someone pointed out above, people will now just assume that there’s something really horrendous, like baby-rape, in the pictures. If Obama puts them out there, then says “yes, this happened, it was a terrible thing to do, but this is a different administration that is taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again”…there’ll still be damage to our reputation, but it’ll be less damage than that caused by hiding them.

  34. Jim – you put more eloquently than I did what seems to be the way through here – the issue is not the photos themselves, but the culture of abuse that they likely depict. As usual, you make very good points.

    The way to deal with it is to prosecute those responsible for creating such a culture and, in appropriate circumstances, those who carried it out.

  35. Part of the problem is that by releasing the photos he;s making it obvious that there is enough evidence to convict people for what’s pictured at the same time as he’s saying that he does not want anyone punished for breaking the law. While he promotes that attitude any further revelations are just going to make the situation worse. US exceptionalism is bad enough without the president going out of his way to emphasise it.

    Especially right now with all the hoo-raw about human rights abusers being allowed on the UN committee for human rights. It’s particularly rich when it’s coming from the US as the US rejoins the committee while boasting about its abuses. Obama is right to try to pretend that the US at least aspires to respect human rights.

  36. Eddie, precisely. Until the leadership is held accountable, the problem will not be resolved. Releasing the pictures is treating the symptoms, not the disease.

    However, sometimes the symptoms can kill you before the disease does.

    Hence the dilemma.

    Of course, releasing the pictures isn’t the real moral dilemma here.

  37. “How many people in these pictures could possibly be guilty of worse crimes than John Demjanjuk”

    Since the Germans just charged Demjanjuk with 29,000 counts of accessory to murder, we can be certain that whatever happened at the US prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worse.

  38. My fear is that the photos could actually put some of our overseas folks into greater danger if retaliation comes into play.
    The difference between Obama not wanting to release the photos and Bush not wanting to release the photos is that there was always a flavor of Bush covering up naughtiness not fit for the general public. This isn’t a mess of Obama’s making. He doesn’t have to feel shame (or the Bush corollary thereof) for the decision, but he still has to deal with the mess. So, no personal guilt, just disgust for what our side did guilt.

  39. Edward 23: Nor can it be waged by limp-wristed standards of political correctness.

    It is not possible that you are unaware of the homophobic implications of your phrasing. Moreover you’re also implying that anyone who disagrees with you must be a faggot, which as a faggot myself I find peculiar.

    I almost didn’t read the rest of your post after your bigotry became clear in the above line, and I’m almost sorry I did. You’re spouting the same long-refuted nonsense about torture that your fellow wingnuts have always spouted; you then have the unmitigated gall to call the ACLU “reality-adverse” (and by the way, it’s ‘averse’)!

    We here in the reality-based community (that’s “limp-wristed liberals” to you and your kind) don’t think much of such idiotic, hypocritical, and bigoted statements.

    Eddie Clark, don’t waste electrons on this bozo. He’s not worth your time. Or mine, of course. Yeah, OK, I take it back.

    Gareth Skarka: hear hear.

    Jim 32: Thanks for this. I agree wholeheartedly, though I have less right to speak on the topic than you. And thank you for your service, if I’ve never said that to you before (I was either unaware or had forgotten that you were an Iraq vet).

  40. If the pictures would harm our military efforts, then they should not be released. Even so, the persons depicted in those pictures engaged in actions which would harm the war effort, need to be severly punished.

    Obama’s problem is not that he learned new information. A person can change his or her mind when confronted with new facts. Obama’s problem is he pledged openness on these and similar issues without any sort of qualification whatsover. Part of his “fierce moral urgency” (stolen from Instapundit) which his supporters claimed mandated his election. The fact that he either was not intelligent enough to foresee a situation when openness would be a bad thing, or was dishonest enough to avoid mentioning it if he could, shows that he is nothing more than a politician, not the statesman advertised.

  41. It’s a tough call, but as you say there are already some damning photos of abuse out there already. So I cannot see how new photos would have a worse impact.

  42. about a covered-up case where 3 or 4 US troops raped and killed a 14 year old girl in Afghanistan, as well as her 5 (?)

    Can we not put the tinfoil hats on? The soldier who instigated that was recently court-martialed, convicted, and awaits sentencing, either life or death. His accomplices got various prison terms, congruent with how much they helped the prosecution. It was an ugly incident, but it wasn’t covered up.

  43. I don’t have the exact quote at hand, but I believe Obama stated today that he fully supports prosecution of criminal acts depicted in the images and implied that such prosecutions are ongoing, I assume that his decision to withold the images from public release does not mean they could not be used in courts martial.

  44. Let’s put this in its general form and see how it sounds– the President doesn’t wish to follow the ruling of a court because he doesn’t care for the consequences.
    How would, “This Brown vs. Board of Education decision seems nice in theory, but it might rile up various hate groups in the South. We shouldn’t attempt to desegregate anything” have been?

  45. Xopher@42:

    “It is not possible that you are unaware of the homophobic implications of your phrasing. Moreover you’re also implying that anyone who disagrees with you must be a faggot, which as a faggot myself I find peculiar.”

    ***********

    No, I wasn’t thinking about the “homophobic implications” of my phrasing. “Limp-wristed” in this context can just as easily mean “lacking resolve.” No slur of that kind was intended.

    Speaking of which: I’m glad that you’re gay. Good for you. Congrats. But that doesn’t mean that *every* issue has to have a “gay angle.” I’m heterosexual, and I don’t see every issue through the lens of my lust for Jessica Alba. How about doing the same?

    Moreover, if you look back at the Iowa thread from a few weeks ago, you’ll see that I actually support same-sex marriage rights. I’m not a homophobe. So there.

    We could have a long debate about the merits and demerits of waterboarding as an interrogation method. We could each cite internet sources pro and con. Then we could criticize each other’s sources. Let’s skip that, shall we? I doubt that either one of us is exactly an insider in national security circles. Suffice it to say that opinions on this issue are divided, and the jury is still out.

    My point was that given the *actual terrorist attacks* in New York, London, Madrid, etc., it is amazing that the Left is most concerned with a few terrorists getting slapped around. Or having water poured on them.

    And yes, the the ACLU is behaving as a sanctimonious, reality-averse institution *in this particular case*

  46. I think there’s an implicit (and often explicit) assumption within the electorate that candidates running for office need to get elected, and once they have the responsibility for decisions made in office may change their mind from campaign positions.

    I think Obama rightly came to the conclusion that if any US servicemen are killed and their bodies dragged through the streets in Afghanistan or Iraq over those pictures being released, he’d be somewhat to blame for the release. This is unfortunately not a hypothetical.

    It’s entirely fair to point out that him being in that position is clearly not at all his fault. But he’s in that position.

    There are a wide range of options. None of them are good. Muddling through the middle on a practical basis is what he’s doing. He could go far right (the pictures should not be released because we shouldn’t) or far left (release them and damn the consequences). But he didn’t do anything extreme.

    The last time we elected a president who was too moral to bend, we got Carter, who was an unmitigated disaster on many levels as President (though a quite decent and honorable human being, who I respect immensely on that level).

  47. Edward Trimnell:

    I’m going to say this and then stop wasting pixels on them. If you genuinely think that this is a choice between “a few terrorists getting slapped around. Or having water poured on them,” and people dying, then you’re either dishonest or have no understanding of what is actually at issue.

    Enjoy your ignorance and/or fantasy land. (I note you didn’t respond to any of the points I made above).

  48. Clearly, Mr. Trimnell (@48), we could not have much of a debate about the merits and demerits of drowning torture with you if you believe that it involves “having water poured on” a person.

    Waterboarding involves pouring water down someone’s throat at such a rate that they cannot properly swallow it so that if fills up their lungs. Waterboarding is drowning someone, rescuing them before it kills them, then drowning them again.

    Ever seen a full-blown asthma attack? That’s what being deprived of oxygen does to a person. And if you think that’s the same as a game show prank, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Last time I checked, pouring some water over a person’s head didn’t require the presence of a licensed physician.

    If you want to argue that drowning torture is a necessary and useful security tool, well, that’s why we have a public political discourse in this country. But you owe it to American servicemen to get your facts straight, because what we do unto others will be done unto us. And you are not asking them to risk having a bit of water poured on them. You’re asking them to risk being drowned. Repeatedly. You’re asking them to risk having water forced into their lungs while someone shouts questions in their face. You’re asking them to risk being tortured.

  49. Edward Trimnell:

    Just because you support same-sex marriage in Iowa doesn’t mean you can’t (or didn’t) unintentionally or otherwise make comments that play off of stereotypes of gay men.

    Likewise, people noting you’re playing off stereotypes of gay men doesn’t mean they’re injecting a “gay angle” into the discussion; they’re calling you on the fact that you are.

    If you don’t want people complaining about your introducing gay stereotypes into a discussion, don’t introduce gay stereotypes in the discussion. Simple enough.

    That said, I officially declare we’ve had enough discussion on that particular point for this thread.

  50. Annalee Flower Horne @52:

    I know what waterboarding is. I was being sarcastic. And had I been there when the CIA was performing this procedure on Abu Zubaydah, I would have given them the high five. But I have a mean streak where al-Qaeda terrorists are concerned.

    It would be great if al-Qaeda were only waterboarding our folks in return. Instead they are beheading prisoners and blowing up buses and airplanes. They are trying to find a way to explode a nuclear device in an American city. And they were doing these things long before anyone ever heard of waterboarding. Do you think that al-Qaeda is suddenly going to start playing nice if we subject ourselves a public self-flagellation session over waterboarding?

    I am not saying that I feel completely comfortable with the practice—just like Truman didn’t feel completely comfortable with dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. My question is: what is necessary to defend the United States?

    On this question, there seems to be a diversity of opinion. I have read interviews of national security experts who say that waterboarding was necessary to acquire information from terrorists in certain cases. I have also read interviews from national security experts who are against it.

    I am not irked at the question itself: I am irked at the Left’s righteous indignation against those who are keeping us safe from the *real* wingnuts–the Islamic terrorists.

  51. John 54: Thank you, and I hear and obey.

    Edward 48: Suffice it to say that opinions on this issue are divided, and the jury is still out.

    Opinions are divided between the authoritative (waterboarding is torture and torture is ineffective at getting valuable intelligence as opposed to confessions) and the ignorant (waterboarding is no worse than fraternity hazing and torture gets you the information you want if you’re “man enough” to use it, because after all it works for Jack Bauer, doesn’t it).

    I number both professional interrogators and people who’ve been waterboarded among my friends. They are united in affirming the position I’ve labeled “authoritative” above. You are either ignorant and foolish and don’t know what you’re talking about or (more likely) are deliberately lying because the ridiculous positions you’re taking suit your political agenda.

  52. …I’m sure it’s just more photos of GWB in his gimp gear with Daddy Chenney making the boy eat terrorist feces from a red Ferragamo….it’s not like we haven’t seen those images before…

  53. Xopher @ 42:

    Jim 32: …I have less right to speak on the topic than you.

    Xopher, we swore to support and defend the Constitution, including the 1st Amendment, for all Americans. All Americans. Every last one. And all Americans have an equal right and an obligation to stand up for what they believe in, including and most especially wars we are engaged in and how this country conducts itself – and by extension the conduct of its leaders and its military as well. You – and every “limp wristed” liberal ;) – have as much right as any veteran to voice your opinion – otherwise our service means nothing. Those who died under the stars and stripes did so for nothing.

    Strangely, as long as we’re on the subject of service – it always amuses me to hear far right conservative leaders take liberals to task for their lack of military service, and yet – and yet – so few of them have served themselves. Rush comes to mind, Anne, Cheney, Gonzales, Rice, Rove, and, well, you get the idea. It also amuses me that, as you noted, “gay” is equated to “liberal” and those spouting it seem to entirely miss the irony that the reason gays rarely serve, and can’t openly, is because those self-same conservatives won’t let them.

    Edward @ 28:

    You know, I wasn’t going to address you, but since Xopher decided to slap you around, allow me to point something out, specifically this:

    I can just see you offering a Abu Zubaydah a cup of latte and threatening him with a “very stern talking to” in the event any more terrorist plots.

    You’re making a false dichotomy fallacy, i.e. you are directly implying that there is only two choices when it come to our treatment of our enemies, torture or “give ‘em a latte.” Wrong. Try again.

    And then there’s this:

    One of the defining characteristics of a devout liberal is that he will not, ever, take his own side. I have no doubt that no matter what al-Qaeda and their followers did, your first concern would always be to find fault with the actions of the U.S. military.

    You started with a straw man and followed (or didn’t follow, heh heh) with a non sequitur fallacy. Prove your statement. And while you’re at it explain to me why identifying our faults and seeking to correct them is a bad thing – in the military we have entire databases filled with exactly that, lessons learned. We learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. I designed military war fighting doctrine and tactics, and the first thing I looked at, every time, was the mistakes my predecessors made. Ask yourself something, how many American and coalition and Iraqi lives could have been saved if Abu Garrib and all that followed never happened? How many lives did torturing those men save? How many American lives did torturing the inmates at Gitmo save? How many. In hard numbers? Because the fallout from Abu Garrib and Gitmo and the secret prisons and the rest of this dishonorable travesty have directly contributed to the deaths of American by giving aid and impetus to the enemy.

    In the initial phases of the war I had Iraqi troops and civilians surrender gratefully to me. With relief evident on their faces – because they knew that Americans would treat them with dignity and respect, this was our reputation in the world. Getting information, reliable, actionable information was easy – hell, in a couple of cases I couldn’t shut them up. After it became public knowledge that we were torturing people – then they surrendered in fear and gave information grudgingly and no longer cooperated willingly. I saw in their eyes the same hate and fear and loathing that 12 months before they had reserved for Saddam Hussein.

    We can take your route though, Edward, and refuse to learn from our mistakes, we can denounce any criticism as unpatriotic, as limp wristed liberalism, and we can blunder blindly on – and that arrogance, that exact arrogance and blind jingoistic patriotism is exactly what got us into this mess in the first damned place – or we can learn from our mistakes.

  54. Edward 55: Do you think that al-Qaeda is suddenly going to start playing nice if we subject ourselves a public self-flagellation session over waterboarding?

    No, they aren’t. But it could make the difference between siding with us and siding with AQ to some. And the difference between helping us out or ignoring us to others. And also, it would let us have some self-respect. And honor.

    Do you think national self-respect and honor have nothing to do with success in war? Talk to an Army recruiter sometime.

    In WWII, young German men going off to war were told by their fathers “surrender to an American the first chance you get. They’ll treat you well, and you won’t get killed.” Do you think that advice came from nowhere? Do you doubt that it saved American lives?

    I guess I think it matters what others think of us AND what we think of ourselves. You don’t seem to care about either…or have, at any rate, a drug kingpin’s idea of them. Oderint dum metuant is effective if you are an empire ruled through force and threat; in today’s world we need friends and trading partners, because we really can’t just enslave everyone, kill their leaders, and forcibly convert them to Christianity like Ann Coulter wants. You seem to be buying into that notion.

    Since you appear to have no ethics, I appeal to your common sense: is this a strategy that works in the real world? Unless you’re Vox Day (who famously proposed a Final Solution to the problem of illegal immigrants), I don’t think it does.

  55. I’m of two minds about this – we tried people for war crimes after WWII, but if we committed war crimes, if our justice is even handed, the perpetrators should be brought to justice, which would include the use of these photos as evidence in a court.

    We should never have secret trials in America.

    And I don’t think Obama is doing anyone any good by going back on his word. If the photos are worse than what’s already been released, then it’s justice for the victims to have that out in public.

  56. Former governor and retired Navy Seal Jesse Ventura just spoke out against torture and against Cheney’s defense of torture on Larry King’s show. So, if we’re going for the manly man vote on torture, I think he out testicles pretty much everyone.

  57. Jim 58: Quite right, and I misspoke. I ought to have said you have more knowledge to speak on the topic. I consider myself a Constitutional patriot, in that I regard the Constitution as central to my patriotism, even more than, say, the land itself.

  58. Jim Wright:@58:

    I acknowledged that I am not a national security expert and I don’t know if waterboarding has a legitimate place in an interrogation. I’ve read differing opinions. As a retired member of the military you certainly have a perspective that I don’t.

    However cathartic it may be to lump me in the same boat as Anne Coulter, that is not where I am coming from. I am not a member of the National Waterboarding Advocacy Assocation. It may very well be a bad idea for all I know.

    My problem is the fact that the Left often obsessively finds fault with the actions of the U.S. government, while taking a lenient view toward our enemies.

    If the military did overreact in its treatment of terrorist suspects, we can acknowledge that. But when considering such overreactions, we need to keep in mind the context in which said overreactions occurred. Many people like to talk as if 9/11 occurred sixty years ago. There are still many Islamist groups who are trying to do us harm. In fighting what everyone agrees is a new kind of war, the military is going to make mistakes. We should correct these mistakes without flagellating ourselves publicly each time, which will only heighten anti-American propaganda in places where al-Jazeera is the only news source.

    Now for my perspective: You spent your late teens and early twenties in the military. I spent the same period on a college campus. This was during the Cold War. I had numerous professors talk about the evils of U.S. intervention in Granada, while simultaneously talking about the glories of Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua and Castro’s Cuba. In your formative environment, patriotism was the norm. In my formative environment, barely disguised anti-Americanism was the norm. That may account for your comparative leniency toward the Left, and my comparative leniency toward the Right.

    The aforementioned Cold War-era debates are dated and largely irrelevant now; but I see shadows of the same anti-American bias in the mainstream media’s harping on Abu Ghraib and the recent waterboarding controversy. We both know that there is an element in the Left that takes a “blame-America-first” approach to every foreign policy issue. I do not want them to exploit the waterboarding issue to America’s detriment.

    If that makes me Anne Coulter, so be it.

  59. Edward @55:

    “And they were doing these things long before anyone ever heard of waterboarding. ”

    Really? Al Qaeda was around in the 15 and 16th century? Flying planes into buildings and blowing up buses? Wow — we’re fighting TIME-TRAVELLING EEEVIL ISLAMOFASCISTS! OMG! Call Jack Bauer!

    Waterboarding dates back to the Spanish Inquisition, genius.

    At this point, everything you say makes it more and more clear that you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about. Please, stop. It’s embarrassing.

  60. You know, Xopher, I knew I liked you.

    Edward @ 55:

    Do you think that al-Qaeda is suddenly going to start playing nice if we subject ourselves a public self-flagellation session over waterboarding?

    You just don’t get it, do you? Living up to high ideals isn’t for the terrorists, it’s for us. If we resort to the methods of our enemies, then we are no better than our enemies.

    If you justify torture because our enemies use torture against us, if you rationalize torture because of some perception that it is justified by the brutality and fanaticism of our adversary – then try this, substitute the word rape for torture. They rape our people, we should rape theirs – still sound morally defensible?

    Torture is an abomination, a failure of leadership, a failure of courage and conviction, a failure of imagination, and the refuge of the small minded – and it matters not one wit what the enemy is planning for us. We take the high road because we are the good guys, Edward. We take the high road because that is who we are. Or who we’re supposed to be. We don’t always live up to it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

  61. Preserving the rule of Law is not “blame America first” or whatever Limbaugh-bullshit-talking-point you want to call it.

    Because, as much as you might not want to admit it, it is against our laws, and treaties that we have been signatory to — and we have *prosecuted and executed* people for waterboarding Americans.

    That’s not “blaming America first.” That’s blaming the lawless fucks who think they can violate every principle this nation holds as a core value, and get away with it.

    Or, to put in even more starkly: The NeoCons =/= America.

  62. This is just my two cents, and that’s about how much it’s worth, but I don’t see that the government has an *ethical* obligation to show the public pictures of crimes being committed. I am aware of many crimes that have been committed, and criminals tried and convicted, where the photos have never been given to the press. The ethical obligation is to make sure that the perpetrators have been brought to justice, and what to release to the press is a matter of judgment. I have heard it said that the unreleased photos are much worse than what we have already seen. Well, I guess I just don’t want to see them, don’t need to see them, and I don’t see what good it could to do expose them. Just two cents, like I said. So much benefit of the doubt being given to Obama. People should think about how they would have reacted to Bush doing the same thing, then choose somewhere in the middle. I like the middle. It’s nice here, but I’m lonely.

  63. Gareth Skarka @67:

    You’re more concerned about trying to label me neo-con than you are about seriously discussing this issue. Whether you realize it or not, you are every bit as brainwashed as those you claim to oppose.

    I haven’t listened to Rush Limbaugh for nearly 20 years, and I never really cared for his show. Nor am I a neo-con. I was against the invasion of Iraq to begin with, as well the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe.

    And by the way: your compulsive use of the f-word does *not* make you look like one of the big kids here.

  64. JS in the original post: “So in this case I think Obama’s doing the wrong thing. This is based on what I know, which is, of course, different from what he knows, and perhaps in his position, knowing what he knows I’d do what he’s doing here. But from this end, it looks like a bad call.”

    I completely agree with this…and I think it makes everything else about this discussion completely academic — by which I mean to say perhaps intellectually interesting, but for practical purposes irrelevant.

    We now have a president who I trust is making intelligent decisions for the right reasons…quite possibly, for the first time in my lifetime. I might not agree with every last one of them, and I might do things a little differently if I were in his shoes — but ultimately, having Barack Obama make these decisions is the best I could ask for.

    My speculation is that Obama discussed this issue with the joint chiefs of staff, who convinced him that revealing more photographs is a bad idea and could/would result in serious adverse consequences…and Obama, rather than trying to save face by sticking to his guns, and/or “staying the course” regardless of whether that course turns out to be stupid, did what he thought was the right thing at the time. And if Barack Obama, with all the facts available to him and with his soundness of judgment, honestly decided for non-political reasons that refusing to reveal more pictures was the right call, then that’s good enough for me.

  65. Jim Wright @ various

    I agree with you completely every step and would like to emphasize a point you made to Xopher and others.

    I’m a Persian Gulf Vet (Navy) and at no time was my service bounded by “My country right or wrong” I swore to defend the United States from all enemies foreign or domestic. To me, the real “domestic” enemy is censorship or hiding behind the curtain of “National Security”. The real reason for my service was to protect our right of free speech, like we so readily partake of at this site, whether I agree with the other opinion or not. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me and don’t flame anyone when they don’t. It’s part of the great freedoms we are blessed with in this country.

    We do not live in a country that allows someone to hide behind the lie of following orders from someone higher up. At least I hope not, which segues into my point on the topic of the thread:

    I sincerely hope that the reason for this decision is to provide the time to identify all involved, build a case against each individual and prosecute each and everyone involved from Pfc to General and every civilian advisor under every rock they are currently hiding. I don’t care if it reaches to the highest levels of Government that served during that period. I don’t want my service besmirched by the taint of atrocity. I want us to show the world that we still have a moral compass even in the face fanaticism.

    I want the pictures to eventually be released with the statement “CONVICTED” and the specifics of their crimes.
    IMHO, it’s the only way we regain our self respect and the respect of the rest of the world.

    Jeff S.

  66. General point:

    If there isn’t an absolute moral imperative against torture, even in times of war, is ANYTHING morally unacceptable? If torture stops terrorism, even if innocent people are accidentally tortured, why not just carpet bomb the Middle East? If torture is OK, is genocide?

    I genuinely thought that there was a consensus against both torture and genocide EVER being right. It appears that’s not true of torture. What about genocide?

    Any intellectually dishonest fools who may or may not be reading this thread should feel free to engage with this point if they can do so in a rational manner.

    Also, while “fuck” isn’t a sign of maturity, it also doesn’t immediately invalidate the arguments of the person using the word, as much as some people would like to think it does.

  67. Show a lib a picture of Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower.

    Then show them a picture of a hooded naked man of Middle Eastern persuasion standing with his arms out.

    Which photo upsets them more, and why? Why is it showing a picture of 9/11 is to be avoided lest it inflame the populace, but the other is allowable? Are we looking to provoke only certain emotions from the viewing public? Are we aiming to exploit outrage, but outrage of our own choosing?

    So, exactly what principles was America upholding when it gave Werner von Braun and other German rocket scientists (who knew about the forced labor used in the factories that built their wunderweapons) amnesty to work on the US space program?

    what principles was America upholding when it granted immunity to the members of Unit 731, a Japanese Biological weapons unit that did things like using live humans as flamethrower targets, purposely infecting and killing over 300000 Chinese civilians with varieties iof Bubonic Plauge, Anthrax and other biological weapons?

    Japanese soldier A waterboarded a prisoner, he gets executed.

    Japanese Scientist B helps design, build and employ a bomb that spreads Anthrax and kills a few thousand Chinese civilians, yet gets a free pass? WTF?

    All That tells me that the powers that be are going to do what they think is in its best interest at the time they are making that decision, that while saying one thing, they may very well be doing another completely contrary to what they are saying. Are those actions an attempt at doing the right thing, the necessary thing, or just an modern expression of realpolitik?

    Maybe Obama is trying to do what he thinks is the right thing at this point in time?

    Andrew

  68. Andrew:

    If you can give me a meaningful definition of a “lib” that covers everyone in this thread who’ve said they think there is an argument to release these photos, and/or says they think torture is always wrong, I’ll read past your first line.

  69. I lost a friend to the 9/11 attacks when the towers fell. It’s not a political football to toss around to score points against mythical “libs”.

    The other things I’d like to say to Andrew would not be polite to John to put in his blog, so for his sake, I’ll restrain myself. I hope no one else here lost someone on that day, but if you did, I’m sorry that this … person (still restraining myself) is using it as a political football. We all deserve better.

  70. Obama is learning there is a big difference between blahblahblah on the trail and every day getting a sobering brief about the security and well being of an entire country.
    A lot of people are going to be dissapointed in him by the end of the term because they (a lot of them are you) don’t live in reality.

  71. Churchill and Roosevelt authorized fire bombing and carpet bombing of German and Japanese cities (Tokyo was 50% leveled BEFORE the atomic bomb). Truman authorized the atomic bombing of Japanese targets. All three leaders knew that innocents (including infants and toddlers) would be killed, in their many thousands, as the result of their decisions. Despite this they acted, and did so appropriately, as they also knew that hundreds of thousands would be saved. Their decisions were not “good”, but they were good men who made the right call opting for the lesser of evils.

    For those who claim waterboarding (and I’ll toss in even more extreme tortures) are never justified, I believe you are living in a fantasy world. Waterboarding is not “good”. I’ll even concede that it is evil. But I believe circumstances exist where it is the lesser of evils.

    I don’t believe that either Obama or Bush are saint-like. I believe that both are politicians driven to acquire power. Push comes to shove, I’d take the position that Bush is a more moral man than Obama, though I would not assert that he is more intelligent, and I believe that both are walking disasters on domestic/financial issues. Regardless, I don’t think either want to harm the country and would take steps (however “pragmatic”) to avoid harm to this country (though neither is apparently capable of balancing a check book).

    Which leads to a point. In our representative democracy, we elect leaders to make decisions. Those decisions would, I hope, advance the interests of the United States. And if waterboarding (or electric shock, etc), in select cases, advance those interests, I’m for it. And if I, you or we don’t like those decisions, vote against him (or her) the next election. Maybe if the prior group of politicians made extreme “mistakes” to the point they are crimes, they’ll be prosecuted. If that is the case, I have every confidence that the Obamas of the world would have the Bushes in the dock, awaiting sentencing, if they really believed that to be the case. But don’t be shocked if allegedly polar opposite politicians (Bush contra Obama) wind up more or less on the same side of the fence (the apparent difference being their rhetoric).

  72. Let’s see…I’m guessing the R stands for Really…and the D is for…oh my.

    You really shouldn’t put yourself down that way.

  73. stevem, you’re proceeding from the assumption that torture works. It doesn’t. It’s a way of extracting confessions to real or imagined crimes that begin in the mind of the torturer. An hour with a waterboard and you’ll confess to multiple suicide bombings. And if you don’t see why that’s a problem, I hear Pope Rat is recruiting for the Spanish Inquisition again.

    Remember the guy who was waterboarded six times a day for a month? This was before the Madrid bombings, and he knew about them, but spilled not a word. If his torturers had wanted him to, he would have confessed to killing Mother Teresa, Princess Di, and George W. Bush (who is regrettably still alive), but they did not get, and could not have gotten, the information they didn’t know he had.

  74. SteveM:

    Your point only makes sense if torture gets you somewhere. As far as I know there is ZERO evidence that torture provides reliable information any faster than standard interrogation. You talk to stop the torture, not tell the truth.

    My understanding is that the most successful Nazi and British interrogators during WWII did not torture. Why does America need to so something the chief Luftwaffe interrogator deemed useless?

    If it doesn’t provide useful information that saves lives, can there every be any justification for torture?

  75. On good days I tell myself that Obama is choosing not to do things like this (and by “things like this” I mean several cases where his lawyers are behaving like Bush’s lawyers) because doing the right thing by executive fiat would leave the door open for a future President to start doing the wrong thing again.

    But the Obama Administration can’t go into court and argue in bad faith, so Obama would be compelled to order his lawyers to make odious arguments before the court and quietly hope that the courts rule against them.

    This at least would explain why a former teacher of Constitutional law would allow his administration to take such blatantly unconstitutional positions.

  76. Obama’s mistake here is one we have seen several times: he always seeks the middle ground. He always seeks to move forward emphasizing the practical over the ideological. This is his greatest strength. Its the primary reason I voted for him. Unfortunately, it is also his greatest weakness.

    Obama is under ENORMOUS pressure from all sides on how to handle the wars, the economy, and the leftover problems created by the previous administration. His natural style is to weight the reasoning of those around him. Before the election this was limited to like-minded people, so he could be unequivicle in his promise of openness and transparency. For the most part he has been successful in that.

    Unfortunately the black scourge of torture tainted the previous administration. It wasn’t just a few mistakes they made, it was POLICY. Bush-Cheney et al can nice it up and claim they were legally and morally right, but that’s just self-justifying bovine excrement. Their ignorant dismissal of over a hundred years of military doctrine and treaties guaranteed that our troops would have a much harder time prosecuting the wars and occupations than they should have. It gave aid and comfort to our enemies in time of war. It has harmed our greatest propaganda tool, our reputation, in a way that is irreparable until we OPENLY AND PUBLICLY air out all our dirty laundry, prosecute those responsible, and make it absolutely clear WE WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN.

    Any claims that we need “advanced interrogation techniques” to protect ourselves shows a willful and active ignorance of both history and psychology.

    America can’t truly move forward while we are chained to the past.

    Those photos are part of what is chaining us to our past abuses. Failure to release the pictures, particularly after court order, means that Obama doesn’t see the long term impact of failing to take a hard-line stance AGAINST lawlessness and FOR the principles our armed forces defend every day.

    The longer we wait, the harder it becomes to make right. This is certainly a “band aid ripping moment”.

    Obama offers a valid justification for his decision in wanting to protect our troops from harm. I have no doubt he believes that to be true. I just don’t think he’s taking a long enough view.

    Ultimately this and similar decisions will weaken our standing and support in the world. Support we will need to really quell international terrorism and extremism.

    Just rip the damn band-aid and lets get this over. Its not going to heal properly unless we do.

  77. Andrew @ 74 —

    “Show a lib a picture of Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower. Then show them a picture of a hooded naked man of Middle Eastern persuasion standing with his arms out. Which photo upsets them more, and why? Why is it showing a picture of 9/11 is to be avoided lest it inflame the populace, but the other is allowable?”

    Two points.

    First, as a “lib,” the reason the hooded naked man upsets me more is that MY COUNTRY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT. 9/11 was perpetuated by evil religious extremists. The torture and abuse that followed was perpetuated by US. The United States of America. I expect that behavior out of evil religious extremists. I feel very comfortable with the notion that evil religious extremists need to be eradicated from the earth, one way or another. But the United States of America is supposed to be the greatest country on the planet. And if we are going to make that boast, I expect us to live up to it. And if we don’t, that pisses me off. It pisses me off a lot more than religious extremist idiots behaving exactly as I would expect religious extremist idiots to behave. I hold America to a higher standard because I believe that America is better. If we are going to claim the moral high ground, then we need to behave in a manner that shows that we deserve it. Otherwise, we’re as bad as they are. And I refuse to be as bad as they are.

    Secondly, if you don’t think that images of 9/11 have been widely used to “inflame the populace” then you are on crack.

  78. @ Gareth, all the way back at #7. I think that’s it exactly. But, I’d add one to it. He’s a constitutional lawyer by education. I think he’s trying to add to the court case history to help along the legal process here. I think he’s, at the least, partially concerned about dorking up the process in front of the Supreme Court. The more legal verdicts we have at the higher the level against this sort of thing, the harder it will be to do it another time.

    And I think the fight between the ACLU and righter leaning folks isn’t too unhealthy either. At least we will get to have a political fight, solved by a court case at the highest level, and *still* have a product left over to show for it. My other example being the case of the missing interrogation tapes. “We lost them. I mean we burned them. Damn, got it right the first time.”

  79. You know, there is a point in favor of NOT releasing the photos that has not been raised yet.

    The victims (the prisoners at Abu Ghraib) in the photos that have already been released have had their lives ruined. They can’t marry, because they’ve been naked in a room with a woman, and in Iraq no one will allow their daughter to marry a man who is known to have been in that situation, even with guns trained on him and a dog threatening him. I heard an interview with one on the radio some months back.

    I guess you could release them with any identifiable portions (of the victims, not the perps) redacted.

  80. I’ve read a couple of articles recently where there is alleged sodomy of children in the prison by Americans…if that is true (and boy do I hope it’s not), then that would probably be a good reason to hold back the pictures, I would think.

    Because… why? If the US did it (or, as I heard the rumor, had Iraqis do it in front of parents to get them to talk), shouldn’t it be acknowledged so that it can be repudiated?

    Or is it more important to not to have to acknowledge evil done in your name than it is to seek justice and prevent it from ever happening again?

  81. Xopher@2:
    I agree with you on the ethics of the matter. The politics is a different story. If he releases the photos the wingnuts will say he doesn’t care about our troops—and he may get some real resentment from the troops themselves. That won’t help him do what he needs to do.

    I reply:
    Well, pardon my French but the wingnuts are going to void their bowels on Obama no matter what he does. And there are some friends you don’t want. It seems very dumb politics to me to play a game you’re never going to win.

    Meanwhile, those “resentful” troops might need a refresher course in basic matters like the chain of command, etc. Even the wingnuts should pause to consider what kind of country has armed soldiers who treat obeying the lawful and legitimate orders of civilian authority as an optional extra. Hint: It contains the words ‘banana’ ‘republic’ and ‘shithole’.

  82. Dear President Obama:

    In the immortal words of Amy Pohler: Grow a pair or borrow mine.

    And please don’t use the troops as human shields for your political calculations.

    Hugs and kisses…

  83. @28: I am not saying that we should not be vigilant toward our own mistakes; we should. But we need not air our dirty laundry before the world.

    In other words, we may screw up from time to time, but we mustn’t ever own up to it. That is naked moral cowardice, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    @85: [T]he reason the hooded naked man upsets me more is that MY COUNTRY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT.

    Beautiful.

  84. In other words, we may screw up from time to time, but we mustn’t ever own up to it. That is naked moral cowardice, and you should be ashamed of yourself..

    It’s also rank hypocrisy. Nuremberg ring any bells? The International Military Tribunal for the Far East, where (incidentally) waterboarding American POWs was considered torture? They should, because exhaustive — and sometimes disturbingly graphic — records are easily to hand.

  85. Nice to see that the issue of publishing the proof of evil acts, followed by the charging and prosecuting war criminals and torturers, using evidence of such crimes currently in the hands of the government responsible for prosecuting the evildoers, can even be considered an ‘ethical puzzler’ for Americans.

    America is a torture nation, which is change we don’t have to believe in, simply accept.

    And you left off the most ludicrous aspect of Obama’s puzzler – how prosecutions for torturing and committing war crimes now would make such prosecutions harder in the future. Such a puzzler – let’s not prosecute now, so we can prosecute an undetermined someone else in an undetermined future.

    However, it isn’t merely Obama washing his hands so delicately of the blood splattered on walls for years in secret prisons spanning the globe, it is anyone accepting the idea that nothing less than prosecution of those who have committed torture and war crimes is an acceptable alternative.

    There is no ‘ethical puzzle’ here – it is just further proof of what America has become, a shining city on the hill, with state of the art torture chambers open 24 hours a day. And if anyone is naive enough to think that the president who has publicly proclaimed torture no longer American policy is actually telling the truth, just wait. Torture is a disease, one that poisons the torturers as surely as it destroys the tortured. The only cure is the excruciating realization that yes, it did happen here, in our name – and the only hope for prevention is punishing those involved, at all levels, including such passive participants such as Pelosi.

    The only thing that comforts me is realizing that the odds of ever meeting any of these fellow citizen torturers in Germany is essentially nil, meaning that I don’t have to save any spit to waste on them.

  86. A President, as with any leader, needs to be able to change their mind. Especially from what they said during a campaign. Contenders are not responsible for the country; there is a big difference between criticizing your opponent out of ignorance (and a desire to win) and actually governing. In my opinion the President was correct in his final decision (if it is final) and was wrong in his initial position.

    But why is this decision the tipping point? I mean the President has not ended the NSA surveillance program that this forum so ardently opposed as an example of Bush “shredding” the Constitution. Not only does it continue, but Obama has defended it in court.

    Guantanamo may (or may not) be closing, but the President is using Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan for the very same purpose; and defending doing so.

    He has reserved the use of Renditions and while denouncing enhanced interrogation techniques publicly, is actions have left the door open for his Administration to use them.

    So why is this relatively minor action so egrgious when none of the other instances of Obama agreeing with Bush have found their way to this forum?

    Just wondering.

  87. A President has the right to change his (or Her) mind on these kinds of issues. I think Obama is finding out that it is harder to govern than to campain. Their are so many other issues that a President has to consider than a canadate does when he is prostituting himself for the votes of the radical fringe of the left wing of the Democractic Party. As Commander-in-Cheif of our armed forces, the President needs to do all he can to protect our troops in the field. To those radical left wingers who support B. O. I have one question for you: How do you like him now?

  88. Edward@64: the fact that the Left often obsessively finds fault with the actions of the U.S. government, while taking a lenient view toward our enemies.

    Your “facts” are nothing more than manufactured horse-puckey.

    In fighting what everyone agrees is a new kind of war

    Torture has been around for millenia. The Geneva Convention and treaties against torture are a century old. waterboarding has been around forever. This is not “new” in any sense of the word.

    the military is going to make mistakes.

    First of all, you need to separate “some” and “all”. No one here is trying to condemn “the military”. People are saying that some people in the military and government and contractors are the problem. Do not take criticism of individuals in the military and try to portray it as if it is an attack on the whole military.

    Second of all, these individuals didn’t make “mistakes”, they broke the law. A mistake during war would be friendly fire or accidents that kill civilians during war. Waterboarding has been considered illegal for a century. America convicted Japanese WW2 soldiers of war crimes for waterboarding prisoners.

    I can understand mistakes during wartime. But even war has laws and breaking those laws is a war crime.

    We should correct these mistakes without flagellating ourselves publicly each time, which will only heighten anti-American propaganda in places where al-Jazeera is the only news source.

    Your vocabulary choice is so loaded that it’s disgusting.

    Of a thousand or so detainees held for years without due process, the vast majority have been release without charges after years of torture. The pentagon says of the remaining detainees in Guantanamo, about 62 are probably going to be charged with actual crimes. About 100 detainees have died while in US custody. About 30 of them, so far, have been declared homocides, killed at the hands of US personnel. Nearly all detainees report suffering some kind of treatment that would qualify as torture. Most of this torture occurred over the course of years.

    You call that a “mistake”.

    To demand that the law be upheld, to demand that the people who committed these gross violations of law be put through the very justice system and due process that they denied thousands of detainees, you call that “flaggelating”. you compare due process with flogging someone with a whip.

    The people who tortured, they’re the ones who whipped and beat and sodomized and drowned and asphyxiated and froze and deprived real live human beings.

    We’re demanding that these bastards be taken before a court of law, and if due process finds them guilty we demand they be sentenced according to the law. Life in prison if I had my say.

    You call torture a “mistake” and you call justice a “flaggelation”.

    Do not, for a second, think that you’re the neutral observer here who is only interested in doing what is best, what is right. You’ve put so much political spin on the issue that it’s disgusting.

    Torture that included the deaths of a hundred detainees was nothing more than a “mistake”. Calling for a return to the rule of law, calling for law breakers to be brought before the justice system and due process, you call “flaggelation”.

    You may not have listened to Rush Limbaugh in 20 years, but if you think you’re the neutral observer in this issue, you’re only fooling yourself.

  89. One relevant point.

    You can always declassify these pictures at a later date.

    It is impossible to reclassify them.

    This doesn’t have to be a permanent decision on Obama’s part, it could just be a delaying action to think things through further.

  90. Andrew@74: Show a lib a picture of Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower. Then show them a picture of a hooded naked man of Middle Eastern persuasion standing with his arms out. Which photo upsets them more, and why?

    What does 9/11 have to do with Americans torturing Iraqis at abu graib? Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. All you’ve done is invoked the standard war-hawk-neocon approach: stroke people’s anger then direct it at the desired target. Show them pictures of the twin tower ruins, then demand to invade Iraq.

    Yeah, that’s worked real good.

    All you’ve done is reinforce the idea that violence is a catharsis to anger. If you’re angry, find someone, anyone really, and beat them up. If a nation is angry, invade a country, any country, even if that country wasn’t the source or cause of anger.

    Which is why it’s so important to judge people’s moral correctness based on how angry they get when they see 9/11 photos or torture photos.

    Those of us who are pushing for rule of law, due process, and criminal prosecution of the indivudals who tortured people, well, you see us as taking away your cathartic experience. Someone invaded Iraq because you were mad about 9/11, and those who opposed the Iraq war, well, we’re trying to steal away that cathartic action that would make you feel so much better. Those of us who want the torturers brought up on charges, we’re taking away the cathartic experience from you.

    You were vicariously committing violence through these actors. They were committing violence and it made people like you feel better about their anger. Punishing these people for breaking the law would take away some of your cathartic experience.

    And you wouldn’t want that, would you?

    So you create a measuring stick that determines who is the proper thinking american by asking who gets upset more.

    Stoke the anger. Evoke a response. We’ve tried that for the last 8 years. This is the quagmire that it’s gotten us.

  91. I think it’s absolutely the right decision, and kudos to him for making it.

    I know Obama favors transparency, and it’s a good thing. But perhaps Obama is following Abraham Lincoln, who said “Important principles may and must be flexible.”

  92. Yes, a president needs to be able to change his mind where circumstances change, but he should not do so if the effect is to shield those who have committed warcrimes or other atrocities, no matter whether or not those actions yielded useful results.

    Yes, as Commander in Chief he has an obligation to protect the troops in the field BUT not at any cost. In any event, it is difficult to see how not disclosing these pictures is protective of the armed forces. I can see that an argument could be made that if there was no evidence at all of wrong doing or ill treatment of prisoners, then suddenly revealing it could have repercussions, but that is not the situation here. We (and any extremeist Iman) already know that there was mistreatment amounting to torture, carried out by Americans. We already know that there is furtehr photographic evidence. If the pictures and otehr evidence is concealed then people (including those wishing to incite terrorist attacks or attacks of soldiers in the field) will fill in the gaps with their own imagination, and, for those whose interest is in anti-US propaganda, the liklihood is that their imagination will be at least as bad as, if not worse than the reality.

    If the reason for non-disclosure is so as not to prejudice ongoing enquiries which will lead to prosecution of those responsible, that is a valid reason for not disclosing the pictures, but that does not appear to be the case here, and if that were the cae, there would be no reason not to say so.

  93. ‘But perhaps Obama is following Abraham Lincoln, who said “Important principles may and must be flexible.”’

    Are you volunteering for the same treatment that at least one of your fellow Americans has been subjected to? As if torturers would care about your volunteering in the least, as they have no principles apart from those that permit them to torture others.

    ‘It is impossible to reclassify them.’
    Those pictures are further evidence of criminal acts. Of course, classification has become a standard tactic in ensuring that criminals and their actions remain unpunished. The only thing that requires classification is the responsibility of those that gave the orders compared to individuals who ‘innovated’ on their own.

    Even worse, once you see such pictures, it will no longer be possible to deny what has been done by your nation, and to realize that its depravity goes far deeper than most Americans are willing to accept. The world already knows, after all – much like ‘secret bombings,’ the secret is not from the people at the receiving end, but from those with the power to prosecute and punish those who have broken the law and their oaths.

  94. Greg @99
    Does the TRUTH hurt? I call it like I see it. You guys like to dish it out but can’t take it. You stuff it already.

  95. Charles K. Bradley:

    Let’s really NOT get into a discussion of “who can dish it out but not take it.” Honestly. You’re not twelve.

    Also, everyone: deep breaths.

  96. Clearly a double standard in play. In the past if it was suggested that the first set of photos would be blocked by the prez it would have been a crisis. Now, it is barely news. I say release the pictures.

  97. “We should never have secret trials in America.”

    Yet we do that all the time in court rooms across america. Pictures of victims are routinely protected from public access.

    “This doesn’t have to be a permanent decision on Obama’s part, it could just be a delaying action to think things through further.”

    Or a timing issue. Perhaps it’s better to release them after we have fewer troups in Iraq or after the President gives his “Muslim speech”.

  98. Charles: Does the TRUTH hurt?

    No. That’s why I say we need to publish these photos and stop burying the truth.

    but you’re like Col. Jessup, spouting off at the mouth your version of the “truth” about how some people like you can take it, and the rest of us can’t handle the truth of these photos, so bury it.

    You’re the one who can’t handle the truth.

  99. Greg @ 98 – What does 9/11 have to do with Americans torturing Iraqis at abu graib?

    Revenge against anyone who even looks similar. It’s a deep part of why conservatives like the idea of torture so much – the same impulses that Saddam Hussein had to torture his enemies are begin given voice in the American conservative movement.

  100. @102 not_scottbot: I don’t understand how you get from me saying that exigent circumstances (i.e. providing propaganda fodder for a media-savvy enemy that will lead to frustration of our foreign policy objectives and potentially to preventable deaths of American soldiers) justifies Obama not releasing the photos to you saying I should be tortured.

    Not every bad thing is a crime, and not every crime can or should be brought to trial. The standard is not perfect conduct, the standard is the best available, or sometimes the least bad, alternative. TANSTAAFL.

  101. MT – Not every bad thing is a crime, and not every crime can or should be brought to trial.

    That’s what they said when Nixon got pardoned.

  102. MT: The standard is not perfect conduct, the standard is the best available, or sometimes the least bad, alternative.

    The standard is the law.

    We have standard weights and measures by which we compare all others. The law is our moral standard by which we compare all others. It is supposed to be a universal standard. It is supposed to apply to everyone equally. That is what people wanting investigations and criminal prosecutions are asking for: that the law be applied to everyone equally.

    What we have is not a standard by any means. The morality of various actors is being determined by what team they play for, not what they did. If a youtube video of a Saudi Prince is published showing him torturing someone, people are outraged by that behaviour. When individuals do the same or worse behaviour, but they happen to be American citizens, the neocons invoke some war handwavium that does nothing but say “this is different, because we did it”.

    That isn’t a standard. What you’re talking about isn’t a standard by any standard definition. What you’re talking about is exceptionalism, some tribalism, and a bunch of people in power protecting their self interests.

    By all means, lets return to a standard of judging the actions of indiivduals. It’s called the law.

  103. Greg @ 107
    I can handle the truth. We are at war with people who want to kill us all given half a chance and destroy our way of life. I do not understand you guys. We can’t play nice with these terrorist. Sometimes we have to get our hands dirty and do things we are not proud of. For once, I agree with Obama. I am tired off the radical left saying that Bush can do no right and Obama can do no wrong. It’s agood thing you guys were not around when Truman dropped the bomb on Japan to end World War II. I rather that happened that sending our troops to invade the home islands of Japan. I wounder how many American lives that would have cost. If these actions we took aganist the terrorist saved one American life then I’m all for them. It’s time for you guys to learn that we live in a not so nice world where people want to kill us. I just hope we do not have another 9/11 under Obama’s watch.

  104. Charles @112: Are you seriously saying that Al Qaeda and other dirt-grubbing, medievalist fundie movements are so scary, so unable to be handled via normal methods, that we have to break our own laws and violate our own principles to defeat them?

    They’re nothing more than run-of-the-mill criminals who got lucky.

    We defeated the Nazis. We stood down the Soviet threat. All without violating our basic decency. Yet a bunch of cave-dwelling religious nuts have you pissing in your pants so much, the rules go out the window?

    The goal of terrorism is to terrorize. You and the other conservatives sound pretty scared to me. Looks like they won.

  105. I find it depressing that the position that torture is evil and useless as an interrogation method, and that those who approve, condone, or perpetrate torture should be held responsible, is now considered radical.

    Withholding the pictures for a finite and specific amount of time, to keep soldiers in the field safe and to prevent a trial by media, is acceptable – if and only if those whose crimes are depicted therein are swiftly brought to a fair trial.

  106. Chuck @ 112 We are at war with people who want to kill us all given half a chance and destroy our way of life. I do not understand you guys. We can’t play nice with these terrorist. Sometimes we have to get our hands dirty and do things we are not proud of.

    Oh please. Can we drop this bit of mindless rhetoric? In any conflict, our enemies wish to do us harm. That’s war, by definition. The jihadists aren’t any different than any other enemy – and in fact compared to most of the adversaries we’ve faced in the last two and a half centuries they are small potatoes, nothing but a bunch of jumped-up pissant sheepherders.

    If these actions we took against the terrorist saved one American life then I’m all for them.

    You know, I’ve heard this same idiot rationalization over and over since I returned from Iraq. Is the converse true, Chuck? If those actions we took against the terrorists cost one, ten, a hundred, or a thousand American lives would you be against it? Because that’s actually how it is, Chuck.

    When we became torturers we became no better in the eyes of our enemies than Saddam himself – places like Gitmo and Abu Garrib became rallying points for the enemy. When we became torturers we drove hundreds, thousands, of Iraqis, Saudis, Afghans, and even Kurds into the open arms of the enemy. We helped fill their ranks. We made recruiting easy for the terrorists. We provided the motive for the suicide bombers. Those people that helped us pull down the statue of Saddam, and that cheered and cried and sang God Bless America, turned to the enemy when we became torturers.

    When we became torturers we lost the support of the world. When our traditional allies pulled out and left Iraq, Americans had to fill in the gaps. More and more of us had to walk patrol, stand watch on station, board and inspect, kick in doors. Many died because of it, and are in fact still dying.

    When we became torturers, we lost the support of new and tenuous allies that could have made a major difference – look to what’s happening in Pakistan right now, Chuck.

    When we became tortures we lost the support of a significant fraction of the American population. As a result we lost support in our own leaders. We became divided and more ineffective. That led, directly, to confusion in the chain of command, disrupted supply, failure to properly equip and train, decreased morale – those things led directly to the deaths of hundreds of Americans, both military and civilian in the war zone – and many more at home, when troops returning from the meat grinder find what is waiting for some of them.

    So, I’m curious, Chuck, was the one American life saved by torture fucking worth it?

  107. ‘We can’t play nice with these terrorist.’

    We don’t – though it is pretty hard to ask what is left after another missile strike from one of our aircraft.

    ‘If these actions we took aganist the terrorist saved one American life then I’m all for them.’

    Placing you outside the tradition that our first president, a man who commanded soldiers against an empire that did not hesitate to use brutal methods, tried to establish.

    Torture is evil – and torturers deserve the same fate as any criminal – charged and tried, and when found guilty, punished. And please note, Pelosi and others like her, of both parties, are as deserving a fair trial for their involvement in such shameful actions.

    Why do you want to play nice with torturers? In the past, Americans knew what to do with torturers, not excluding executing them for their crimes.

  108. Gareth Skarka @113

    …so unable to be handled via normal methods, that we have to break our own laws

    It has not been shown that the enhanced interrogation techniques used were illegal. Nothing was done that has not been done to soldiers who have gone through SERE. I’m pretty sure that we are not allowed to break the law during SERE. Or are you arguing that SERE instructors should be prosecuted?

    There was a legal opinion, which laid out guidelines, that was used to authorize the EITs. Whether or not these opinions would be upheld is an open question. And since it is an open question, to say the methods used were illegal is hyperbole.

    This is not to say they shouldn’t have been used, but that is a different question.

    We defeated the Nazis. We stood down the Soviet threat. All without violating our basic decency.

    Define “basic decency” more precisely. Because you may be very surprised at some of the things that were sanctioned by FDR during WWII. But I need a precise definition before I would choose which instances to present.

    sptrashcan @114

    Withholding the pictures for a finite and specific amount of time, to keep soldiers in the field safe and to prevent a trial by media, is acceptable – if and only if those whose crimes are depicted therein are swiftly brought to a fair trial.

    Presumably the President has seen these pictures and he could proceed with prosecutions if he deemed such prosecutions warranted. The pictures do not have to be released for this to occur.

    Just sayin’

  109. ‘…justifies Obama not releasing the photos to you saying I should be tortured.’

    An American citizen was tortured, without even the pretense of due process, on the whim of the executive. I have no doubt there are numerous records of what was done to this American citizen – when should they be released? Maybe at the trial of the men that decided to break their oath to uphold the Constitution?

    Until that trial occurs, you, and all other American citizens, are potential volunteers to be tortured.

    Those pictures are proof of committed crimes – and our nation of laws is being cast aside for reasons that appear based on fear and self-serving delusion. And until the laws are enforced, none of us are safe from the hands of those that consider torture a tool which government can use whenever the executive determines it necessary.

  110. @110 Josh Jasper: And Ford made the right call there. What more would a trial of Nixon accomplished?

    @111 Greg: If you’re looking for law to be applied equally between sovereign governments and citizens, prepare for brutal disappointment. The very reason we have governments is so that they can do things that no man or group of men acting on their own should ever be able to do – deprive a few human beings of property, liberty, and life so that the majority can continue to enjoy theirs. Thankfully, we have a Constitution that requires to government to follow due process when it acts against we the citizens. But outside our borders, the world is, for all intents and purposes, anarchy. The only law out there is the law that nations are willing to enforce by violence. It’s not about whose “team” anyone is on, it’s about who’s allowed to be on the field, and who’s supposed to stay in the stands and watch. (And part of the problem is that the people we’re fighting don’t respect the distinction between players and fans, nor do they wear uniforms, nor do they follow any of the rules of the game that nations established to keep war on this side of sanity.)

    Not saying your vision isn’t the way the world should be. But Presidents have to deal with the way the world is, not the way they wish the world was.

    @ 113 Gareth: The 19 9/11 hijackers killed 2,974 people, an average of roughly 157 people per hijacker. By comparison, killing 2,402 people at Pearl Harbor took 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft, six aircraft carriers, and an entire support fleet with easily 50,000 sailors. Whatever Al-Qaeda is, they’re not “run-of-the-mill criminals.” This is a different order of magnitude. And unlike the Imperial Japanese sailors, they aren’t a military, either – they serve no government, are based in no territory, wear no uniforms, and have no chain of command. That’s what makes them such a hard problem.

  111. Nothing was done that has not been done to soldiers who have gone through SERE

    Wrong.

    First and most major difference: SERE is voluntary, need I point out that not one of the detainees at Gitmo or Abu Garrib or those secret CIA prisons volunteered for “enhanced” interrogation or rendition?

    Air crew and spec ops forces who go through SERE can tap out at any time, there are safety observers, and there are strict protocols to ensure safety and limits. SERE is training designed to provide the student with certain skills and is administered as such. Enhanced interrogation is something completely different and for different intentions.

    SERE students are put through limited applications, for limited time – and it’s still excruciating, exhausting, and mind numbing – trust me here.

    Detainees are put through this at a much higher level, for weeks or months or years in some cases – with no expectation of relief. Some were waterboarded dozens of times, maybe more than a hundred according to recent reports. Do that to an aircrew candidate as a SERE instructor and you will be spending a significant fraction of your next decade in Leavenworth.

    Big difference, Frank.

  112. Charles@112: I can handle the truth. We are at war with people who want to kill us all given half a chance and destroy our way of life.

    Pretty much anyone who isn’t fear-mongering reality thinks the best way to deal with terrorists is good intelligence and police work. But keep talking about the four horsemen of the apocolypse. It makes good headlines.

    I do not understand you guys.

    because you aren’t dealing with reality.

    We can’t play nice with these terrorist.

    False dichotomy, and a stupid one at that. Either we torture, sodomize, suffocate, drown, rape, brutalize, anyone whom we remotely think is a terrrrrrist, or we’re a bunch of limp-wristed namby-pambies. puh-lease.

    Sometimes we have to get our hands dirty

    We don’t have to torture because not once has torture been shown to save lives. It is purely a cathartic experience for the enraged who can’t deal with their emotions.

    Sometimes Hulk smash. Doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.

    and do things we are not proud of.

    “do things that are illegal”.

    Stop with the namby-pamby crap and call it what it is.

    For once, I agree with Obama.

    Obama has been wrong every single other time except now? Good to know just how insane of a person I’m talking to.

    I am tired off the radical left

    I’m tired of the neocon warmongering nutjobs who have a single response to every problem (kill it, bomb it, or fuck it) calling anyone who suggests that anal raping a prisoner might not be the best course of action is a “radical left”.

    The reason nutjobs like you do this is so you don’t feel so god-awful alone.

    Did you know Governor Jesse Ventura, a former seal, came out against torture and said we should investigate and prosecute everyone behind it?

    What armchair warriors like you tend to do in reaction to this is call him a traitor.

    saying that Bush can do no right and Obama can do no wrong.

    See. This is why you don’t understand. Because you’re making shit up. No one here is saying that. In fact, they’re saying the exact fucking opposite. They’re saying Bush was wrong for approving torture and covering it up. And they’re saying Obama is wrong for covering it up. So they’re saying that ANY president is wrong for covering up torture.

    It’s agood thing you guys were not around when Truman dropped the bomb on Japan to end World War II. I rather that happened that sending our troops to invade the home islands of Japan. I wounder how many American lives that would have cost.

    See. THere you go talking about non-reality. Of a thousand people who were tortured for years, about three-forths were released because we realized they were completely innocent. After torturing them FOR YEARS. That’s how effective torture is. It takes YEARS to realize that we’re torturing the wrong people.

    about 100 died at the hands of US personnel. About 30 of those deaths have been ruled a homicide by military courts or military investigators.

    And there has been ZERO intel produced by torturing a thousand people for half a decade. ZERO.

    That’s nothing like using the atom bomb during WW2.

    Of course, Japan was Evil, and America as Pure and Good, during that war, so it’s convenient that you invoke something totally unrelated and pointless because it casts the US as perfect and infallible.

    If these actions we took aganist the terrorist saved one American life then I’m all for them.

    First of all, they didn’t. No useful intel has been recovered from torture.

    Second of all, intel from torture has repeatedly been shown to be false. As it turns out, torturing an al queda operative uncovered the “truth” that Iraq had given training to Al Queda before 9/11. This “truth” was used repeatedly as justification for why we needed to go to war with Iraq.

    Which means (1) torture hasn’t saved anyone and (2) torture actually helped get us into a war that we shouldn’t have gotten into.

    Tortured intel killed americans.

    It’s time for you guys to learn that we live in a not so nice world where people want to kill us.

    It’s time for you to learn that you’re not living in reality.

    I just hope we do not have another 9/11 under Obama’s watch.

    Do you know what triggered the Iranian Revolution in 1979?

    The Shah, put in power by the US in 1953, had secret police round up political opponents over the 25 years he was in power, put them in “black hole” prisons, torture them, and kill them.

    If you keep torturing and murdering thousands of people, the vast majority of them innocent, in some misguided attempt to calm your incessant fears of another 9/11, you’ll end up creating a massive international backlash that will be even worse.

    creating terrrorist faster than you can kill them is not a strategy. It’s a fear-based panic reaction.

    Torture isn’t helping in any real way. It only helps in your fantasy world where tough men “get their hands dirty” and yet they always come out smelling clean.

    Now, I realize that you’re so far deep into this fantasy, that you probably can’t even grasp that you’re in the Matrix. I can show you the door. But you have to open it.

  113. During this discussion we need to remember there are two kinds of power: soft power (reputation) and hard power (tanks). The people arguing for torture have no concept of soft power. If they did they would realize how much more danger we are in for condoning torture.

    Let’s look further than the obvious recruiting tool we provided by performing acts of torture. Here is some of the fallout from using torture:

    – Allies who trusted us implicitly (Europe) are now somewhat leary of us. No, I don’t want to hear the, “We can stand alone!”, arguement…because no one can. If you need any further proof just look at the Soviet Union.

    – Countries, especially third world countries, with large amounts of scarce resources, which get more scarce everyday, now get little to no benefit for picking us or our companies as key trading partners over other first world countries. Why pick us with all of our bagage when they can pick China or India?

    – Does anyone remember the story, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf?” We are the boy after Iraq.

    – Any time we demand justice be done concerning some dictator the rest of the world is just going to have one thought….hypocrite.

    – What islamic country will trust us now to arbitrate a Middle East peace deal? Sure it was almost impossible before, but now the one country that supposedly was the good guy, isn’t.

    All of this has given China, and too a lesser extent India, an open invitation to undermine our influence around the world.

    I didn’t speak directly to the torture argument as Mr. Wright has put forth a very well thought and compeling argument refuting every single point brought up by the pro-torture side. Thank you Mr. Wright.

  114. frank: Or are you arguing that SERE instructors should be prosecuted?

    SERE isn’t illegal because it’s voluntary training. At any time during ops training you can ring the bell and opt out. Can’t cut it in SEAL training? Ring the bell and they send you back to your previous assignment. Can’t take waterboarding? Ring the bell and they let you go.

  115. ‘Enhanced interrogation’ – no, the English term is torture. The translated Gestapo term is ‘enhanced interrogation.’

    I am still waiting for the American English translation of ‘Schreibtischtäter,’ a word which applies to those who never got their own hands bloody, from Bush down, and including such names as Rockefeller.

  116. MT@119: If you’re looking for law to be applied equally between sovereign governments and citizens, prepare for brutal disappointment. The very reason we have governments is so that they can do things that no man or group of men acting on their own should ever be able to do

    this is a red herring. Government is still bound by law. The president can’t run for three terms because the law prohibits it. You wanna argue that Obama can stay in for three terms just because “we have governments so they can do things no man can do”?

    I understand the difference between the police getting a warrant and searching my house, versus, my next door neighbor jimmying my door and searching my house.

    I also understand that when the police FAIL to get a warrant, then they should be held accountable. The evidence should be thrown out. When the cops torture a confession out of someone, that confession should be inadmissable in court.

    Again and again, what so many apologists FAIL to grasp is the difference between the “government as a whole” and “individuals acting within the government”.

    The government as a whole can do things that I as a civilian cannot.

    Individuals acting within the government are bound by laws and human rights.

    If you do not want to deal with that distinction, then prepare for brutal disappointment.

  117. Xopher at 80 and Eddie at 81: You are correct in that I am assuming that waterboarding (I’ll use your term torture for now own) works. My opinion is not an expert one. I’ve neither tortured anyone nor have I ever been tortured. My belief that torture works is based on four points of reference:

    1. People have fought and opposed one another from the beginning of time. And it is usually true that when one side believes the risk of death or bodily harm is imminient, that one or the other gives up. So violence and the threat of violence has some coercive value in compelling others to our will.

    2. While in basic training, our drill instructors informed us that if taken prisoner we should try to stick with our name, rank and number (which was our social security number when I joined up), but if threatened with torture, that we should spill the beans on everything we knew. Two reasons were given. One, as young Marines we would know absolutely nothing of real value. Two, it was only a matter of time before we’d crack anyway. So save some pain, maiming and potential death and sing like a bird. And I presume that the men tasked with training us had some basis for offering their advice on the subject. They certainly knew what they were about concerning the balance of the training.

    3. There have been considerable news reports that people have cracked under torture and provided valuable information, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Since I don’t have classified documents at my disposable, I’ll go with the papers (which I acknowledge are frequently inaccurate).

    4. As much as I think Bush and Co. were not the best we’ve produced, I don’t think they are the types to sit down with some beer and popcorn to watch torture tapes for some jollies. I suspect they, and Obama, don’t particularly care for it but they believe it a valuable tool. Since they have access to information I do not, I’ll differ to their opinion.

    I have no doubt that torture or the threat of torture is erratic. I believe that it would not deter some people. I suspect, for example, that the type of guy who would strap on a suicide vest is not the type who would give up anything. But the leaders of terrorists are not the type who strap on suicide vests. They’re the cowards who talk the mentally ill and disabled into wearing the vest. They’re the cowards who kidnap children and make their parents carry the explosives, to avoid their children being killed. They’re the cowards who strap vests on children. They’re the cowards who get others to die or risk death for the cause and avoid the front lines if at all possible. The Khalid Sheikh Mohammeds of the world want to live (and live well). They’ll crack to save their hides, in my opinion.

  118. Define “basic decency” more precisely. Because you may be very surprised at some of the things that were sanctioned by FDR during WWII. But I need a precise definition before I would choose which instances to present.

    Quit being coy, Frank. You’ve trotted this sort of thing out before when this topic has come up, but to the best of my knowledge, you’ve never actually delivered the goods.

    And to reinforce Jim Wright (not that he needs it) your reasoning on SERE and torture is pretty crummy. People have sex together all the time, and even appear to like it, but try any of those things with someone who doesn’t wanna, and all of a sudden you’re looking at a rape charge. I doubt you’re obtuse enough to think otherwise, so what’s so hard about distinguishing between SERE and torture?

  119. stevem, what useful intel did KSM provide under torture? Isn’t he the one who was waterboarded hundreds of times and never spilled a word about the upcoming Madrid bombings, even though he certainly knew they were planned? Or do I have him mixed up with someone?

    And Frank, tell you what: I volunteer to let you hit me with a whip once, as my training in “how it feels to be whipped.” Then I’ll lock you in a cage and whip you every day, as many strokes as I want. And you’ll never know if the whipping is ever going to end, or if you’re ever going to get out of the cage.

    According to your “logic” what I’ve done to you is no worse than what you did to me.

  120. stevem, you know what? I’m fine with Democrats being punished for involvement in torture. If they’re complicit, let ‘em go to prison.

    But a lot more GOP are going to prison if justice is done.

  121. You know, it’s funny how the right doesn’t really believe in justice. They believe in vengeance, and have never really grokked the fact that it’s not just what’s done to YOU that’s bad, it’s the whole godsdamned blood feud. This lack is so complete that they think we’ll be distracted or silenced by them saying “guys on your team did it too.”

    Well, if they did, they’re not MY team, and they should be punished. Because that’s justice. They keep trying to make this a vendetta against the Bushistas, which it only seems like because they’re most of the ones who did it. I want everyone who participated in or approved torture to be punished, and I don’t care what letter is after their name.

  122. When terrorists attack us, their goal is not military victory. It is a simple fact that they lack the means to defeat and rule the United States – even if they were to obtain weapons of mass destruction (a legitimately frightening scenario best combatted through police work, intelligence gathering, and diplomacy). Their goal is to provoke our fear and anger, and in our fear and anger to do ourselves worse harm than they could ever directly inflict.

    Terrorist attacks are horrific crimes. But to allow fear of such crimes to dictate the way we conduct ourselves is precisely, exactly, entirely the goal of terrorists and terrorism. Al Quaeda’s victory is not to be found in the ruins of the twin towers, but in the torture cells of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and the other unnamed prisons where we debased ourselves in our fear and anger, and in the halls of power where, in our fear and anger, we quietly approved our debasement.

    Those who may call me a coward for refusing to do what they think must be done, I will call cowards for allowing their fear to cause them to abandon their principles. Is that not the precise definition of cowardice – giving in to one’s fears, preferring dishonor to death? And what is worse, their cowardice drives them into acts that assuage their anger but only makes their danger greater, and their fear as well. It is a death spiral.

    I don’t think it matters if I ever see these pictures. It is inconsequential. What matters is that every criminal in those pictures, and every criminal who approved, condoned, and sanctioned the criminals in those pictures, is brought to trial, just as every criminal who raises their hand in violence against us deserves a death on the battlefield or a trial if imprisoned. That is worth more to me than my life. It is a principle Americans have stood for and died for. And when we abandon it, the terrorists win, because that is the only victory they can attain.

  123. steve, not only does torture not work, it actually harms us. If you remember after 9/11, Bush and co were sayingn that Iraq had given Al Queda training. That information came out of torturing an al queda suspect. it was all false. Told to stop the torture. That intel was repeated as gospel as we ramped up to invade Iraq.

    Bad intel from torture is part of why we ended up in Iraq, which killed far more americans than 9/11 did, and maimed tens of thousands of american troops.

    Actionable intel is like a needle in a haystack.

    Torturing people is a hay-producing maneuvar. Not needles. Hay.

    And I’m all for criminal investigations of anyone who supported torture, republican or democrat. If Obama doesn’t do what’s right around torture, I’d be for prosecuting him. In the 80’s, Ronald Reagan signed an anti-torture treaty and the treaty requires investigation of torture, and if torture is not investigated, that itself is also a crime.

  124. Xopher at 129 and 130: No Republican or Democrat politician is going to be prosecuted for torture. Each side has too much too lose once that ball gets rolling.

    There are three arguments that I’ve been able to glean against torture on this board. They are that torture is illegal, immoral or ineffective.

    While it may be illegal in most cases, it is not illegal in all cases, a position adopted by the Bush administration and now, apparently, Obama’s.

    As to the morality, I agree its immoral. But I also believe it could be the lesser of evils. My post 78 lays out my rationale on this position.

    As to ineffective, maybe. See my post 126 for a more detailed review of my position. Added to this, and in relation to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others, per Wikipedia, President Bush specifically stated in a September 29, 2006, speech, that “Once captured, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were taken into custody of the Central Intelligence Agency. The questioning of these and other suspected terrorists provided information that helped us protect the American people. They helped us break up a cell of Southeast Asian terrorist operatives that had been groomed for attacks inside the United States. They helped us disrupt an al Qaeda operation to develop anthrax for terrorist attacks. They helped us stop a planned strike on a U.S. Marine camp in Djibouti, and to prevent a planned attack on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, and to foil a plot to hijack passenger planes and to fly them into Heathrow Airport and London’s Canary Wharf.”

  125. So, I have my own “ethical puzzler”, one which seems to be the basic division in this thread.

    Can committing Evil bring us closer to a world of Good?

    The torture apologists are all invoking various “ends justify the means” arguments. If it saves lives, do it. If it works, do it. “You can’t handle the truth” of Col. Jessep. And the argument of various other vigilantes in fiction.

    But the facts seem to say that torture doesn’t save lives, but rather makes things worse. The facts seem to say that torture doesn’t work.

    And in this particular situation I’m fairly certain that committing Evil can only create Evil.

    We tortured hundreds of innocent poeple for years. about a hundred people died in custody. at least 30 were ruled homicides at the hands of Americans. No actionable intel has come out of torture. And normal interrogation techniques had worked prior to Bush’s authorization of torture.

    Evil acts can only create an evil world.

  126. In 2004, the CIA’s Inspector General John Helgerson found that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped thwart any specific imminent attacks.

    President Bush told a September 2006 news conference that one plot, to attack a Los Angeles office tower, was “derailed” in early 2002 — before the harsh CIA interrogation measures were approved, contrary to those who claim that waterboarding revealed it.

    http://www.warhw.com/2009/04/27/cia-inspector-general-torture-didnt-help/

    Ali Soufan was an FBI interrogator at Quantanamo and reports some interesting facts.

    “The first [torture memo], dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working.”

    But Ali Soufan had been interrogating Abu Zubaydah from March to June 2002.

    “Under traditional interrogation methods, [Abu Zubaydah] provided us with important actionable intelligence.”

    http://www.warhw.com/2009/04/23/fbi-interrogator-at-quantanamo-torture-didnt-work/

    immediately after 9/11, the US tortured Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who then gave us the “intelligence” that al Quaeda had sent operatives to Iraq to acquire chemcial and biological weapons and training, that this “intelligence” was the entire basis for how Bush justified linking Iraq to 9/11, and that this entire linkage was not only a LIE, but it was a lie that Bush and Cheney eagerly believed so they could launch an invasion of Iraq

    http://www.warhw.com/2009/04/21/waterboard-confessions/

  127. Reminder to folks:

    Try whenever possible to put all your responses in a single post, rather than in sequential posts. Multiple sequential posts from the same author twitters my OCD.

  128. stevem, no, torture is always illegal. The United Nations Convention against Torture states no exceptions exist, and the U.S. Constitution states ratified treaties are the supreme law of the land. Torture or turning a person over to a nation where we believe the person will be tortured are always illegal actions in the United States government. The Bush Administration did both.

    They have tried to claim methods traditionally considered torture are not really torture. Water boarding is not torture if the water is warm. Hitting someone against the wall is not torture if the wall is soft. Keeping someone awake for a week is not torture if a medical attendant is on hand.

    I have yet to hear many defenders of extraordinary rendition, genitalia mutilation, etc. but they have not gained much coverage in the media.

    I also believe few if any will be prosecuted. One hand will wash the other, and the U.S. will further remove itself from the rule of law.

  129. May I take a different tact on this “ethical puzzle” ?

    Obama switched positions after talking to a group of military leaders who thought the timing was bad to release the photos. And since all knew that the courts would eventually order their release, he listened and agreed with them.

    Why? Because Obama likes consensus and the last group’s decision is what he goes with. Just like GWB was accused of agreeing with the last guy he spoke with, I am seeing a pattern of the same with Obama and groups/councils/commissions/etc. I can’t otherwise see any consistency with some of his acts. Well unless you go with the secret POTUS Book of Infinite Knowledge that tells you all really know is wrong theory.

  130. ‘While it may be illegal in most cases, it is not illegal in all cases, a position adopted by the Bush administration and now, apparently, Obama’s.’

    Torture is explicitly illegal, covered under the phrasing ‘cruel and unusual’ – not that those who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and who then participated in torture seem to be disturbed at the least in ignoring what they swore to uphold. Read for yourself – http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Am8

    There is no reason to point out that international law, including a treaty proudly signed by Ronald Reagan, also forbids torture, as the Constitution predates such international treaties by a considerable margin.

  131. Show a lib a picture of Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower.

    Then show them a picture of a hooded naked man of Middle Eastern persuasion standing with his arms out.

    Which photo upsets them more, and why?

    You know, you’re right – I’m liberal, and the Abu Ghraib photo upsets me more than the 9/11 photo.

    And when I realized this yesterday, I had to spend some time thinking about it, because it didn’t make sense at first.

    And then I realized why.
    It is because Abu Ghraib says that 9/11 was perfectly okay, which means Abu Ghraib is not only in and of itself bad, it gains all the badness of 9/11 because it legitimizes 9/11.

    Abu Ghraib says that anything you do to “hurt” your “enemies” is okay! It’s fine! “Morality” doesn’t matter as long as they’re your enemies. And if they’re not your enemies – like most of those in Abu Ghraib weren’t – it doesn’t matter, as long as they’re your enemies now!

    If Abu Ghraib is okay, 9/11 is legitimate. Even relatively praiseworthy! Look how many of their enemies Al Qaida hurt!

    But you know what? 9/11 isn’t okay. 9/11 is terrible. 9/11 isn’t okay because America isn’t the permanent enemy of Islam, and because it’s not okay to just attack anyone you call an enemy. 9/11 is terrible because innocents were hurt.

    But Abu Ghraib says that 9/11 is perfectly okay. Abu Ghraib says that 9/11 was entirely justified, because anyone you call your enemy is a legitimate target, and that means Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo Bay, and anywhere else that we engaged in torture make everything Al Qaida does justified, because they declare to the world that it’s okay to hurt people you don’t like, and since we’re at “war’ with Al Qaida, they have every right to strike back in any way they can.

    But it’s not okay. Al Qaida are terrible people who don’t deserve to live. But as long as we’re defending Abu Ghraib and Guantamo Bay, we’re declaring that Al Qaida are completely legitimate.

    So you know what? Abu Ghraib is worse than 9/11, because Abu Ghraib says 9/11 is just fine.

  132. Stevem:

    For F’s sake stop being disingenuous.

    WATERBOARDING IS TORTURE. The caps are necessary because you are not getting it. The USA prosecuted WWII Japanese soldiers who waterboarded FOR TORTURE. And executed some of them.

    Now that that point is resolved – torture is always illegal. ‘Legal’ opinions from lawyers who are under a massive ethics cloud and potentially face disbarrment do not constitute evidence of what is or is not legal. A president’s assetion, Democratic or Republican, does not make torture legal.

    At international law torture is always illegal, no questions. Ronald Reagan signed the treaty that does this, and it was ratified by the senate. Domestically, I suppose theoretically a US court could rule that torture is legal, but as far as I know no court has done so.

    This isn’t a matter of conservative versus liberal. Its a matter of defending the morally indefensible, and making up lies to do it.

    If you can provide me with one shred of evidence that torture has been pronounced legal in the US by an entity that actually has the power to do that, then I’ll happily withdraw my accusations of lying. Until then: lies.

  133. notscottbot: There is no reason to point out that international law, including a treaty proudly signed by Ronald Reagan, also forbids torture

    The slight difference is that the constitution says that people have a right to be free from torture. The treaty signed by reagan explicitely states that torture is a crime and that it is also a crime to NOT prosecute someone who tortures.

    Cause what was happening was that bastards were torturing people and then the powers that be after the fact wouldn’t do a damn thing about it, so the treaty made it a crime to not prosecute the torturer, as incentive for politicians to get off their asses and do the right thing.

    At this point, any US politician involved with this mess who goes to a signatory of the torture treaty ought to be brought up on charges there. Spain has already opened a case after we tortured a number of Spanish citizens and then let them go after we found out they were completely innocent.

  134. Thomas Friedman, Invading Iraq for macho bullshit. Suck on this.

    http://thismodernworld.com/4332

    I can’t remember who it was but there was another commentator in the media who said something like “invading Iraq, doing violence, could be cathartic”. ANyone remember who it was?

  135. Maybe a long-shot, but according to Neel Krishnaswami Gen. Stanley McChrystal (sp?), Obama’s new guy in Afghanistan commanded a task force that’s been accused of torture in Iraq. Could that be what’s in the photos being covered up?

    To stevem and the “waterboarding isn’t torture” crowd. That’s exactly the argument that China and North Vietnam used about their treatment of prisoners like John McCain. If it were left up to individual governments to make the call, there’d never be any torture. A government is very unlikely to say “Sure, we’re breaking our treaty obligations by torturing prisoners.” That’s why, per the treaty we signed, the decision is left up to a neutral observer, the International Committee of the Red Cross. They’ve unequivocally stated that that the actions we engaged in amounted to torture.

  136. stevem 134: President Bush specifically stated in a September 29, 2006, speech, that…

    Do you also have that from a credible source? Bush said all kinds of things that were patently untrue, over and over. He was either lying or lied to, but you certainly can’t take anything he said as evidence that any such thing actually happened.

  137. @132 sptrashcan: I keep hearing this “but we’re doing just what the terrorists want us to do’ meme. I think it is nonsense in clown shoes.

    Al Qaeda’s ideology is pure fantasy. They do not give a damn about what kind of legal or social changes we carry out in response to attacks. They never have. The objects of their hatred (including us) are “props” in a violent collective paranoid delusion in which their particular strain of Wahabbi-school fundamentalist Islam converts the whole world by the sword rather than being swallowed up by the culture of the West. If they attack us and we are not either dying or converting to their brand of Islam en masse, they simply do not care. If we beat every operative we find, it will be exactly the same to them as if we put them up at the Four Seasons. No matter what we do, to them, we are only objects. Nothing we say or do can reason people out of an ideology they were not reasoned into in the first place.

    As for me, I say we declassify everything, and then compare the information we got from the “hard” interrogations, the information we got from the “soft” interrogations, the information we got from other means, and what actually happened, and then let the chips fall where they may, and if we decide we need to have ways of making terrorists talk on short notice, let’s have that discussion, and make sure that these interrogations are, to borrow a phrase, “safe, legal, and rare.”

    (That’s what really frosts me about Bush/Cheney. Had they gone to Congress and asked for the power to order coercive interrogations upon a presidential finding and congressional notification in law – the same procedure laid out for conducting all other covert actions – they probably would have gotten it. And the world would have re-learned the forgotten truth that human rights and the laws of war are two-way streets. But oh no, we had to keep up the facade…)

  138. @147 MasterThief: On reflection, you are correct in saying that terrorists do not deliberately plan to induce their targets to make bad decisions and debase their society. That would be ascribing them a level of intelligence and malevolence at odds with the facts, and as the old saying goes, never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained with stupidity. So it was wrong of me to say that when we act in fear and anger, the terrorists win. The simple fact is that they cannot win, no matter whether their missions succeed or fail, because their victory would require a change in human nature. Of course it matters a great deal whether we prevent terrorist attacks. But to believe that terrorists in and of themselves are a real threat to our way of life is to buy into their “violent collective paranoia,” as you put it, and for that I apologize.

    It would be more accurate to say that when, in fear and anger, we make bad decisions and debase our society, we lose. Nobody wins.

    As for the efficacy of torture, it may or may not be the case that in a limited sense it works: it may produce intelligence. But in a larger sense, the sense in which it undermines the free society we are trying to protect and reduces our standing in the world, it is not worth using. The cost is too great.

    Incidentally, with respect to the use of “safe, legal, and rare”: I spent some time after my post considering whether my moral position on torture is equivalent to the pro-life moral position on abortion (which I do not hold). To be honest, I don’t have a firm answer as to why the situations are different, but if pressed I would say that both torture and abortion require the dehumanization of their targets in order to withdraw the rights accorded to human beings, but I am more willing to accept the inhumanity of a fetus than of a grown person, no matter how vile.

    (On a further tangent, the idea that humans have rights at all is a pure legal fiction. That the state is the means by which we preserve and enforce this fiction is the necessary and sufficient justification for its existence. Which rights we should accord human beings is a matter for debate, of course – the conservative position tends to favor strong guarantees of negative rights, while the liberal position tends to trade some negative rights for positive rights.)

  139. The pro-torture crowd can argue with Ali Soufan, the FBI agent who interrogated Abu Zubaydah:

    [Soufan] told a Senate panel Wednesday that the use of harsh techniques to extract information was “slow, ineffective and unreliable.”

    Soufan told lawmakers that he and fellow agents went “by the book” and gained actionable intelligence from Zubaydah by standard “informed interrogation” methods. Later, when the CIA’s privately contracted interrogators took over the questioning, using techniques such as waterboarding, or controlled drowning, Zubaydah “shut down” and stopped giving good information, Soufan said.

    I seem to remember him explicitly stating that since you can’t use both conventional interrogation and coercive techniques “the use of torture would delay obtaining crucial intelligence in a ticking-bomb scenario,” but that’s not on the transcript and I was half asleep listening to it this morning.

  140. Stevem@134 and Xopher@146: In any case, suppose for the sake of argument that what Bush said was perfectly true. It does not demonstrate the efficacy of torture. Bush in that speech did not mention torture: he said that the interrogation of these people had produced useful results. Since – certainly with Zubaydah, and for all we know with the others as well – they were interrogated using conventional means as well as torture, it is entirely possible that this is what produced results.

  141. And I’m going to ask this question again, anyone remember when America prosecuted torturers in Tokyo and Nuremberg — where, incidentally, “I was just following orders” just didn’t cut it as a defence?

    Someone also really needs to explain to me why torturing people doesn’t angry up the radical terrorists, but holding those people to account and asserting the rule of law does? I failed Sophistry 101 in college, obviously.

  142. Please don’t drag the decision to invade Iraq into this. The torture stuff is completely unrelated.

    It has become fashionable to simplify the Iraq decision to “We found no WMD therefore it was wrong”. Iraq spent more than a decade actively trying to thwart inspections designed to remove all its WMD programs (nuclear, biological, and chemical) which it actively pursued prior to the first gulf war. It kept the programs going covertly from 91-96. In 96 they decided they’d had enough of that game and abandoned the programs, but kept obstructing the investigations out of a combination of national pride and stubbornness and attempting to use the possibility of a remaining program as a deterrence against Iran.

    Their ongoing obstruction was sufficient for the UN and UNSCOM/UNMOVIC inspectors, and all western intelligence agencies, to conclude they were still up to something, although not everyone agreed that something was an active ongoing program.

    The irony is that we trusted them so little after years of deception and obstruction that when they finally came completely clean in the couple of months before the war, nobody believed them. In part, because their final disclosure document (which turns out to have been fairly complete and transparently accurate) disclosed a bunch of stuff they’d denied and obscured since 96…

    We invaded Iraq because Bush wanted an excuse to. But he wanted an excuse to because of more than a decade’s apparent Iraqi secret WMD programs directly against UN findings and sanctions. There was also a reassessment of overall risk tolerance after 9/11 – some things we’d lived with as tolerable background annoyance before 9/11 were now not ok to allow to continue afterwards.

    Bush’s team completely cocked up the hard work to get all the justification and evidence details right at the end – and no rational self-reflective human being can now deny that, even if we supported the war at the time due to the evidence of ongoing programs. But that’s not the same as “there was no evidence”. Read the dozens and dozens of UNSCOM and UNMOVIC documents, the details which have come out in books about their nuclear and chemical warfare programs, ask the right people and get copies of the sensitive docs like the bomb designs they had tested. There was plenty to be worried about…

  143. Craig:

    Xopher, you, and I, and at least 2 other people have all brought that up, and no one has actually engaged with the point, really.

    That is possibly because it is hard to refute.

  144. Phillip J. Birmingham @127

    Quit being coy, Frank. You’ve trotted this sort of thing out before when this topic has come up, but to the best of my knowledge, you’ve never actually delivered the goods.

    I have? Huh. Well, OK since no one wants to define “basic decency” I’ll just go ahead.

    The Office of Strtegic Services (OSS) the precurser of the CIA experimented with and used drugs and sensory deprevation to interrogate prisoners they felt had vital information. And they were not above physically striking deainees. In one documented case (Operatives, Spies and Saboteurs by Patrick K O’Donnell), a woman was used to interrogate a prisoner specifically because it offended the prosoner. And she hit him.

    Now strickly speaking, the Geneva Convention forbids using any type of coercive measure to get a prisoner to give up information, but I would say that using drugs and striking prisoners violates “basic decency”.

    Further, the OSS supported and supplied a number of groups in order to help the war effort. These groups included Mao Zedong’s Red Army in China and the Viet Minh in French Indochina.

    They “invented” PsyOps which included disinformation campaign. And there was a great debate about this with many Administration officials arguing that the US doesn’t lie just to further it’s goals. FDR himself intervened and decided that the OSS would engage in covert “black” disinformation while the Office of War Information would provide “white” overt accurate information.

  145. Jim – I’m way behind in this thread, but needed to say something: Having a soldier, a veteran of the Iraq war, come forth and say “everyone, every last one of you, even the ones I disagree with – NEED to voice your opinions and be heard or our sacrifice means nothing” – well, it was… it was

    Liberating.

    Thank you.

  146. Frank @117 and @154:
    You know what else this country used to do that wasn’t illegal? We used to allow people to keep slaves. Oh, and women didn’t have the universal right to vote until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920. Also, child labor… I could probably come up with a lot more things we used to do, and that were even technically legal at the time, but you know what? That didn’t make them right.

    Just sayin’

  147. On one side you have people saying “We have had results based on waterboarding.”

    On the other you have people saying “Waterboarding doesn’t work.”

    Yet only one side is believed. Why is that?

    We all lost something on 9/11. Yet you ask 10 different people what we lost, you’ll get at least five different opinions IMO. And they’re all right.

    Andrew

  148. Cookie M at 138: Torture is illegal under the treaty, you are correct. Which is why the label is changed to “enhanced interrogation techniques” or something similar. Interrogation is legal, under the treaty. Torture is not. The governments of the world, including our own, have lots of room to work in the supposedly gray middle ground between the two terms.

    As to waterboarding, legal opinions have been advanced that it is not torture. They do so not by applying common sense, but the various definitions of torture within the statutes and treaties. For example, the treaty prohibits the infliction of “severe pain and suffering”. So they debate the meaning of severe, pain and suffering. For example, “moderate” or “mild” pain and suffering is not torture. And if the pain and suffering is purely short term psychological, then it is likewise not torture, as the pain and suffering referred to is alleged to be purely physical (or long term mental).

    So while common sense dictates that it is torture, a case can be made that it is not torture as defined within the law. The DOJ’s 2002 memorandum lays out this case. Obama apparently has reviewed this memo as he referred to it being a “legal rationale”, though he still thought (correctly IMO) that waterboarding is torture.

    Also keep in mind that our history is littered with broken treaties. I suspect we’ve violated more treaties than we’ve honored. But I’m not singling out the U.S. Every country in the world has done the same. Precious few will sacrifice national interest in the name of honoring a treaty.

    not_scottbot at 140: The consitution does not have universal applicability.

    Eddie at 142 and Jon at 145: Thank you for your opinions. I would have more respect for them if you actually had read my posts, as your comments indicate you have not.

    Xopher at 146: Bush is credible, in that at least he believes what he saying is true. To the extent that he apparently vetoed a bill which would qaulify waterboarding as torture.

    Xopher at 149 and Another Andrew at 150: Thank you for the information. He may be right. But others supposedly in the know disagree with him. Most recently, Cheney in January 2009 specifically linked the use of waterboarding to receipt of good actionable intelligence. This has been confirmed by Dennis Blair, director of NIA and a retired Navy Admiral.

    What studies I have looked at suggests that a person can resist waterboarding for a period of mere seconds. While it is true that you might get a false confession, you may also get good information. I suspect that you are more likely to get good actionable intelligence with open ended questions (Who are the cell leaders?) as compared to closed ended where the answer is implied in the question (Is Bob a cell leader?)

  149. I think Stealth has it about right on this one. It IS a close call, which mostly means that the difference between the choices is marginal.
    I always try to keep in mind that so far, whenever I’ve thought Obama has made a wrong choice, I’ve been proven just about universally wrong. Which is obviously NOT to say he’s gonna get everything right, forever, and that I can’t change my mind.
    A much tougher choice is whether to encourage congressional hearings on torture. I think we have a court system in place that will do a much better job than any congressional hearings. Having said that, I’m prepared for what seems to me a likely outcome: juries will find some, if not all, people brought to trial innocent. This falls into the category of been careful what you wish for……

  150. Their ongoing obstruction was sufficient for the UN and UNSCOM/UNMOVIC inspectors, and all western intelligence agencies, to conclude they were still up to something, although not everyone agreed that something was an active ongoing program.</i.

    Hey, George – do you want me to quote Hans Blix on the matter, or are you going to continue pulling this sort of stuff out of your ass?

    Oh hell – let’s quote:

    The elimination of weapons of mass destruction was the declared main aim of the war. It is improbable that the governments of the alliance could have sold the war to their parliaments on any other grounds. That they believed in the weapons’ existence in the autumn of 2002 is understandable. Why had the Iraqis stopped UN inspectors during the 90s if they had nothing to hide? Responsibility for the war must rest, though, on what those launching it knew by March 2003.

    By then, Unmovic inspectors had carried out some 700 inspections at 500 sites without finding prohibited weapons. The contract that George Bush held up before Congress to show that Iraq was purchasing uranium oxide was proved to be a forgery. The allied powers were on thin ice, but they preferred to replace question marks with exclamation marks.

  151. Blech, I got sucked in to actually discussing whether torture works. I’ll reiterate the most important statement and stick with it.

    Torture is always evil. It is never ok. It is never morally justifiable. Debating the virtues of torture is morally repugnant.

  152. Phoenician quotes Hans Blix, who indeed said that.

    The problem is that Hans Blix spent the better part of a decade on and off denying that he’d been hoodwinked by the Iraqis – despite the fact that it was clear by the time of the final declarations that he had been. Hans was not a completely reliable observer at the end.

    A number of inspectors did in fact state that they thought there had been a change in Iraqi behavior around 96, but they were never able to bring forwards solid evidence of that, because the Iraqis were for their own reasons still stonewalling.

    A number of people in the late 90s / early 2000s – myself included – talked about the possibility that the Iraqis had walked away from the programs and were deceiving us out of stubbornness or as part of a deterrent scheme. At the time, however, the default theory was that the obstruction was an ongoing covert program. The Iraqis were obstructing enough that none of us could convince ourselves that they had stopped the covert program, even though there were signs.

    Eventually, the annals of geopolitical crisis management and deterrence theory will get good books about this. What we have now is not solidly enough researched – there are so many hot buttons in the area that rational analysis tends to get shouted down.

    The facts both contemporary and in reflection with current information support that Iraq had a WMD program with nuclear, bio, and chemical programs prior to the first Gulf War. The facts support that it was largely dismantled by 93 by the UN commission and intrusive US inspections. The facts support that there was an active covert program run by the Iraqis from 92ish to 96 to try and restart those activities.

    The facts in retrospect support that the Iraqis changed course and took no more active steps in developing nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons from 96 to the beginning of the second war.

    My opinion is that the level of obstruction and deception from 92 to 96 (which is factually well documented by UNSCOM, and UNMOVIC moving forwards) caused most people following the situation to inherently distrust anything the Iraqi government claimed, and only trust ground truth inspections, and not even all of those (the Iraqis have been factually confirmed to have successfully shuffled WMD stuff around before Inspectors got there several times, and we were able to detect and later confirm that with records and interviews with those responsible on the Iraqi side).

    That level of distrust was maintained through the beginning of the second war.

    It is clear that from 96 to late 2002 the Iraqis continued to obstruct (refusing inspections, refusing to turn over accurate and complete documents, etc), despite there not being a program.

    Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell set up a timetable walking up to war, where they set some expectations for what sorts of openness Iraq needed (both in documentary evidence and onside inspections without interference). Iraq finally, about three months too late into that process, started cooperating fully. The final declarations and final rounds of inspections appear to have been fully accurate from a post-war ground truth position.

    However, they were about three months too late. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and others believed that Iraq was still running a disinformation campaign against the UN inspectors and didn’t believe that information. Why not? In part, because the final declaration they sent in DID establish that Iraq had successfully run a disinformation campaign from 92-2002. It documented in great detail how they’d fooled UNSCOM and UNMOVIC and what programs those groups had missed.

    Oh, but now they were completely open, and you can trust us that we’re telling the truth now… We fooled Mr Blix all these years, but he’s right now! Honest! You can trust us!

    The irony is that if Iraq had clued in that the US was serious and would go to war and knock them off two or three months earlier, there would have been enough time to validate that the final declarations were in fact true and that they were now being open. But they started being open too late in the process, and nobody believed them until the post-war inspections verified the ground truth.

    Intelligence agencies are simple – nobody believes a liar. Iraq was a liar for a decade and denied it. Then they for a brief while admitted their lies and stood up and told the then-current truth accurately. But nobody believed that either, in part because they’d just admitted they’d been lying all along until then…

    Blix was right, then, but he’d been wrong about so much earlier that his credibility wasn’t good.

    You want to blame Bush, whose team did in fact cook some data at the end? Sure. I want to blame Saddam, who didn’t clue in that we were serious until it was too late, or fate for bad timing on everyone’s part.

    Hans Blix believes he was vindicated because he was ultimately right. I believe he’s partly at fault, for refusing to understand that his having been repeatedly fooled by the Iraqis might damage his credibility and reputation. He knew he was being fooled, but he asserted he knew better anyways. He turned out to be correct on ongoing programs, but not on the pre-96 stuff. He never likes to talk about what being wrong on the pre-96 stuff meant.

    In a perfect world, dictators wouldn’t be so proud and obstructive that we can’t actually tell for sure what’s going on in their countries, like in Iran or North Korea or Burma, just to name a few. And everyone wouldn’t have to even ask their parents for a Pony, there’d just be an easy pony button on every kid’s dresser.

    It is important to admit previous errors (I was wrong – there were no WMD in Iraq post-96) and be able to rationally look at the scope and evolution of events to tell why we were wrong. Far too many people are blinded by the “You were wrong” part.

    In my opinion, the facts clearly establish that a lot of people opposing the war were equally wrong – they’d kept believing Blix and the Iraqis, that the Iraqis hadn’t had programs pre-96 that they later admitted in late 2002 that they did in fact have. Some of which the nonclassified analysis community had no idea of until the Iraqis admitted it in their final complete declaration.

    This is not a binary right/wrong. There was clearly grounds for concern. Nobody “got it right” – I didn’t, personally, and more widely Blix still can’t come to grips with how badly he failed his job of being an honest middleman who kept credibility with the west, Bush can’t talk about how they screwed up the final analysies, antiwar folks still often just refuse to believe it when I sketch out the Iraqi nuclear bomb details they had developed pre-96, since there weren’t any actual bombs there by 2003… Which were, in fact, nearly small enough to fit on a Scud and reach Tel Aviv. And how close (month or two) they were from having a fission bomb ready in 91 for the first war.

    Blogs and in particular blog comments are a terrible place to try and teach, follow, or do geopolitics or proliferation, because geopolitics and proliferation are HAAAARRRRDDDD…. And most people prefer black or white ponies, on blog comments. Sorry. Your pony is grey, and had a few specks of high enriched uranium in his mane.

  153. I think that the ethical puzzle goes away when a bogus premise is removed.

    The question “Will this put our troops at risk?” implies that there is not already a critical mass of angry, revenge-minded Afghans and Iraqis ready to keep up the fight against us as long as it takes. And that’s bogus.

    J. Random Iraqi already knows that hundreds of thousands of her fellow Iraqis are dead and millions pushed into flight. She knows about how we’ve tortured her fellow Iraqis not because the US media told her, but because the victims themselves did – they’ve been in the Arab and Persian media, and the victims themselves may well be her kin or neighbors.

    J. Random Worldcitizen also knows a lot of this, because other countries’ mass media have been willing to tell some stories the US’ hasn’t.

    The most ignorant people on the planet right now, when it comes to what we’ve been doing to Iraq and Afghanistan, are Americans. We’re the ones who might really be surprised or startled, and this is at heart a debate about whether our government will keep hiding the truth from us. The people in the war zone already know, because they have no choice, and everyone else who wants to know has good opportunities.

    Our troops are indeed at risk, because of evil deeds already done. I see no reason to believe that this will make things materially worse at all, because it’s not secrets to the victims.

  154. #164 BruceB

    What are you claiming? that there is no room for more muslims to fight the US when they get upset at 100+ torture pictures? According to most reports there is only 4K taliban presently actively fighting in Pakistan. Yet over 10K Afghanistan martyr wannabees volunteered in the capital to go fight Israel back in January(no one would transport them so they gave blood instead). Would they not also go fight in Pakistan over the pictures of their brother taliban in detention? Why are they not fighting the coalition in Afghanistan? If as you claim there is already “critical mass of angry, revenge-minded Afghans”?

    /interesting how most here had to go gnaw old bones over “it’s torture” and not actually address Scalzi’s OP.

  155. VultureTX: Yeah, I am claiming that these pictures are extremely unlikely to tip many Iraqis or Afghanis over the brink into violent action, and the US debate about this tends to go on in howling lack of appreciation for the horrors they already live with.

  156. VultureTX at 165: Obama should do what he thinks is in the national interests of the country. That’s the ethical answer, IMO.

    And whatever he does, he’s in a no win situation. He’s in that situation because he set the bar so high in his effort to get elected.

    If he declines to release the pictures, the liberals (for ease of reference only) will say that he betrayed them (and the country) for not releasing the pictures. Conservatives (again for ease of reference) will say he did the right thing, but by doing so he’s proved himself a hypocrite (tell the liberals what they want to hear to get their votes) and vindicated some of Bush’ decisions.

  157. And allow me to expand on that…

    The Intelligence Community has been implicitly (and possibly tacitly) encouraged by the Democrats in their internecine war against the executive over the last six plus years. Now that same intelligence community is directly threatened with prosecution and, wow, they have both the habit and a new reason to wage war against le nuveau regime.

    Ummm. Tasty shaedenfruede pie!

  158. ‘The consitution does not have universal applicability.’

    It does for those that have sworn an oath to uphold it – or face impeachment and be removed from office. Or to be charged and, after a trial to determine their guilt, punished for their crimes.

    But America is proving its stereotype to the rest of the world – sex is worthy of punishment, violence celebrated. And the rest of the world has seen all the pictures already made available – it is only in the U.S. where the media has been too timid to expose the truth of what Americans have done.

    This includes the now years old ‘rumors’ of abusing children – these are not considered rumors by those who have seen the pictures (which were unofficial and unauthorized, by the way – imagine what sort of official records still exist), and who have an awareness of where the moral depravity of torture leads. Which pretty describes everyone outside of the U.S., by the way.

    Anyone defending torture for any reason have publicly placed themselves in the same group of people that have defended other necessities in the name of higher goals – in Germany, there is a simple name for such people, and it is not considered a compliment to be so named.

  159. Rodney, I feel like there is some sort of hidden message in your post, but for the life of me I just can’t reason it out.

    As far as Obama goes, it’s pretty simple. If he knows something we don’t – pretty likely considering the position he’s in – and it makes a difference, then he’s done the right thing. If he is just doing this to placate some group and there is no credible threat to releasing the pics, he is doing the wrong thing.

    Also, armchair quarterbacking the President may be fun, but lets not confuse it with, well, actually being the President.

  160. @169: “Democrats“? Nice to see that the pre-pubescent demographic feels free to contribute.

    Grow up, son.

  161. The problem is that Hans Blix spent the better part of a decade on and off denying that he’d been hoodwinked by the Iraqis – despite the fact that it was clear by the time of the final declarations that he had been. Hans was not a completely reliable observer at the end.

    George, you are the person who just said:

    Their ongoing obstruction was sufficient for the UN and UNSCOM/UNMOVIC inspectors, and all western intelligence agencies, to conclude they were still up to something, although not everyone agreed that something was an active ongoing program.

    …and were shown, easily, to be wrong.

    And you claim that it is Blix that has the problem with credibility?

    Your word is not good enough. If you make claims, please back them up with cites.

  162. Corby/CartoonCoyote:

    I suggest not engaging with Rodney Graves. After quite a few exchanges over the past couple of years, I realised he was always intellectually dishonest and just interested in getting a rise out of people. He’s not worth your time.

  163. Corby,

    Are you pulling a Pelosi on us and claiming this issue was not briefed during the transition? The only new development on this issue is the public response to it.

    Eddie,

    Guess the bruises from your last lesson haven’t quite healed yet. Quel dommage!

  164. stevem, building on not_scottbot’s statement, Yoo gave the legal opinion that crushing a child’s testicles is not criminal, and we cannot definitely say violently castrating children is a crime. So while common sense dictates that it is torture, a case can be made that it is not torture as defined within the law. The DOJ’s 2002 memorandum lays out this case.

    Less sarcastically, one reason I want Bush, et al. charged and imprisoned is to draw a clear line in the sand against future abuses. If the Constitution and international treaties can be violated at this level, I do not see what limits a president. Last Sunday, Cheney misquoted the Oath of Office. The words are “defend the Constitution of the United States” not simply “defend the United States.” The former respects freedom while the later can lead to almost anything.

    What does it matter if you just believe water boarding is torture and we hold no one responsible for a criminal act? The New York Times rightly caught some flack for saying the Chinese tortured Col. Harold Fischer Jr. while labeling the same techniques “enhanced interrogation” when performed by the U.S. Either the people who authorized torture should be prosecuted or we should tell our soldiers and the international community that being stripped naked, kept awake for a week, held in stress positions, and water boarded are acceptable methods of interrogation.

    I do thank you for using the qualifier “for ease of reference” after your political labels. As someone who voted for G. W. Bush the first time around and who voted libertarian since, I am often left slack-jawed at accusations of personal partisanship. However the whole debate has certainly prevented me from voting for Republicans at the federal level. A pattern I will probably continue for many years to come.

  165. Concerning various Trolls and others who traffic in being dishonest, alarmist, hate filled fear mongers – please apply the cone of silence (from “get smart” fame). Make no comment at all about their comments, or even their existence ,except when they leave the name calling and fear mongering behind, and post in good faith to present a position based on it’s intellectual properties, instead of based on emotional baggage. It’s worked beautifully on other blogs.

  166. This thread is so chuck full of geopolitical goodies, I actually sent the link to the HS social studies teacher in my building. Lots and lots of really good crunchy bits on both sides of several issues. Most of what’s on here has been thought-provoking awesome, so thanks for that.

  167. I’ve not been paying attention the last couple of days (I’ve been more involved with butter). Are not playing nice anymore? Do I have to get out the Mallet?

  168. George@152: We invaded Iraq because Bush wanted an excuse to. But he wanted an excuse to because of more than a decade’s apparent Iraqi secret WMD programs directly against UN findings and sanctions.

    Yes, that is what happened historically according to Fox News.

    From 1991 to 1998, the weapons inspectors in Iraq were entirely US. They were lead by a former marine named Scot Ritter. During that period, Ritter stated that the CIA and British Intelligence had infiltrated UNSCOM and was using weapons inspections as a means to gain intelligence information for overthrowing Saddam. By 1998, Ritter states that Iraq is 90% disarmed, and that the reason Iraq stops inspections is because the CIA is using inspections to assassinate Saddam.

    US Army intel analyst William Arkin in 1999-01 writes in teh Washington Post that the Desert Fox had less to do with WMD’s and more to do with destabilizing the Iraqi government. Only 13 of 100 targets were associated with WMDs. 35 targets were anti-aircraft installations. And nearly 50 targets were directed specifically at Saddam himself, half a dozen palace strongholds, secret police, guards, Saddam’s sleeping quarters, etc. Most of these targets had been inspected by UNSCOM at some point.

    Ritter explained: “the American policy was regime change. At first they wanted to be passive, we’re just going to contain Saddam through economic sanctions, and he’s going to collapse of his own volition in six months. That failed. We’re going to put pressure on the Iraqis, and we’re going to get some Sunni general to apply the 75-cent solution–the cost of a 9 mm bullet put in the back of Saddam’s head–and the Sunni general will take over. If you want proof positive about the corrupt nature of our regime-change policy, understand this, it wasn’t about changing the regime. It wasn’t about getting rid of the Baathist party or transforming Iraq into a modern democracy back in the early 1990s. It was about getting rid of one man, Saddam Hussein. And if he was replaced by a Sunni general who governed Iraq in the exact same fashion, that was okay. And that shows the utter hypocrisy of everything we did.” … “every time a UN weapons inspector went into Iraq–somebody with a blue hat–they weren’t viewed by the Iraqis as somebody who was trying to disarm Iraq, they were viewed by the Iraqis as somebody trying to kill their President, and they were right.”

    1999: Scott Ritter, writes book “Endgame: Solving Iraq Problem”, in it he rejects the push for regime change and overthrowing Saddam. Instead, he calls for a return to normalized relations with Iraq and inspections to verify abandonment of their WMD program.

    2000: Scott Ritter, films documentary, “Shifting Sands: The truth about UNSCOM and disarming Iraq”. In it, he argues that Iraq is a “defanged tiger”, that inspections were successful in eliminating significant Iraqi WMD capabilities.

    2002: Scott Ritter writes book, “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want you to KNow”. In it, he claims that as of 1998, Iraq has been fundamentally disarmed, 90-95% of Iraqi’s WMD’s have been verifiably eliminated.

    2002-11-13: UN weapons inspectors enter Iraq for first time since 1998. Hans Blix heads inspection team. The Iraqis agree to inspections only after the inspector team is changed from American-Only from the 90’s to Anyone-but-Americans.

    2003-01-09: Hans Blix reports to UN that he has found no “smoking gun” so far while inspecting Iraq.

    2003-01-27: UN press release states “It would appear that Iraq had decided in principle to provide cooperation on substance in order to complete the disarmament task through inspection.” After 60 days of work, 106 sites have been inspected.

    2003-03-17: Bush Jr. addresses the nation, saying “every measure has been taken to avoid war”, then he gives Saddam and his sons 48 hours to step down from power. Bush invokes “regime change” as the trigger for the war, when no UN resolution ever approved it, when the reason given in the months preceding were that Iraq had to comply with UN Resolution 1441 demanding Iraq disarm and comply with inspections to confirm. UN Inspector Hans Blix’s most recent report states that inspections are working and he should be complete in a few months.

    At the moment of victory, when inspections are working and the end is in sight, Bush Jr. changes the goal posts from 1441 Inspections to his personal goal of “regime change”.

    Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    You can find links up the wazzoo to facts that support these assersions here:

    http://www.warhw.com/us-handwavium-in-iraq/

    Which is far more documented than your “Fox New” version of reality.

    So, don’t give me this horsepuckey about Saddam’s WMD’s having anything at all to do with US invading Iraq. We could have disarmed Saddam in the 90’s, but as Ritter pointed out, we wanted Saddam dead, and were perfectly happy to have an Iraqi general take over and keep the WMD’s. Saddam was 90% disarmed by 1998, but we kept demanding to inspect places that would help us kill Saddam, not find WMD’s. So they finally refused inspections. Then Operation Desert Fox comes along and we happen to bomb all those places that might kill Saddam.

    And then all through January through March of 2003, Blix and the UN inspection teams are saying repeatedly that Iraq is complying with inspections, that no smoking guns have been found, and that they would be done in a few months. So, Bush changes the goal from Disarmament to Regime-Change. It’s no longer about getting rid of WMD’s because there are no WMD’s. Instead, its about getting rid of Saddam, which is EXACTLY what Ritter had said was going on all teh way back to the 90’s.

    Stop spreading neocon propaganda.

  169. Rodney, I am not aware of stating any such thing. I did, however, state that the President has access to information we the people do not have. He also has responsibilities we the people do not have. He “knows” more from an informational standpoint than we the people do. And if his knowledge is such that, after learning something, he has to change his mind here or there because he has the complete picture where he did not before, or new facts come to light that were previously not in evidence, I for one am glad to have a President who can be flexible enough to know when to alter course but strong enough to weather the slings and arrows of our discontent.

    I’d rather be mad at the guy for trying to do something right and getting it wrong, than doing something obviously wrong and doing it well.

  170. stevem @ 158:

    I think this is a fair summary of the first half of your post:

    1) Torture is illegal, interrogation is legal. Calling torture interrogation therefore gives it a veneer of legality.
    2) Short term mental pain & suffering is not torture.

    For 1, imagine trying that with any other crime:

    Your honor, I realize that robbery is illegal. But I prefer to refer to pointing a gun at the clerk and demanding the contents of the register as “barter”. And everyone knows that barter is legal. Therefore I’m not guilty.

    Yeah, right.

    For 2, here’s the definition of torture that we’ve agreed to and enforced:

    For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

    You’ll note that there’s absolutely nothing there about a time limit. Severe mental pain & suffering is torture. Period.

    It sounds like you know this and are aware of this, since the rest of your post goes on to make the “everybody breaks treaties anyway” argument. I’d be willing to consider that argument if we’d openly admitted what we were doing. I’d accept that sometimes it’s necessary to break the law. I think killing is very wrong, but if someone broke into my house and threatened my family, I’d do my best to kill them. But having done so, I’d immediately call the police and tell them what happened. If I instead chopped up the body, buried it in my basement, and did my best to conceal any evidence of what happened, my position would start to look pretty shaky. At that point a judge might reasonably doubt my assurances that I’d only acted in self-defense.

  171. Corby,

    When you state:

    I am not aware of stating any such thing.

    I take it you are responding to my:

    Are you pulling a Pelosi on us and claiming this issue was not briefed during the transition?

    While I grant you made no such direct claim, it is implicit in the claim of “new” or “privileged” information causing President Obama to change his position.

    Since this was an issue in the campaign, it most assuredly was the subject of several briefings for Obama and his National Security Staff during the transition (that’s why they have transition briefings, after all). What leads you to believe the Intelligence Community has changed their position on this matter (especially in light of their push back against Speaker Pelosi)?

    I did, however, state that the President has access to information we the people do not have.

    Which is not in dispute. What I dispute is the implicit assumption on your part that the advice of the Intelligence Community has shifted on this matter.

    He also has responsibilities we the people do not have.

    Indeed he does. I hope he starts taking them seriously sometime soon.

    He “knows” more from an informational standpoint than we the people do.

    One of the dirty little secrets of intelligence is that most intelligence is available via open sources, and that one with a background in the area of interest and a modicum of training and perspicacity can piece together a picture which is very close to what is briefed as TS.

    And if his knowledge is such that, after learning something, he has to change his mind here or there because he has the complete picture where he did not before, or new facts come to light that were previously not in evidence, I for one am glad to have a President who can be flexible enough to know when to alter course but strong enough to weather the slings and arrows of our discontent.

    You assume facts not in evidence (new information). To this observer the only factors which have changed are the POLITICAL repercussions of the earlier position.

    I’d rather be mad at the guy for trying to do something right and getting it wrong, than doing something obviously wrong and doing it well.

    You impute to President Obama motivations beyond the purely political, where there is no evidence to support such an opinion.

  172. Frank:

    And they were not above physically striking deainees. In one documented case (Operatives, Spies and Saboteurs by Patrick K O’Donnell), a woman was used to interrogate a prisoner specifically because it offended the prosoner. And she hit him.

    No, she interrogated prisoners because she could speak German. She hit him because he pissed her off, not to get information.

    Page 231: “They used me to interrogate prisoners of war since I was fluent in German.”

    P 232: “So I just listened to him for a while. But I’m half Czech and half Slovak. Slovak equals five Irishmen when it comes to temper, so I said to him in German, ‘Say it again!’ He repeated his statements in German so I gave him a knuckle sandwich right across the kisser.”

    So, no they didn’t choose her to antagonize the POW, and she didn’t hit him to get information. In fact, she sent the POW away immediately after hitting him.

    As for the drugs, the only thing I can find was the use of THC-laced cigarettes on an associate of Lucky Luciano stateside. Reprehensible, but not indicative of the way POWs were interrogated (and not all that surprising in the wake of MK-ULTRA and similar projects.) Do you have citations for anything more?

    Psy-ops to degrade an enemy’s morale I have no problem with — an enemy that can be convinced not to fight is just as good as an enemy that is dead. In fact, you could say that humane treatment of prisoners is the biggest psy-op of all — a constant whisper in the foe’s ear that says “lay down your weapon and this will be all over for you” can’t make it any harder to fight him.

  173. Rodney, I watch Lost. I thought I had it all figured out four seasons ago. Every episode something happens where I realize I was not only wrong, I was nowhere close.

    I watch Supernatural on DVD. Each season changes the stakes and new things are brought to light.

    I live life with a wife and daughter. Each day, something my daughter does makes me realize I must change certain preconceptions of child-rearing.

    I play video games. Most games I play I start out really enjoying then start losing interest, or learn something new that renews my interest.

    Sometimes I research something and decide to buy it. Then when I get to the store I find out something I didn’t know and either purchase a competitor’s product or nothing at all.

    Granted, these are all just average things everyone deals with to some extent every day. We encounter situations where we think we know what we are getting into, but we find later that we were ill-prepared for the truth of the situation.

    Obama deals with matters of National Security, Health, Economy, Ecology, etc, every day. I can only imagine, given the amount of times I must change my own mind every day about simple things, that he must have some pretty hefty things to decide and rethink daily.

    I never said he was doing the right thing about this intelligence. I am saying I am grateful that he feels it is OK to revisit earlier decisions and change them if he feels it is necessary. In this case, assuming we have all the facts, he is doing the wrong thing. but if you can assume we know everything, I can assume we don’t.

    So no, I’m not giving him a pass – I’m saying if what we know is true he is doing the wrong thing. That’s all I can truthfully say.

  174. There seems to be some confusion here.

    Question 1 for the conspiratorially focused:

    What year was President Bush (43) elected again? And when did he take office?

    Question 2 for the conspiratorially focused:

    Who was the president for nearly the entirety of the period of time that UNSCOM and UNMOVIC inspectors were in Iraq?

    I’m not exactly sure how one can blame someone who was at the time a Baseball Team owner, and then Governor of Texas, for US actions in Iraq…

    Even taking Scott Ritter at his word as a wholly accurate reporter of fact – he was never in Iraq working for the US or UN under Bush (43) and only briefly under Bush (41) before the 92 election. The intervening president was responsible for all intervening activity.

    Who is also the same president who ordered the aforementioned Operation Desert Fox (1998). For those who forget, that was the cruise missile attacks on Iraqi targets after they kicked the inspection teams out.

    If you want to label him a neocon, go right ahead. Our current president and particularly secretary of state may have something to say about that, though.

  175. This whole thread just reinforces my idea that people have their worldview, filter reality through that worldview, and then come up with some narrative to make reality jive with their worldview.

    By witholding these photos, Obama is simply covering his ass and trying to maintain his popular support.

    There are armies of nutjobs out there who think “love it or leave it” is a valid logical argument. And making their “team” look bad will only send them further into a frothing rabid frenzy. Not that Limbaugh and various whackjobs aren’t already in a frothing rabid frenzy: see teabagging insanity.

    If Obama blew the lid on all this torture nonsense and demanded criminal investigations and got convictions of high level assholes like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Yoo, then that would take the wind out of any potential damage that these photos might cause. Not that I think these particular photos will do any more significant damage than has already been done.

    These are already the photos we’ve got: A woman in american uniform holding a leash on a naked prisoner? A man in american uniform giving the thumbs up and smiling over a dead prisoner? Naked prisoners stacked up on top of each other and americans smiling? You think you can really top that in any significant way? I doubt it.

    What I think those photos will do is be sufficient that the international community whom we signed the anti-torture treaty with in teh 80’s to demand criminal investigations of Bush and company.

    Why Obama does’t want this? Because he seems to have a pattern of mild delusion that somehow he can unite the radical fringes of this country. I think he honestly believes that there is some path of actions he could take that would make Rush Limbaugh’s of the world happy and the ACLU happy. He has consistently held up Lincoln as his model presidency and even identified himself with Lincoln in various ways. ANd I think he believes he can hold the North and South together. And it can’t be done.

    You cannot have half a constituency believe in something as abhorent as slavery or torture, another half of a constitutuency believe that slavery or torture is wrong, and plot a course of action that will satisfy both sides.

    When the Constitution was written, the slave states held sway and the constitution codified slavery into it’s fiber. It took a hundred years for and a civil war that killed more americans than any otehr war we’ve been involved in to right that wrong.

    And the torture apologists are making the same kinds of arguments that the slaver’s did. It works. Take it away and you’ll destroy the nation. It’s all about self preservation to the point of other human’s pain and suffering. Of the thousand or so detainees in Guantanamo, only about a hundred were eventually determined to be real threats. The rest were tortured for years before we finally admitted they had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism. And yet, out of fear of “omygod, omygod, another 9/11!”, these apologists DONT” CARE how injust and how immoral these actions are, so long as THEY feel safe. Screw the slaves. Screw the thousands of innocents tortured. The measuring stick of right and wrong for these psycopaths is simple: What’s in it for ME?

    And what I realize is that with a morality like that, you can’t talk to a torture apologist any more than you can talk to a slave apologist.

    I just hope Obama hasn’t learned the results of Lincoln, holding the nation together, without learning the path lincoln took, namely siding with what was ultimately right, siding against slavery.

  176. Phoenician @173 wrote:
    _George, you are the person who just said:_

    Their ongoing obstruction was sufficient for the UN and UNSCOM/UNMOVIC inspectors, and all western intelligence agencies, to conclude they were still up to something, although not everyone agreed that something was an active ongoing program.

    _…and were shown, easily, to be wrong._

    _And you claim that it is Blix that has the problem with credibility?_

    No. My claim is that Blix *HAD* a problem with credibility. See tense.

    Blix (and Ritter, and others) were in the end correct.

    They were widely judged at the time to be inaccurate because they had been fooled so many times by the Iraqis in the 90s and early 2000s – as the Iraqi final declaration proved.

    _Your word is not good enough. If you make claims, please back them up with cites._

    My word on what?

    That Blix was not listened to? You’ve admitted this yourself. The historical record is rather clear.

    That he was fooled in the 90s and 2000s? Blix has admitted that himself. Post and immediately pre-second Gulf war TV interviews, a sitdown with Charlie Rose contemporaneously, op-ed and historical pieces he wrote at the time. He said that the final declaration made him look like a fool at one point, though he said that it vindicated his final conclusion.

    The final declaration is proliferation sensitive, so it’s not completely out in public, but a lot of it is (the non-nuclear parts are nearly all out, I think, and a lot of the nuclear stuff floated around the community, though I’m not going to post any of it here for what I hope are obvious reasons). The Iraqi PR summaries of it contemporaneously with its release seem to accurately describe it.

    That Blix was not listened to because he was fooled earlier? Look at any of Woodwards’ work, the articles by US government insiders after the war in Foreign Affairs or National Interest, etc. Or just go back and look at the press coverage or how Colin Powell referred to Blix contemporaneously.

    People are ascribing my viewpoint here to Fox News. Fox News was launched in 96, five years after the UNSCOM / UNMOVIC inspections series began and serious proliferation people were paying attention after the facts of the Iraqi nuclear program pre-first-Gulf-war came out. We were all amazed and not a little terrified that they had been within a couple of months of a functional implosion bomb and its HEU load being ready (though not a particularly deliverable weapon – it was too big to put on a missile or drop from a fighter jet).

    Coincidentally, Fox New started up around the time the Iraqi program actually shut down. But that’s got to be a coincidence. Ascribing it to Fox News would be a larger conspiracy than I can say with a straight face without invoking ponies and unicorns.

  177. GWH:
    > Even taking Scott Ritter at his word as a wholly
    > accurate reporter of fact – he was never in Iraq
    > working for the US or UN under Bush

    So what. He WAS in Iraq working for the US, and he said that Iraq was 90% disarmed by 1998. Who he was working for is irrelevant to the facts he reported.

    Iraq was 90% disarmed in ’98.

    As for clinton, he was the man who authorized Desert Fox. But he did NOT authorize a quagmire invasion that had us occupying Iraq for a decade.

    But Bush not only ignored Ritter AND Blix AND the UN AND a slew of American Intelligence officers who said he was cracked AND a slew of generals who said inading Iraq was the most moronic thing a president could do, Bush ALSO chose to authorize the torture of people and then chose to believe whatever they said that fit his worldview that Iraq was still armed.

    I’m all for condemning clinton for how he handled Iraq and Desert Fox. But if you support that, and Bush’s crimes are a thousand times worse, are you willing to condemn Bush a thousand times more than Clinton?

    Do you condemn people based on what they DO? Or do you judge people based on whose TEAM they play for?

    I’m taking a shot in the dark and guessing that you’re more concerned with a person’s team, Mr George William Herbert.

  178. Greg London @189

    This whole thread just reinforces my idea that people have their worldview, filter reality through that worldview, and then come up with some narrative to make reality jive with their worldview.

    Yes, and don’t forget that this includes you.

    Knowing this, you would be wise to avoid using phrases that assert states of “being” such as “Conservatives are stupid” when clearly what you mean to say is “On this issue, Conservatives are not in agreement with my opinion and world view”.

  179. *sigh* I will regret asking this:

    Rodney, when have you ever taught me a lesson about anything?

  180. Cookie at 176: The conduct you’ve described is torture so far as I am concerned. So is waterboarding. I think I’ve been clear on this.

    However, a common sense understanding of torture is not the same as a legal definition. What the 2002 DOJ memo does is analysis the legal definition of torture. As a legal matter, there are a lot of actions that you and I would both label torture, but which is NOT prohibited by the law or treaties. A reason Congress tried to outlaw waterboarding as torture, as the psychological effects of waterboarding do not necessarily arise to the level of torture under the law, as opposed to common sense.

    Jon at 183: Your first statement that “Torture is illegal, interrogation is legal. Calling torture interrogation therefore gives it a veneer of legality” is not my position, which I thought was clear in my post. Changing the label is something that politicians and CIA types have done, as step 1 to legimitize their conduct. By vague memory, Shakespeare was correct when he stated “A rose by any other name . . .”

    As to your second statement, that is true in so far as the original treaty has those words in it. However, that is not the version signed by Reagan and ratified by the Senate. Per wikipedia, the U.S. scaled by the treaty’s definition of torture, in part, as follows:

    “Restricting the definition of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” to “the cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution”. Restricting acts of torture to the following list: “(1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering . . .”

    In other words “and” was substituted for “or”, in one part, meaning that all subparts had to be met, not merely one. And the phrase “whether physical or mental” was also deleted. Both changes have created a legal definition of torture, under the treaty, that the U.S. can drive a truck (or waterboard) through. Psychological pain and suffering can be employed, but not severe physcial pain or suffering. Again, it does not make it either moral or effective, a debatable proposition, but it is not necessarily illegal.

    I assume that you know that the U.S. opted out of portions of the treaty, though I am curious as to why you did not reference it in your legal argument.

    As to your hypothetical, it would be a better one (though still flawed) if it did not involve you killing anyone. A closer (though fantastical) analogy would be that the burglar broke in, injected a poison into your child, and you beat him bloody, cut off body parts, subject him to electric shock, etc., until he divulged the location of the antidote.

    So far I am not aware of the U.S. killing anyone via waterboarding. One reason it is used, both by the U.S. and the Spanish Inquisition (not terribly good company, I admit) is that there is no permenant physical harm.

    Regardless, torture in the U.S. (maybe not other countries) might be legal using the defense of “necessity”. So long as a death does not occur, necessity is a defense allowing the accused to argue that he commited the crime to prevent a greater crime. It’s a legal defense based on a cost-benefit analysis.

    For example, you can break into some one’s home (burglary or criminal trespassing) if you are in danger of freezing to death in a snow storm. There are some additonal restraints (the criminal reaction must have been “reasonable” under the circumstances and restitution must be made (if I broke your lock to get out of the storm I have to fix it)). Under the ticking time bomb scenario, I’d bet the torturer would be acquitted if he or she presented a solid necessity case, if the tortured person survived the process.

  181. Greg: Why do you think I care more about whose team / side someone is on?

    I care about who is responsible for what – President Clinton was responsible (in charge of the US) during the UNSCOM and UNMOVIC eras. Any US regime change policy during those eras was ipso facto the product of a Democratic president, vp, intelligence leadership, military leadership, state department leadership.

    Before I called you on it, you’d ascribed that to Bush, which is simply not true. Getting that right is sort of important.

    Those Democratic faults included a mistaken belief that Iraq had an ongoing WMD weapons program from 96-2000, and a regime change policy and a few (half hearted) attempts including Desert Fox.

    The decisions made by Bush (43)’s team in 2001-3 about Iraq were clearly their fault. They included a mistaken belief that Iraq had an ongoing WMD weapons program from 96-2002, a regime change policy, and placing so much pressure on intelligence agencies that the end result was either falsified intelligence or seeing what they wanted to instead of what was there.

    Pres. Clinton did not go as far with regime change as a ground invasion and takeover. But he did have that as a policy and took overt military action to further that a couple of times.

    Pres. Clinton and his team did not go to war with Iraq over the mistaken belief that they still had a WMD program, but clearly and publically and repeatedly stated that they thought there was one there. The president who most ignored Ritter was Clinton – Ritter sidelined himself early in the Bush administration with a couple of PR faux pas and was not really that credible by 2003. Eckus and Butler were at UNSCOM during Clinton’s presidency, etc.

    This is a story which began in the 1960s. There have been eight US presidents in power during that time period, evenly split across the parties. None of them have come close to “getting it all right” regarding Iraqi proliferation. The Iraqi WMD program isn’t a right/left US politics thing. How we’ve responded to it was. The responses of seven presidents were all imperfect, and the problem was solved before Obama reached office. Reagan turned a blind eye to the program, other than a “tut tut” after the Israeli Osirak strike, because they were beating up on Iran at a time when Iran was very much not our friend. Carter failed to engage strongly enough to keep France from supplying Osirak’s reactors and fuel in the first place. Bush (41) had no idea that Iraq’s nuclear program was as advanced as it turned out to be. Clinton grappled with the now-well-revealed programs and Iraq’s ongoing obstruction about disarmament and got most of it shut down and destroyed, but could never convince itself that it was all gone after 96, to the point that they tried hard to bomb Saddam in 98.

    Bush (43) looking at all this after 9/11 said “Ok, that’s enough of that” and looked for and found excuses to execute a military regime change. Unfortunately, he and his team were woefully incompetent at successfully determining what they really did and did not know about the intelligence, and equally incompetent at running the nationbuilding and guerrilla war that followed rather obviously.

    I at the time (early 2003) had the same opinion that the Clinton administration had and the Bush administration had (and the other western nations’ intelligence agencies had) – Iraq still had a WMD program sitting latent and ready to reconstitute, possibly working a bit in the shadows. We were all wrong in that assessment.

    Given that the same opinion was held by first a Democratic and then a Republican administration, and was held by much of the governments of many of our much more liberal allies in Europe, painting this as a “Left vs Right” fight is post-facto justification. That was not it at all.

    Fox News and Rush have had a viewpoint on this during its existence that is not significantly more educated or useful than Covert Action Quarterly’s viewpoint. The number of people who have bothered to actually read all UNSCOM’s information and UNMOVICs reports, do background info, talk to people about it and be properly educated on it outside the proliferation experts field approaches zero. The pundits were bozos, regardless of political orientation. But we knew that.

    I am somewhat right wing – not socially conservative, but somewhat politically. I am a proliferation and WMD technology expert. I’ve been following this particular saga for 18 years actively, since the Gulf War. I was a WMD technology expert prior to then and was very suprised by Iraq’s nuclear program details. And, as I have said repeatedly including above, I called it wrong from 96 to 2003.

    If you feel that you have to blame Fox News for that, I can’t stop you. But Fox News has had nothing to do with reading thousands and thousands of pages of UNSCOM and UNMOVIC report and looking at technical project details. I invite anyone who’s really sure that it was Fox News and wants to prove it to me to go back and read the UNSCOM and UNMOVIC reports, the contemporary articles in Nonproliferation Review and Foreign Affairs and National Interest and so forth – and the Iraqi final declaration from 2002 – and we can really talk details.

    I doubt anyone here has done so or is willing to. I have gone back through all of it again post-2003 – and from the viewpoint of someone who in 2004 had to stand up in front of similar audiences of friends and aquaintences and say “Ok, I was wrong for seven years”. The fact of my error is in evidence and not contested. How I got there and how the world as a whole got there, and why, are the important lessons to learn. But they’re fairly hard lessons to grasp the whole scope of.

  182. Stevem – As a legal matter, there are a lot of actions that you and I would both label torture, but which is NOT prohibited by the law or treaties.

    Like hell. Waterboarding was found illegal by multiple courts in the US. You (and the people who advised Bush) are simply ignoring the facts. The same goes for stress positions, keeping people locked in freezing rooms and throwing cold water on them, and bending someone over an shoving your fingers up his ass in order to sexually humiliate him.

    Rape is a crime, and we essentially did just that. It didn’t have any long term physical effect, but you’d suggest that any rape that doesn’t cause damage is OK to use as interrogation.

    We *don’t* rape soldiers in SERE training. In Gitmo, we force prisoners to submit to what most people would define as rape is it were done to them, and we did it to break those prisoners.

  183. stevem, I think I understand your argument. Do you agree with Yoo that crushing a child’s testicles is not legally torture and/or a crime? Your personal belief is established. I remain mystified by the argument that this is a good legal opinion. For example we can find legal opinions against paying income taxes, which have been laughed out of courts. I doubt we will ever get a chance to see it, but I believe Yoo’s arguments would get similar treatment in a criminal trial.

  184. Jim – LOL, yes.

    I will find out that I have been convinced that gay marriage is evil, universal healthcare is wasteful, and that Dick Cheney won the Nobel peace prize. Ah well, learning new things can’t be all bad!

  185. Frank@192: you would be wise to avoid using phrases that assert states of “being” such as “Conservatives are stupid”

    Since I never actually used those comments, I guess you’re calling me wise.

    GWH@195: If you feel that you have to blame Fox News for that, I can’t stop you.

    I said “that is what happened historically according to Fox News.” That doesn’t mean I think Fox News was stoking the anger against the Iranians in the 80’s, or the Iraqi’s in the 90’s. I blame their ilk. And that’s how Fox News reports the Iraq war now.

    How I got there and how the world as a whole got there, and why, are the important lessons to learn. But they’re fairly hard lessons to grasp the whole scope of.

    By October/November of 2002, when congress voted for authorizing use of force against Iraq, I knew that Iraq was essentially disarmed and I knew that we were going to invade Iraq no matter what.

    Everything that happened between that point and the March 2003 invasion did nothing but completely reinforce this fact. Iraq was williing to disarm and we didn’t care cause we wanted war.

    wanted war. We’d gotten our asses kicked on 9/11, and we needed to beat someone up. Didn’t matter who. Iraq was our whipping boy.

    Saddam only cared about one thing, himself. He didn’t care about al queda and he didn’t even care about WMD’s other than for how he could use them against his direct enemies and his own Iraqi populations to stay in power. But he didn’t care about them to the point that he was willing to hang on to them as he lost power.

    The one thing we wanted from the beginning, regime change, was the only thing he wouldn’t give in to. We could have disarmed him in the mid 90’s if we had the slightest interest in disarming him and letting him live and letting him stay in power.

    But we didn’t. We didn’t care about disarming him. We would have gladly allowed some general to put a bullet in his head and let that general maintain whatever WMD’s he had, and we wouldn’t have given a damn.

    We wanted to kick someone’s ass, kill them, put a cap in their ass. We weren’t interested in political bullshit like UN Resolution 1441, inspections, and disarmament.

    We were doing this since the 90’s, Clinton yes, but as I said, Clinton didn’t blunder into a trillion dollar quagmire like Bush.

    It was BUSH who invented the fantasy connection between Iraq and 9/11. Yeah, after 9/11, Bush said “OK, that’s enough” and invaded Iraq, but Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

    So, again, I’m willing to condemn Clinton for his role in attempting to kill Saddam rather than disarm him as international law had called for. But I condemn Bush a thousand times more because the Iraq war is easily a thousand times worse than Desert Fox. Bush repeatedly saying Iraq was connected to Al queda and 9/11 in some way was abhorent behaviour far worse than Clinton’s Desert Fox operation.

    You want the lesson to learn? The thing that caused us to invade Iraq was an unrelenting desire to assert dominance on someone’s ass after 9/11. Many were so blind after 9/11 that they couldn’t see their own rage and fear and couldn’t see how their rage and fear clouded their vision.

    There’s a story of a Samurai who’s master had been killed. The Samurai’s duty was to track down and kill the assassin. He chases him all over and finally tracks him down and corners him. Just before the samurai strikes, the assassin spits in his face. The Samurai sheaths his sword and walks away. Why?

    Because the samurai had gotten angered. He knew he couldn’t strike out of anger, but only out of duty.

    Americans got angry after 9/11 and drew their swords. amerians started attacking poeple wearing turbans in the streets. Hate crimes against muslims and arabs spiked. Americans confused anger and fear for duty, righteousness, and accuracy. And Bush and company did nothing but encourage this anger, encourage this fear. Clinton may have launched Desert Fox, but he wasn’t using it as a means to scare Americans into surrendering their basic rights. He wasn’t using it to suspend habeous corpus, right to privacy, right to due process, right to freedom from torture.

    Bush did.

  186. Greg – you’re conflating Iraqi proliferation concerns and Neocon facsicm concerns.

    The people who were focused on and most concerned by Iraqi WMD were not the same people who imposed the Department of Homeland Security and the warrantless wiretap and insane no-fly lists on us. Or the people behind the torture at Guantanamo and with Extraordinary Rendition.

    There is only a tiny overlap in that – in the persons of Bush (43) and Cheney, and a few pundits whose job really didn’t involve either being responsible for or having to be aware of all the details.

    This is what’s pissing me off about several of the arguments presented here. Waterboarding was a completely different set of people, happened later, etc. Not related. The Iraqi WMD / inspections go back decades and are a very nonpartisan issue, though Neocons wholeheartedly adopted the simplistic “just regime change and be done with it” approach.

    But regime change wasn’t *just* a Neocon agenda, as Clinton and Desert Fox demonstrated, though he didn’t go as far as Bush (43) did.

  187. Greg wrote in part:

    Hate crimes against muslims and arabs spiked. Americans confused anger and fear for duty, righteousness, and accuracy. And Bush and company did nothing but encourage this anger, encourage this fear.

    Bush came out rather publically against hate crimes against Muslims in the US right after 9/11. Your memory is failing you.

  188. Cookie at 197: I would very much like to see Yoo’s legal opinion that states that crushing a child’s testicles is not torture. A link would be appreciated.

    Assuming such an opinion exists, I would very much disagree with it, on legal and moral grounds. For example, crushing testicles (or other body parts) will most certainly inflict “severe physical pain or suffering” which is the U.S. legal definition of torture.

    not_scottbot at 170: We’ll have to disagree on the applicability of the Constitution. I personally belief it restricts or impedes government action as follows: 1) within the territorial confines of the U.S., regardless of whom that action is taken against; and/or, 2) against U.S. citizens, regardless of where they may be in the world. It does not prevent CIA agents (sworn to defend the Constitution), etc. from kidnapping Saudi Arabians in Italy.

  189. Here you go –
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11488.htm
    ‘John Yoo publicly argued there is no law that could prevent the President from ordering the torture of a child of a suspect in custody – including by crushing that child’s testicles.

    This came out in response to a question in a December 1st debate in Chicago with Notre Dame professor and international human rights scholar Doug Cassel.

    Cassel: If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?
    Yoo: No treaty.
    Cassel: Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.
    Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.’

    Good enough? That was in 2006, by the way, a time when I believe Yoo’s torture memo was still officially classified – to protect us, in the name of national security, to ensure that those who were ignorant of what the American government was doing remained so. Which, as the rest of the world (quite literally) knew what was going on, in broad outline if not specific detail, meant that in this case, national security meant ensuring that Americans did not learn that their government was torturing as a matter of national policy, in contravention to the Constitution, international treaties, and of American traditions.

    ‘I personally belief it restricts or impedes government action as follows: 1) within the territorial confines of the U.S., regardless of whom that action is taken against; and/or, 2) against U.S. citizens, regardless of where they may be in the world.’
    Then please, do acquaint yourself with the case of your fellow citizen Mr. Padilla (who is most likely guilty of crimes against the U.S., though no trial has been held till now), who meets your criteria, and who was and remains imprisoned without due process and tortured.

  190. In addition to all the other theories about why President Obama didn’t release the photos, let me add this one. There is a good chance that by releasing the photos he would have made it difficult to find a jury that would not be considered prejudged.

  191. Phillip J. Birmingham @185 (also Kevin @ 156)

    Defend all you want, I was simply attempting to show that actions during WWII (or any war) were not pristine (as per Gareth Skarka @113) with respect to “basic decency” which people didn’t want to define.

    And you can argue all day long that disinformation is an OK tactic but there were people at the time who argued that it was morally wrong and beneath the moral statue of the United States.

    And hitting a prisoner is hitting a prisoner. According to the Geneva Conventions attempting to coerce any information from a prisoner of war is a violation.

    Article 17 explicity states

    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.

    Greg London @180

    You forgot to mention in your timeline that in 1998 Scott Ritter quit the United Nations Special Commission “out of frustration that the United Nations Security Council, and the United States as its most significant supporter, was failing to enforce the post-Gulf War resolutions designed to disarm Iraq.”

    You also forgot to mention that his film “Shifting Sands” was financed by Saddam Hussein.

    @200

    I guess you’re calling me wise.

    I guess I am. And I guess I had you lumped in with a bunch of others you didn’t deserve to be lumped with.

    By October/November of 2002, when congress voted for authorizing use of force against Iraq, I knew that Iraq was essentially disarmed and I knew that we were going to invade Iraq no matter what.

    The Iraq War Resolution used a whole bunch of justifications for going to war with Iraq including

    …violating resolution of the United Nations Security Council by continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population…

    …demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction…

    …United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) authorizes the use of all necessary means to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 (1990) and subsequent relevant resolutions and to compel Iraq to cease certain activities that threaten international peace and security, including the development of weapons of mass destruction and refusal or obstruction of United Nations weapons inspections in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 (1991), repression of its civilian population in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 (1991), and threatening its neighbors or United Nations operations in Iraq in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 949 (1994);

    …the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102–1), Congress has authorized the President ‘‘to use United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) in order to achieve implementation of Security Council Resolution 660,661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677’’;

    …in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it ‘‘supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102–1),’’…

    …the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (Public Law 105–338)
    expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime…

    And while Bush never actually drew a connection between Iraq and 9/11, Congress Congress did in the Authorization for War against Iraq.

    …members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq…

    ..Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens…

    The Authorization for War was supported by 68% of the House, 77% of the Senate and 75% of the American public.

    But again I ask why is this decision the tipping point? I mean the President has not ended the NSA surveillance program that this forum so ardently opposed as an example of Bush “shredding” the Constitution. Not only does it continue, but Obama has defended it in court.

    Guantanamo may (or may not) be closing, but the President is using Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan for the very same purpose; and defending doing so.

    He has reserved the use of Renditions and while denouncing enhanced interrogation techniques publicly, is actions have left the door open for his Administration to use them.

    And most recently, he has restarted miltary commissions of detainees.

    It seems to me that his not realising these photos is small potatos in comparison to these other actions which this forum was ardently against when Bush did them.

    What’s more, it seems to me that since President Obama is essentially concurring with President Bush’s decisions, do we not now have independent validation that Bush was following the correct course in national security matters?

  192. ‘There is a good chance that by releasing the photos he would have made it difficult to find a jury that would not be considered prejudged.’

    That is a fascinating perspective. And in all fairness, absurd, to the extent that the torture and related crimes are documented with a paper trail, one that does not rely on a jury’s ignorance.

    Of course, I am not a lawyer, but to the extent that the crimes committed are not a matter of conjecture, but instead are well documented in the government’s own records, a jury’s ignorance is immaterial.

    However, prejudicing a jury is not the same as prejudging – and as demonstrated here, a number of Americans seem to feel that well established standards and legal criteria do not apply when prosecuting American torturers. Obviously, convincing fellow citizens that torture is both evil and a crime by simply presenting the reality of what was done could be considered prejudicing a jury.

    Which is a very sad commentary on America’s current standards of morality.

  193. Frank:

    What’s more, it seems to me that since President Obama is essentially concurring with President Bush’s decisions, do we not now have independent validation that Bush was following the correct course in national security matters?

    No, Obama is not as finely shredding the Constitution. If evidence emerges that he is authorizing torture, extraordinary rendition, etc. then I’ll call for his impeachment just as I called for Bush’s.

  194. GWH@202: But regime change wasn’t *just* a Neocon agenda, as Clinton and Desert Fox demonstrated, though he didn’t go as far as Bush (43) did.

    Yeah, a ten year war isn’t quite the same as a one-off bombing mission. But keep comparing them as if Bush and Clinton were the same with minor differences.

    Bush came out rather publically against hate crimes against Muslims in the US right after 9/11. Your memory is failing you.

    The color coded terror alert system was nothing more than a fear-mongering tool. It informed no one of anything useful. But it was useful because it would allow the powers that be bump the “terror color” to red whenever they needed to scare people into submission.

    Bush became the 9/11 president because he kept invoking it. And he kept invoking it because he wanted people to be afraid of “another 9/11″. That was the drum beat from the white house. See #23 and #112 in this very thread for the phrase “another 9/11″ being invoked almost a decade after the event.

    As for Bush being able to tell the difference between Muslim and Terrorist, between Al Queda and Iraq, between Sunni and Shite, any attempt to defend Bush on those topics disqualifies you as anything but partisan.

    2001-09-19: Bush Jr, according to Ron Suskind, told CIA chief George Tenet, “I want to know about links between Saddam and al Qaeda. The Vice President knows some things that might be helpful.” Vice President Cheney tells Tenet about a report that one of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta, met with senior Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague. The CIA checks and says the story doesn’t add up. But Cheney will repeat the story in public appearances.

    [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0743271092/104-0445505-3761530?redirect=true]

    2001-09-21: Bush is informed that the US intelligence community could not link Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks and that there is little evidence pointing to collaborative ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime.

    [ http://www.nationaljournal.com/about/njweekly/stories/2005/1122nj1.htm%5D

    2002-09-25: Four days after being told by intelligence agencies that there is no connection between Iraq and al-Queada, Bush is telling journalists “You can’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.”

    [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/09/20020925-1.html]

    2001-09-27: Donald Rumsfeld called the link between Iraq and al Qaeda “accurate and not debatable.”

    [http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=43413]

    2001-09-20: A letter to President Bush from the neoconservative Project for the New American Century says “even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.”

    [http://www.nationalreview.com/document/document092101b.shtml]

    [http://www.xmission.com/~thant/words/neocon.html]

    2001-12-09: Vice President Cheney, appearing on Meet the Press, claims it has “been pretty well confirmed that [Mohammed Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence”. The 9-11 commission will debunk this claim.

    [http://www.whitehouse.gov/vicepresident/news-speeches/speeches/vp20011209.html]

    Meanwhile, the entire Bush years can be summed up in one phrase: One-Percent Doctrine. You wanna say Bush and Clinton were similar with only minor differences? Horsepuckey. Cheney invented the policy of fear. If we are even the least bit afraid that something might happen, we act as if it’s the god-given truth. By December of 2001, Rumsfeld orders the pentagon to begin planning the invasion of Iraq.

    2001-11-30: According to Ron Suskind, Dick Cheney lays out the “one percent doctrine”. If there is a one-percent chance that something will happen, the US has to treat it as a certainty. (unless it relates to Global Warming, of course)

    [http://www.ronsuskind.com/theonepercentdoctrine/]

    2001-12-01: According to Bob Woodward, Rumsfeld orders Franks to begin work on an Iraq war plan. Bush will meet with military leaders regarding the war plan on a regular basis.

    [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0743255488/sr=1-2/qid=1153760203/ref=pd_bbs_2/102-7642644-0694516?ie=UTF8&s=books]

    [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17347-2004Apr16.html]

    The issue of WMD’s, Iraq, and Torture are now permanently and inextricably linked. Bush made it so. History cannot be changed.

  195. Frank@207: Bush never actually drew a connection between Iraq and 9/11

    Those who don’t know what the fark they’re talking about should seriously not say anything to reveal their complete and total ignorance.

    2001-09-11: Within 5 hours of the al Quaeda attacks on 9-11, Donald Rumsfeld wanted to hit Saddam Hussein at the same time we respond to whoever was really behind 9-11. “Sweep it all up. Things related or not”.

    [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/09/04/september11/main520830.shtml]

    The day after the attacks, 12 Sept, 2001, Richard Clarke, former chief counter-terrorism adviser on the US National Security Council, claims that Bush cornered him and tells him to see if Saddam is involved in any way to 9-11. Any shred of a connection. Clarke informs the president that his people have looked into any state sponsorship for al Queada and found no linkage to Iraq, and that there is somewhat of a link between al Queada and Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Bush says testily “Look into Iraq, Saddam” and leaves.

    [http://www.ontheissues.org/Archive/Against_All_Enemies_George_W__Bush.htm]

    2001-09-19: Bush Jr, according to Ron Suskind, told CIA chief George Tenet, “I want to know about links between Saddam and al Qaeda. The Vice President knows some things that might be helpful.” Vice President Cheney tells Tenet about a report that one of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta, met with senior Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague. The CIA checks and says the story doesn’t add up. But Cheney will repeat the story in public appearances.

    [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0743271092/104-0445505-3761530?redirect=true]

    2001-09-21: Bush is informed that the US intelligence community could not link Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks and that there is little evidence pointing to collaborative ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime.

    [ http://www.nationaljournal.com/about/njweekly/stories/2005/1122nj1.htm%5D

    2002-09-25: Four days after being told by intelligence agencies that there is no connection between Iraq and al-Queada, Bush is telling journalists “You can’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.”

    [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/09/20020925-1.html]

    2001-09-27: Donald Rumsfeld called the link between Iraq and al Qaeda “accurate and not debatable.”

    [http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=43413]

    2001-09-20: A letter to President Bush from the neoconservative Project for the New American Century says “even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.”

    [http://www.nationalreview.com/document/document092101b.shtml]

    [http://www.xmission.com/~thant/words/neocon.html]

    2001-11-21: According to Bob Woodward’s “Plan of Attack”, Bush Jr. collars Rumsfeld, asking him, “What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq? What is the status of the war plan? I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret.”

    2001-12-09: Vice President Cheney, appearing on Meet the Press, claims it has “been pretty well confirmed that [Mohammed Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence”. The 9-11 commission will debunk this claim.

    [http://www.whitehouse.gov/vicepresident/news-speeches/speeches/vp20011209.html]

    2002-01-01: Captured terrorist Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi is tortured by US agents. During this time, al-Libi claims that al Quaeda sent operatives to Iraq to acquire chemcial and biological weapons and training. In Feb 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) states al-Libi “has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest”. (Apparently, “debriefing” is code for “torture”.) Even though the DIA doubts al-Libi’s claims, CIA Director, George Tenet, authorized the use of al-Libi’s claims in Secretary Powell’s Feb 2003 speech to the UN.

    [http://web.archive.org/web/20070517165922rn_2/www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5197853/site/newsweek/]

    [http://levin.senate.gov/newsroom/supporting/2005/DIAletter.102605.pdf]

    2002-02-08: Bush Jr. citing testimony extracted from al-Libi under torture, testimony that the DIA says is likely a fabrication, says in a radio address: “Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training.”</b

    2002-03-xx: Condoleezza Rice was having a meeting in her office with three US Senators discussing how to deal with Iraq through the UN or perhaps a Middle East coalition. Bush Jr. poked his head into the office and , waved his hands dismissively, and says “Fuck Saddam. We’re taking him out.”

    [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1004567,00.html]

    2002-04-04: President George Bush says in an interview on Britain’s ITV television network, “I made up my mind that Saddam [Hussein] needs to go.

    [http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/timeline.jsp?timeline=complete_timeline_of_the_2003_invasion_of_iraq"es_from_senior_us_officials=decisionquotes]

    2002-06-xx: Operation Southern Focus. US Bombing campaign begins in Iraq. The operation is not publicly declared at the time. It was claimed at the time to be an intensification of Operation Sourthern Watch, enforcing the No-Fly-Zones in southern Iraq. But 21,376 sorties will be flown between June 2002 and March 2003 in preparation for an invasion.

    2002-08-26: In a speech, Cheney says: “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction … We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons … we’ve gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors — including Saddam’s own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam’s direction.” Cheney either doesn’t explain or doesn’t realize that Saddam’s son-in-law defected in 1994, told US intelligence that Iraq had no nuclear program, and was assassinated in 1996, and therefore Saddam’s son-in-law’s testimony would be irrelevant for 2002.

    [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/08/20020826.html]

    2002-09-08: Cheney says Mohamed Atta, the lead 9-11 hijacker, traveled to Prague on a number of occaisions, and on at least one occasion met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer a few months before the 9-11 attacks. Cheney says the CIA deems this information to be “credible”.

    [http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/bush/meet.htm]

    The CIA in fact deemed this not credible as early as 2001-09-21

    2002-09-28: Bush addresses the nation “The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more… The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist groups, and there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq. This regime is seeking a nuclear bomb”

    [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/09/20020928.html]

    Anyone who claims the Bush white house wasn’t pushing a PR campaign to link Iraq to 9/11 is smoking crack. Hours after the attack, Rumsfeld is telling teh pentagon to go after Iraq, things related or not. A week or so after 9/11, Bush is pushing the CIA to find links between Al Queda and Iraq, Atta meeting in Praque with Iraq intel officers, which never happened. By 9/27, Rumsfeld called the link between Iraq and al Qaeda “accurate and not debatable.” Two months after 9/11, Bush Jr. collars Rumsfeld and wants war plans to invade Iraq. By December 2001, Cheney tells Meet the Press that Iraq/Al Queda link has been confirmed. By February 2002, Bush is saying on a radio address “Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training”. By April 2002, Bush is saying on British TV “I made up my mind that Saddam [Hussein] needs to go.” By June of 2002, Operation Southern Focus starts, Twenty-Thousand sorties to bomb Iraq in preperation for an invasion. By September 2002, Cheney is saying that Atta met with Iraqi intel in Praque before 9/11. September 2002, Bush says on a national addres that there are al queda operatives in Iraq.

    Every single bit of it were nothing but lies.

    And you’re repeating them because it fits the version of history you want to believe rather than having anythign to do with the reality of history that the world actually lived through.

    Stop the propaganda and lies.

  196. GregLondon:

    I usually tell people not to post multiple sequential posts but in this case I’m making an exception.

    That said, I suspect we’ve wondered vastly off beam here. This thread looks very much like a thread on evolution, in which creationists show up to declare the law of thermodynamics proves evolution couldn’t happen and then everyone has to do a seminar on the basics of evolutionary theory.

  197. Another Friday, another walkback from a Campaign Promise:

    Obama’s Military Tribunals
    Another Friday, another bow to Bush’s antiterror legacy.
    Opinion Journal, The Wall Street Journal

    White House officials insist that their tribunals will be kinder and gentler, stressing additional due-process safeguards for terrorists on trial for war crimes. But the debate that has convulsed the political system since 9/11 isn’t about procedural nuances. It has been over core principles, with Democrats decrying a “shadow justice system” and claiming that “Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.”

    The latter quote is from a speech by Senator Obama in 2007 denouncing “a legal framework that does not work.” He also referred to the civilian criminal justice system and courts martial that Democrats then claimed, and many still claim, are the right venues for antiterror prosecutions. After the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision gave terrorists habeas rights, Mr. Obama again laid into the Bush Administration’s “legal black hole” and “dangerously flawed legal approach,” which “undermines the very values we are fighting to defend.”

    And again I ask, what –outside of the political calculus of the situation– has changed since Candidate Obama promised to overturn Military Commissions for Terrorists and since President Obama suspended same?

    And again, there will be thundering silence in response.

  198. I guess I didn’t have to post quite so much to disprove the propaganda of “Bush never connected Iraq to Al Queda”.

  199. Yes, we’re off subject. I’ll just stop with a quick summation for clarity.

    I think the aforementioned legal memos are bad opinions. They are like papers arguing the Civil War was not over slavery while ignoring the slavery debates. Yoo and friends are trying to create a legal grey area the size of the Pacific Ocean. Such unchecked executive power is one of the primary things the Constitution was written to prevent, and few breaches are more troubling than claiming the power to torture.

    Even if I were somehow convinced water boarding and these various other “enhanced” techniques were not torture, the Bush administration violated many other laws. We need to do more than write the equivalent of a sternly worded letter in our history books if we are to hold our political leadership accountable.

    Lastly, I intend no personal attacks or believe disagreement with me equals stupidity. I obviously feel quite strongly on this issue and am at a bit of a loss. I naively thought this issue would not result in such a debate and am feeling out what kind of shared legal/moral groundwork exists in our society.

  200. Rodney@214

    1) That’s an opinion by a right-wing hack, not an unbiased telling of the facts.

    2) Obama stopped tribunals to look into them. He did. Any tweaks here or there, including the return of Habeas Corpus, which had to be forced on the Bush Admin by the Supreme Court, are how he is ensuring they are what they need to be.

    3) Revisionist History is Revisionist. It’s nice to claim the tribunals are the same materially as the ones favored by Cheney, but the truth is he would not have given them any tribunals at all and just let them rot, and these are what he favored when forced.

    4) This is not a reversal in any way. Nice try though.

  201. I remember watching Newt Gingrich argue about abolishing discovery in anti-terror trials, because a terrorist’s lawyer might communicate evidence back to other terrorists, who’d then take advantage of it.

    Secret trials, torture, and secret “evidence”.

    Why bother to have trials at all? Oh, that’s right, we’re not having them.

    I blame Obama for continuing it, but really, it was the Bush administration that put us in this situation. If we hadn’t done things to prisoners that, if they came up in an open trial, would enrage the entire world, we would never have had to worry about this.

    The answer, of course, is not to abolish discovery, habeas corpus, the right to a trial, or the right for prisoners of war to be seen by the red cross. But the conservative movement is (still) all in favor of chucking those things at the drop of a hat.

  202. RG @ 214 — “And again I ask, what –outside of the political calculus of the situation– has changed since Candidate Obama promised to overturn Military Commissions for Terrorists and since President Obama suspended same?

    And again, there will be thundering silence in response.”

    I guess this will be the thundering silence…

    What has changed? (1) There has now been time to review the military commissions at issue to determine what measures need to be taken to make those commissions, in the opinion of the current administration, morally and legally acceptable; (2) Candidate Obama did not have the benefit of unfettered access to information regarding these commissions, whereas President Obama does; and (3) Candidate Obama did not have the benefit of the advice and counsel of military personnel and others close to the situation to advise him on what they believe is and is not necessary. (Not that he has to take that advice at face value and blindly follow it, and I’m sure he isn’t — but Obama is obviously wise enough to understand that effective leadership means making decisions armed with the benefit of the advice and counsel of those with greater knowledge and understanding of the situation than yours).

    I also wonder whether the “political calculus of the situation” changed at all — who exactly is Obama winning over with this decision? Certainly not his liberal base. Nor is he coming off as particularly charming to the neo-cons, who will fight everything he does or says no matter what, and who are seizing on this opportunity to characterize him as a “flip flopper” (whatever the hell that means). So, to the extent that you are implying that these decisions are about political expedience, I don’t think that makes any sense at all.

    Does that answer your question?

  203. RG @ 214 — Also (apologies for the multi-post, but something I forgot to mention), a quick point about the Wall Street Journal — it is now run by Rupert Murdoch, and has been since 2007. In case you were wondering why the Wall Street Journal now looks like Fox News in print, there’s a good reason for that. Because that’s what it is. The Wall Street Journal no longer has any credibility, and anyone who quotes from the Wall Street Journal as though it were a credible source of news has no credibility, either.

  204. There seems to be some confusion around here about the use of torture by the US before the Bush administration. I think that Frank, who seems to be basically correct, has confused the issue somewhat by bringing legality into it. First, I think, we should settle whether torture was going on. Which, of course, it was. Not just PsyOps but electric shocks to the tender parts, beatings, and the like. For more information, those interested might look at Noami Klein’s <a href=”http://www.thenation.com/doc/20051226/klein”article on the matter at TheNation, and from there perhaps to Al McCoy’s book A Matter of Torture.

    But briefly, torture was taught to army and law enforcement officers from Latin America at the School of Americas, which was started by a Democratic President (Truman), then moved to the US and renamed (or rebranded, one might say) by another Democratic President, Clinton. While most of the dirty work was then done by the “natives,” it was usually under supervision by US overseers. Or non-US: the US smuggled the notorious Nazi torturer out of Europe to South America right after World War II, where he taught his techniques to generations of students before the French finally caught up with him. And, to quote Klein and McCoy, “By the time McCain was taken captive, the CIA had already launched the Phoenix program and, as McCoy writes, ‘its agents were operating forty interrogation centers in South Vietnam that killed more than twenty thousand suspects and tortured thousands more,’ a claim he backs up with pages of quotes from press reports as well as Congressional and Senate probes.”

    Klein also points out that Bush’s real innovation was in-sourcing the torture instead, “with prisoners being abused by US citizens in US-run prisons and transported to third countries in US planes. It is this departure from clandestine etiquette, more than the actual crimes, that has so much of the military and intelligence community up in arms: By daring to torture unapologetically and out in the open, Bush has robbed everyone of plausible deniability.” But like so many US crimes, US torture before Bush could be known about by anyone who cared to know. It was not a secret to the victims, and is well-known in the rest of the world. But most Americans, including liberals, preferred not to know.

  205. Corby at 218 opines:

    That’s an opinion by a right-wing hack, not an unbiased telling of the facts.

    Which you will now correct by presenting the verifiable facts (complete with links) which you obviously posses, since no one but a lying leftard would make such a scurrilous accusation without said facts in hand.

    Obama stopped tribunals to look into them. He did. Any tweaks here or there, including the return of Habeas Corpus, which had to be forced on the Bush Admin by the Supreme Court, are how he is ensuring they are what they need to be.

    Candidate Obama promised to eliminate the tribunals Which he characterized as “a legal framework that does not work” in a 2007 speech. What new framework has been put in place supplanting that which did “…not work”? What amendments did Illinois State Senator Obama recommend on the Bill (which became law) authorizing the Military Commissions which he promised to eliminate (as Candidate Obama) and subsequently suspended (as President Obama? Pray do tell.

    Revisionist History is Revisionist. It’s nice to claim the tribunals are the same materially as the ones favored by Cheney, but the truth is he would not have given them any tribunals at all and just let them rot, and these are what he favored when forced.

    What revisionist history have I offered here, since you are addressing your comment to me? Be specific and provide links to both the “revisionist history” you accuse me of presenting and to the documented history which you accuse me of altering.

    How have the Customary Laws of Warfare been changed? How has The Military Commissions Act of 2006 been amended by the Obama Administration or the 111th (the most ethical Congress ever, per Speaker Pelosi) Congress?

    I have nowhere mentioned former Vice President Dick Cheney in this thread, so your straw man argument on that issue is identified as such and dismissed out of hand.

    As regards detention of these illegal combatants, that is the traditional treatment under the Customary Laws of Warfare and specifically under Geneva III. Enemy combatants, once captured, are detained by the power capturing (at the discretion of that power) them until:

    1) They are traded for prisoners held by the enemy of like rank. (Since hhe terrorists don’t take prisoners and have asked for no such trades, that’s right out.)

    2) They are found to be illegal combatants and as such subjected to tribunals for war crimes (including the war crime of being an illegal combatant, itself traditionally punishable by death).

    3) They are released at the cessation of hostilities.

    This is not a reversal in any way. Nice try though.

    Sure it’s not.

    What color is the sky on your planet again?

  206. LB steps up at 220, swings…

    There has now been time to review the military commissions at issue to determine what measures need to be taken to make those commissions, in the opinion of the current administration, morally and legally acceptable;

    …and misses. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 has been Public Law since October of 2006 when it was signed by President Bush. It contains all of the procedures, standards of evidence, and methods of appeal. It is not, and never has been, a secret. It was publicly debated before the Senate (granted, while Obama was an Illinois State Senator). Candidate Obama, who was then a United States Senator and who claims to have been a “Professor of Constitutional Law” had no problem declaring the Commissions created under the act to be a “shadow justice system” and a system so flawed as to be “a legal framework that does not work.” The Public Law which established the system which Candidate Obama declared a “dangerously flawed legal approach,” which “undermines the very values we are fighting to defend.” has in no way been amended by the Congress; it is still the Law.

    …swings again…

    Candidate Obama did not have the benefit of unfettered access to information regarding these commissions, whereas President Obama does

    …and tips one foul… Proceeduraly, it’s all there in the The Military Commissions Act of 2006. The transcripts of the proceedings have been made public during the course of the proceedings. The only pieces which President Obama now has access to (and which Senator Obama and his staff could have had on request) which you and I do not are the classified pieces of evidence redacted from the transcripts. Strike Two.

    …Third swing…

    Candidate Obama did not have the benefit of the advice and counsel of military personnel and others close to the situation to advise him on what they believe is and is not necessary.

    … and misses for Strike Three…

    As a United States Senator Obama had access to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the entirety of the Armed Forces, and was free to solicit their opinions on such matters, including under oath if he so chose.

    But wait, not content to be out for the inning , he storms the mound:

    (Not that he has to take that advice at face value and blindly follow it, and I’m sure he isn’t — but Obama is obviously wise enough to understand that effective leadership means making decisions armed with the benefit of the advice and counsel of those with greater knowledge and understanding of the situation than yours).

    Care to compare DD-214’s?

  207. Rodney:

    I actually agree with you – blatant walkback on campaign promise. Very disappointing, and irreconcilable with what he said prior to the election.

    And the response has not been thundering silence – see for example Glenn Greenwald and Digby, who’ve gone nuts. And in the MSM, Jake Tapper of ABC News has been asking very critical questions, too.

    Unlike you, I can actually accept a good point made by someone I disagree with. Its not compulsory to be a partisan dick ALL the time, you know.

  208. Candidate Obama didn’t learn any secret information upon becoming President Obama that would prove that (1) torture works or (2) that we need secret star chamber courts to put detainees on “trial”. I’ll wager the standard amount on those two.

    If (1) torture worked, then that might sway him to not want to investigate and punish those who broke the law, but that isn’t what he’s saying, it isn’t the direction he’s trying to go, or the tack he’s trying to take. It’s also been shown that torture-extracted information got us into a war in Iraq and then we discovered the informaiton was a lie. So, unless the torture-extracted information saved far more lives than 10 year in Iraq has lost, it wasn’t worth it.

    if (2) we needed secret star chambers to keep the detainees from leaking terrorist information to terrorists who haven’t been capture yet, then that might sway him to consider keeping them secret. But anyone who really thinks that is smoking crack and grasping straws.

    No. Obama is avoiding criminal investigations of americans committing systemic torture because it will likely burn a bunch of his political capital. Why? Because he only won the popular vote by about 8%, meaning nearly half the country is afraid enough to be willing to allow torture. All the torture apologists will transform into active torture defenders if there are ever criminal investigations into Americans torturing prisoners. Some of you are on this thread already. Readying your accusations that Obama is endangering America to even think about torture investigations.

    Which means he can’t have investigations. Which means he can’t allow former innocent detainees have their day in court, because that means it will air dirty laundry about Americans torturing people, and may end up causing a criminal investigation. So he’s reaffirming Bush’s State Secrets doctrine that the case must be dismissed out of hand because to even discuss the case would reveal state secrets.

    The “secret”? That Americans tortured people.

    It also means that he can’t have the detainees tried by the normal court system. We’ve tried and convicted foreign terrorists in the past using our normal court system. They’re serving time in a prison in the northwest, Oklahoma I think.

    But if you do that, all the torture they’ve suffered will be aired, and that will guarantee war crimes investigations, and Obama doesn’t want to allow that. He wants to win reelection in 2012.

    So, he’s putting the kaibash on trials through normal channels and reinstating secret star chamber tribunals, so that the torture these people went through at the hands of Americans will stay buried as long as possible.

    Obama’s not doing this because he was informed that torture really worked or normal trials would reveal secret information. He’s doing this because he knows an 8% margin of victory really means that a lot of americans are actually fine with doing away with due process and habeus corpus, are actually fine with americans torturing people including other americans, are actually ok with any manner of travesty so long as it gives them the illusion of being safe.

    The American Boogeyman is the surprise attack. Pearl Harbor, a Nuclear Soviet first strike, Gulf of Tonkin, USS Cole, 9/11. And if some of those had to be manufactured to trigger the surprise attack sensation in the american public, I don’t think the powers that be would be all too terribly put out to do so. Give us unlimited power or the hidden boogeyman might get you. Ok. Surrender your right to privacy of the boogeyman might get you. All right. Surrender your right to due process or the boogeyman might get you. Fine. Surrender your right to humane treatment, allow us to torture whomever we want, or the boogeyman might get you. sure, sure, anything you want, just don’t let the boogeyman get me.

    If Obama has investigations into torture, if he allows the truth to get out to the point that investigations occur, then all these scared little pansies who were willing to sacrifice the rights of everyone else around them so the boogeyman wouldn’t get them, would scream like little children, have a tantrum, and vote for whatever father-figure, parental figure, who can show up on 2012 and promise to hand out the spankings to the evil terrorists who really deserve it.

    It’s a sad world we live in. But that’s what you get when a huge chunk of the population is afraid of their own gawdamn shadow and is willing to sell out all their neighbors (they won’t torture me, they’ll tortore someone else) to create the illusion of safety against the boogeyman.

  209. @ 225,

    This:

    I actually agree with you – blatant walkback on campaign promise.

    Is the first thing written by you which I have read here on Whatever that has caused me to go back and carefully re-examine my position.

    You proceed to assume that I closely follow Glenn “sockpupet” Greenwald, Digby (whoever that may be), and Jake Tapper (and ABC News in general). That’s oh for three there, you too may take a seat in the dugout unless you insist on charging the mound as well. Oh wait, you did that too.

    Sod off.

  210. Rodney:

    I’m not interested in whether you are being less dickish than you might have been, you were still being a dick. Also, while it’s entirely possible someone else was being a dick, you’re the one I read being a dick, so you get to be the one I address the “stop being a dick” statement to. Hopefully anyone else being a dick will by implication realize it also applies to them.

    Also: Really? “He started it” is your argument here? You know, you should have outgrown that argument when you were ten.

    So: Be the grown-up in your little conversation, or stop being on this thread. Simple enough.

  211. GregLondon @211

    Frank@207: Bush never actually drew a connection between Iraq and 9/11

    Those who don’t know what the fark they’re talking about should seriously not say anything to reveal their complete and total ignorance.

    I won’t belabor the point in order grant our host his wish, but I would like to point out that making a connection between Iran and 9/11 is different from making a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

    The former has little evidence to support it and I reiterate that Bush never claimed a connection. The 9/11 Commission report looked into the report that Atta had met with Iraqi agents and while they could not rule it out 100%, I agree with their assessment (as well as the FBI’s and CIA’s) that it most likely did not occur.

    The latter however is quite debatable. In fact Stephen Hayes makes a good case in The Connection.

    I don’t know whether or not this is ignorable information within your world view or not but it is information. Information that was also contained in the 9/11 commission report, BTW. Page 66 for one example

    In March 1998, after Bin Ladin’s public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin’s Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. In 1998, Iraq was under intensifying U.S. pressure, which culminated in a series of large air attacks in December.

    I will not present the rest, but if you would like you could also finish reading that page and the move on to page 128 which talks about the content of the indictment against bin Laden and the “understanding” OBL had with Iraq. And within the 9/11 commission report Mr Clarke had a somewhat different take on things than he had in his book. On page 134 he was worried that if we “spooked” bin Laden out of Afghanistan, one of the places he might go would be Iraq where he would be more difficult to get, in Clarke’s estimation.

    I would also point out that pages 335-336 of the report shows Bush’s reluctance to make war on Iraq in the days after 9/11 though others in his Administration were arguing for it (most prominently Wolfowitz). He told Tony Blair on Sept 20 that Afghanistan was the focus, not Iraq.

    On a personal note, I just want to say that I find your brand of debate annoying and belligerent. You can just take that as a data point if you wish.

    Oh, and I don’t think you’re qualified to read the President’s mind (as in 226). It just feels to me like you are trying to stabilize your own cognitive dissonance with regards to the President.

    I predicted his current behavior in this forum before he was elected. I said then that I believed that even though I wasn’t going to vote for him, Obama would do what he felt was in the best interests of the country when it came to national security and so far, I think he is doing just that to the best of his ability.

    I think he’s made rookie mistakes, like inadvertently starting a war with the CIA that could very well cost him (and Democrats in general) a great deal, and his premature announcement on Gitmo will be an embarrassment (but a reversible one), but he’s doing OK so far for a community organizer.

    On the domestic front, well, that’s different kettle of fish altogether….

  212. Point taken, John.

    I do know better than to engage with political debates with 2 or 3 regular commentators here, and I should have stuck to my non-engagement policy. Apologies to you for any contribution in lowering the tone.

  213. Frank@232: making a connection between Iran and 9/11 is different from making a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

    Oh lord. Pendantic much?

    I find your brand of debate annoying and belligerent.

    And you saying the Bush white house comparisons to Iraq+9/11 is not the same as Iraq+AlQueda is just silly. The point is Bush invoked Iraq as being behind 9/11 and if we didn’t invade Iraq there’d be another 9/11. The phrase “another 9/11″ is invoked at least twice on this thread alone, nearly a decade after the attack.

    Anyone tying anything to Al Queda is tying to another 9/11.

    I don’t think you’re qualified to read the President’s mind

    Uh, but then…

    Obama would do what he felt was in the best interests of the country when it came to national security and so far, I think he is doing just that to the best of his ability.

    Right. I can’t read his mind, but you can. Sorry to tread on your exclusive territory. Didn’t know only your interpretation of Obama’s intentions behind his actions was valid. I’ll keep that in mind.

    I think Obama is doing what he thinks is in the best interest of him right now, and it’s got nothing to do with national security, and it’s got nothing to do with “another 9/11″, and it’s got nothing to do with protecting american lives.

    We both see the exact same actions. But I guess you’ve got exclusive rights on his intent.

  214. not_scottbot at 205: Thank you for the link. Mr. Yoo is obviously disturbed.

    On the other hand, his personal (asinine) opinion is not a legal opinion, unless you count a legal opinion as being everytime a lawyer open his mouth to discuss the law. Yoo apparently has not taken that position in a legal brief or stated it in Court, though based on his wikipedia biography he probably would.

  215. Well, Rodney may be gone, but just in case.

    I say again, Rodney, that what Obama knows is different than what Random Internet Commentator knows.

    The guy writing the article was using revisionist history.

    Until we know the facts we are only speculating. I don’t know all the facts, as I’ve said, mainly because I have not looked into them, but also because I believe there are certain points at which we as not-Presidents can only know so much, the rest being conjecture.

    Lastly, you seem rather overjoyed to point out Obama’s faults and supposed backpedals. I guess that means you’ll be just as willing to applaud his triumphs and successes? No? Then you are as guilty of partisan hackery as anyone you have ever accused.

    Oh, and if you care to compare DD-214s with me, I’ll show you what a RE1 looks like.

  216. RG @ 224 —

    Your dickish tone and behavior is amusing in light of the absurdity of your argument.

    You say “The Public Law which established the system which Candidate Obama declared a “dangerously flawed legal approach,” which “undermines the very values we are fighting to defend.” has in no way been amended by the Congress; it is still the Law.”

    That’s about as intellectually dishonest a comment can be without being a flat out lie. The changes to the tribunal process through legislation have not yet taken place. That doesn’t mean they are not going to happen.

    From: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090515/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_guantanamo_trials

    “Obama’s announcement was greeted more warmly on Capitol Hill, where he will need broad support to quickly push through tribunal changes. The White House hopes to do so before mid-September, when a new 120-day freeze the president put on the cases Friday runs out.”

    Enough said on that point.

    “The transcripts of the proceedings have been made public during the course of the proceedings. The only pieces which President Obama now has access to (and which Senator Obama and his staff could have had on request) which you and I do not are the classified pieces of evidence redacted from the transcripts.”

    Are you saying that you expect Obama to have formulated his plan to reform the military tribunals as a Senator? The fact that Obama, as a U.S. Senator, may have had access to certain information obviously does not mean that he used that access in preparation for devising national security policy in anticipation of soon being the President of the United States. When Obama was a Senator, he was busy being a Senator, not refining his presidential agenda.

    “As a United States Senator Obama had access to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the entirety of the Armed Forces, and was free to solicit their opinions on such matters, including under oath if he so chose.”

    Same as above. You’re either being deliberately obtuse, or you’re just not very bright.

    I don’t have a DD-214. Want to compare law degrees? You excel at chest pounding, but logic and reason doesn’t appear to be your thing.

  217. ‘Yoo apparently has not taken that position in a legal brief or stated it in Court, though based on his wikipedia biography he probably would.’

    Please read the infamous – and at one time, highly, highly classified ‘torture memo’ –
    ‘U.S. Dept. of Justice Memo from
    Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo
    To Alberto R. Gonzales, White House Counsel’ (Note that after receiving, reading, and for lack of a better term, condoning this information, Gonzales went on to be confirmed as the man responsible for prosecuting those who condone and practice torture).

    http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/doj/bybee80102ltr.html

    The reason for classifying this letter should become apparent after reading it – sadly, the copy posted is not of the best quality, but I have never seen it in any other form on the Internet (and there has never been even a hint that this copy is less than fully accurate and admissible evidence, both in a court of law and in determining Yoo’s fitness to retain tenure). And the reason for this memo’s classification has nothing to do with America’s need to defend itself.

    Yoo is a Schreibtischtäter, and a man recently given employment by a newspaper in Philadelphia to write a column while still a tenured law professor professor at Berkeley. At one point after leaving the government, he taught international law, I believe, even though he himself most likely cannot travel anywhere in Europe or South America without fear of arrest for his responsibility as part of a government that employed torture against those in its power.

    Yes, that is the current state of America’s respect for the rule of law – a man still tenured, given a column to continue to spread his views of what America is and continue to be – a nation which uses torture as a tool when the president, in his sole authority, determines it necessary. Luckily for Yoo, if any other nation arrests him, then calls the ICC to judge the his actions, the U.S. military is likely pre-authorized to attack the Netherlands, a NATO partner, to rescue him, a fighter in the war against terrorism, from such injustice. http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0213/p05s01-woeu.html

  218. what Obama knows is different than what Random Internet Commentator knows

    Obama and I both know that we’ve signed treaties and passed laws that say torture is illegal, that those treaties commit to zero excuses for torture, that they also demand criminal investigation into torture no matter who, what, or when they did it, and that they specify the lack of investigation as itself open to prosecution.

    Obama and I both know that Obama is breaking the law.

    And Obama and I both know that whatever secret knowledge he may have about torture is irrelevant to the fact that Americans have broken the law and our government is legally required to prosecute.

  219. It is a balance between publishing evidence of what we already know is true and holding back inflammatory fuel for murdering terrorists.
    If we can in any way further protect our troops we should– our brothers, Dads, husbands, and grandsons (and of course, sisters, Moms, wives, and granddaughters).
    The number of photos (a few thousand) to be released will make it appear it was general policy from up high, rather than a few rogues, quilty of abuse and torture.
    On the other hand justice for the abused by punishment of the guilty is important, because justice is important.
    I say publish but at a less toxic time, after the war is done, abandoned, lost, whatever!

  220. I say publish but at a less toxic time, after the war is done

    The war will never be done. Even after the current scheduled withdrawal on 31 August 2010, Obama plans on leaving 50,000 troops in Iraq.

    http://www.warhw.com/2009/03/05/iraq-31-august-2010/

    Not to mention, the troops withdrawn from Iraq are simply being shifted to Afghanistan to fight against Taliban guerilla’s.

    we’ve always been at war with Eastasia. And we always will be.

    No. If you bury this, you will bury this for 50 years, until everyone involved is dead and gone and the idea of “justice” is a gawdamn joke.

  221. Not-scottbot at 239: I have no problem with, and approve of, the U.S. taking the position that no country has jurisdiction over our servicemen but us. When I discuss the rule of law, I mean the rule of U.S. law. If the Germans, French, Dutch, etc. want to pass laws controlling or restricting the conduct of their servicemen, fine. If they attempt to control or restrain U.S. servicemen without our consent, not fine. And yes, I am a nationalist. And if I were President, there would be hell to pay (i.e. the 3 Bs, bayonets, bullets and bombs) if some country actually attempted to place U.S. servicemen on trial.

    As to Yoo’s legal memo, I scanned it (and confess not to reading it line by line), but I see little that I would disagree with. Nowhere does he assert, unless I missed it, that the President is empowered to crush the testicles of anyone, let alone small children, in order to extract information.

    Yoo’s legal memo is supportable, as a legal matter. His off the cuff remarks are completely unsupportable, in my opinion.

    And before you turn purple, please understand there is a difference between morality and the law . They are not synonymous.

  222. “And Obama and I both know that whatever secret knowledge he may have about torture is irrelevant to the fact that Americans have broken the law and our government is legally required to prosecute.”

    Americans have broken the law? Sure.

    Legally required to prosecute? Not so much. The executive branch may be obligated to follow the law, but it does not have to enforce the law. That’s what we call “separation of powers.”

    Not that I necessarily agree with forbearing from prosecution…but to say that such forbearance is at odds with a legal requirement just isn’t accurate. Obama is not “breaking the law.” He is simply being selective about the way in which his administration enforces it. You might disagree with that selectiveness — and I might as well — but the accusation that Obama is now somehow engaging in a criminal act by exercising executive powers in precisely the way our Constitution contemplates is off base and out of line.

  223. ‘The executive branch may be obligated to follow the law, but it does not have to enforce the law.’

    That is one of the most utterly disturbing perspectives in this entire thread, at least to the extent that yes, actually, the president does have to enforce the law, as stated in their freely given oath – ‘”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”‘
    Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution

    Simply allowing torturers who violated their own oaths to commit criminals acts to remain unpunished does nothing to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States’ – instead, it makes that oath a mockery.

  224. LB: but the accusation that Obama is now somehow engaging in a criminal act by exercising executive powers in precisely the way our Constitution contemplates is off base and out of line.

    No, it’s exactly what Reagan’s anti-torture treaty from the 1980’s says. Torture is a crime. If you do not prosecute torture, that too is a crime. That’s the treaty in a nutshell.

    Since everyone and their grandmother knows that Americans tortured detainees (killing at least a hundred of them), and since Obama isn’t prosecuting them, Obama is himself in violation of the anti-torture treaty.

    I don’t expect Obama to bring himself up on charges after he’s made clear he isn’t going to prosecute anyone else either, but those are the facts of the laws and treaties in place.

    At this point, the only possibility I see of any kind of prosecution is if Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, or similar folks travel to a country that is a fellow-signatory of the treaty, and they decide to prosecute. And that’s pretty slim. RIght now, Spain is utilizing the treaty to bring a case against america. Several spanish citizens were detained in Guantanamo, tortured for months and years, and then released. And they’re going through due process to enforce the treaty.

    Course, Obama might quietly buy them off or threaten them, the way he threatened the British into backing off its court case. Proceed with the case, obama said, and we will drop all foreign assistance to your country. At which point, money won over justice.

    Don’t know if Spain has the cojones to stand up to a similar threat from the US if their case goes through.

    It would be pretty sad state of affairs if the US has become such a banana republic that we can’t enforce our own laws against our own politicians and we have to have some foreign country enforce the treaties we’ve signed with them.

  225. LB @ 244:

    The executive branch may be obligated to follow the law, but it does not have to enforce the law. That’s what we call “separation of powers.”

    Uhhhh… that’s the role of the executive branch under the concept of separation of powers; enforcing the law is exactly what the executive branch is obligated to do.

  226. Its the executive branch’s role to enforce the law. Implicit in that role is the executive branch exercising its judgement NOT to enfore the law. It’s called prosecutorial discretion. Lots of law get broken and quite a few are never prosecuted, for a variety of reasons (doubts as to whether they can prove a case, a desire to avoid taking a case to trial out of fear that they would lose and set a bad precident, sympathetic defendant and not so sympathetic victim, etc).

  227. ‘Implicit in that role is the executive branch exercising its judgement NOT to enfore the law.’

    No – the executive branch does not get that exception when the plain evidence of crimes means that not prosecuting means that such crimes are allowed to go unpunished. That is what the oath means, to defend the Constitution – ignoring documented crimes of the executive branch means that the Constitution has no more force than any other document with empty words written on it.

    You are still volunteering to be tortured, as the only thing which currently stands between the executive deciding to torture anyone at any time for any reason the executive deems sufficient are those words which you maintain are not actually binding, and the threat of being found guilty and punished for committing crimes that document expressly forbids, such as imprisoning an American without due process of law, and subjecting them to cruel and unusual punishment – as has occurred, in at least one exhaustively and publicly documented case.

    That presidents can make poor decisions and not be punished is clear – after all, the U.S. has detained citizens, depriving them of property and liberty without due process, in the past. And no one was punished for the internment of American citizens because of their ethnic origin – however, that is still considered among the most shameful mistakes in modern American history, one in which the weaknesses of America’s system was exposed, and one only partly excused due to being at war. And whatever else may be said about that mass internment, torture was not part of the program.

  228. Actually, the Constitution was set up to protect citizens FROM the government.

    There are many layers put in place to protect citizens from the state. They include, but are not limited to, a right against self-incrimination, prosecutorial discretion, the burden of proof, trial by jury, jury nullification, the whole appellate process, and the clemency and pardon processes.

    What you propose runs contrary to the seperation of powers. Congress can pass a law. Congress cannot make the executive enforce that law. Congress could try to convince the executive to enforce a law, via funding threats, etc., but it can’t make the president do anything. The converse holds true, of course, in that the president can’t make Congress do anything. The Courts could try (and sometimes have) via writs of mandamus, but those are to be used in truly exceptional circumstances (such as integration) and, I don’t believe, have ever been used by the Courts to usurp the executive’s right to exercise prosecutorial discretion. Doing so would itself be a violation of separation of powers.

    Further, Congresmen/women and presidents and his employees are largely immune from civil suits for decisions they make within the course of their duties. This means they have no personal liability to you.

    If you don’t think the president has done his job via law enforcement, vote against him. That’s about the only recourse you and I and the public at large have.

    As to volunteering to be tortured, I’ve done no such think. You should try to comparentalize your arguments. I have stated that Yoo’s interpretation of the treaty restrictions looks accurate. I have also stated that as a citizen, the Constitution protects me (and you) from government action. It does not protect foriegn nationals outside the territorial USA.

    As to Jose Padilla (referenced as being an example of what the government wants to do to citizens), his case was ultimately transferred from military courts to civilian courts because of his citizenship status. So while there was an initial violation, the system worked as that “mistake” was corrected. And the legalities of the actions taken against him, including allegations of torture, are also being litigated.

    Personally, I think the government made a huge legal error in subjecting a citizen to those interrogation techniques, if true. If true, I would if I were the government, lay out why they were deemed necessary at the time and assert the defense of necessity (i.e. admit it broke the law but the violation was excused as a criminal matter) and pay compensation to Padilla to the extent he was injured. That maintains the correctness of the law on all accounts and balances the books, so to speak. Arguing that conduct is appropriate in relation to a citizen under the law is a non-starter, I believe.

    Just my 2 cents.

  229. NS @ 249 — “No – the executive branch does not get that exception when the plain evidence of crimes means that not prosecuting means that such crimes are allowed to go unpunished. That is what the oath means, to defend the Constitution – ignoring documented crimes of the executive branch means that the Constitution has no more force than any other document with empty words written on it.”

    and Kevin @ 247 — “Uhhhh… that’s the role of the executive branch under the concept of separation of powers; enforcing the law is exactly what the executive branch is obligated to do.”

    That’s just completely false, and evidences a basic lack of understanding of our system of checks and balances and separation of powers.

    Consider that the executive branch has the power to pardon criminals — that is, to grant to select individuals, without any reason or justification required, complete amnesty from any punishment for crimes for which that individual has actually been convicted. In light of that, the fact that the executive branch has absolute discretion to determine which crimes they will and will not prosecute doesn’t seem all that outlandish. The executive branch absolutely can — and in fact does, on a regular basis — disregard crimes that are well documented and would be easy to prove.

    Here’s a high-profile example: the Obama administration has stated that it will not seek to prosecute medical marijuana facilities in California, notwithstanding that such facilities are blatantly and openly violating federal law. How well the adminstration has stuck to that promise may be a different matter — the point is, they can do that if they want to. The Obama administration has therefore announced a policy by which they are specifically stating that they will elect not to enforce federal law against certain entities and individuals whose blatant violation of that federal law is well documented and easily proven. Are you saying they can’t do that? Because if so, you’re wrong. They can, and they do, and it’s perfectly legal.

    This isn’t an “exception.” This is how it works. The executive branch enforces the law at its discretion and is under no obligation whatsoever to enforce any law in particular at any particular time, or against any particular individual or individuals. This is part of our system of checks and balances. You might not like it, but it is how our system works.

    As far as crimes of the executive branch itself, Congress has discretion as to whether or not to take the executive to task — which is what prevents the executive from being “above the law.” The executive branch cannot simply disregard its own crimes because the legislative branch can hold the executive branch responsible for those crimes. Thus far, the legislative branch has not done so. Again, that decision is subject to their discretion. You might argue about whether or not that discretion has been used properly in this context, but you cannot argue that the legislature has no choice but to prosecute the executive when the executive engages in criminal conduct. They do have a choice. They can do it, or not do it. It’s up to them.

    GL @ 246: “No, it’s exactly what Reagan’s anti-torture treaty from the 1980’s says. Torture is a crime. If you do not prosecute torture, that too is a crime. That’s the treaty in a nutshell.

    Since everyone and their grandmother knows that Americans tortured detainees (killing at least a hundred of them), and since Obama isn’t prosecuting them, Obama is himself in violation of the anti-torture treaty.

    I don’t expect Obama to bring himself up on charges after he’s made clear he isn’t going to prosecute anyone else either, but those are the facts of the laws and treaties in place.”

    Without arguing as to whether or not Obama’s failure to prosecute under these specific circumstances constitutes a violation of any treaty to which the United States is a party (which I very much doubt — but I will confess that I haven’t taken the time to read the treaty in detail and analyze its applicability to these facts), I think it is sufficient to say that being in violation of a treaty is not the same thing as committing a crime. At worst, we have failed to live up to a commitment we made to an international body. That’s not a good thing, of course. But it is a far cry from President Obama being guilty of a crime, international or otherwise.

    I’m not saying I agree with the policies underlying this discussion — I’m just saying, let’s not overstate things and start accusing the President of the United States of being a criminal because he has exercised his discretion in precisely the manner that the executive is permitted to do.

  230. Treaties to which the United States is a party ARE law in the United States. That’s in the Constitution, if I’m not mistaken.

  231. Xopher @ 252 — “Treaties to which the United States is a party ARE law in the United States. That’s in the Constitution, if I’m not mistaken.”

    You’re referring to Article VI, I presume. That’s actually an interesting point. I suppose what I would say is that treaties are subordinate to the Constitution under the law (see Reed v. Covert), and as such no treaty could operate to effectively strip the executive of prosecutorial discretion granted under the Constitution as part of our system of checks and balances. But that could be debatable, and I’m not aware of any case or other authority that directly addressed or resolved that particular issue. Maybe there’s something out there, but I’m not aware of it.

    The reference to treaties in Article VI seems to have been intended to restrain the states, not the executive. That is to say, Article VI is about federal supremacy. The point of mentioning treaties in Article VI is to establish that states can’t pass laws in violation of a treaty entered into by the United States. So, in essence, Virginia doesn’t get to establish its own foreign policy. (And neither does Alaska…do you hear me, Sarah Palin?)

    So, what happens if the United States enters into a treaty that would restrain the executive from exercising discretionary power that is critical to our separation of powers/checks and balances? There would seem to be tension between Article VI’s pronouncement that treaties are part of the “supreme law of the land” and the executive authority granted under the Constitution. One might conclude that if the treaty is among the laws of the United States, then the executive’s prosecutorial authority extends to the treaty itself, and thus the executive gets to determine whether or not to enforce that treaty. But if the executive himself is in violation of the treaty (for example, a provision requiring the executive to act under certain circumstances to prosecute domestic perpetrators of torture), perhaps Congress could do something about it. (They won’t, of course, so that’s a moot point).

    In any event, I believe that the treaty referred to here are binding on nation-states, not individuals. In other words, an individual leader like President Obama is not “in violation” of a treaty because his nation refuses to prosecute individuals known to have tortured someone. The nation-state itself carries the obligation, and thus it would be the nation-state itself in violation, not its executive.

    Aside from my analysis, I am certain that the present administration has a brilliant legal staff who could articulate better than I the reasons why President Obama’s restraint from prosecution of those who carried out acts of torture is a valid exercise of his power. President Obama himself is a respectable constitutional scholar who I’m sure could give a great explanation as well, if prompted to do so. I would be interested to see what someone with more time to look into this matter than I do, and with a working knowledge and understanding of both constitutional and international law, would have to say about this. I strongly suspect that the answer is not “President Obama is a criminal.”

  232. LB @ 251:

    Upon reading your post, and then subsequently re-reading your statement in 244 to which I responded, I can see that I was misconstruing what you were originally saying. Obviously, you’re right that the Executive branch is capable of choosing NOT to enforce the law, and I was jumping on something you said without actually thinking about what you said. Sorry.

    That’s what I get for commenting when I’m working.

  233. LB: I think it is sufficient to say that being in violation of a treaty is not the same thing as committing a crime. At worst, we have failed to live up to a commitment we made to an international body. That’s not a good thing, of course. But it is a far cry from President Obama being guilty of a crime, international or otherwise.

    What I want you to do is read this headline. It’s from a UN official and his take on Obama not investigating the people who authorized adn committed torture. He says it is a violation of international law.

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/radio/2009/04/23/nowak/index.html

    Now, I do not for one second expect the facts to stop someone who is a torture apologist from finding yet another justification to excuse torture and to excuse not prosecuting those who tortured. I do not for one second expect these facts to stop someone who is intent on downplaying the seriousness of Obama’s actions from changing their ming and acknowledging that Obama is breaking the law. I expect rules gaming, and I expect lawyerisms, and I expect much more dancing around the facts to find torturers and their apologists a loophole.

    I expect that the facts will not change your opinion in the slightest.

  234. Greg at 255: I’m curious. For sake of argument, I’ve conceded that waterboarding is torture. I actual believe it to be torture as the term is commonly (not legally) used, based on what little I know of the process. But assuming (a big assumption) that waterboarding does not cause severe physical pain and suffering, and assuming that it does not cause permenant injury, would you re-consider your opinion on whether its torture? In other words, if Cheney is right and waterboarding is the equivalent of a psychological mind f@#k causing the victim to crack because he’s tricked into thinking he’s drowning but no actual physical harm results other than mental panic, is it torture in your opinion?

    And assuming you still think its torture, what kind of mind games or other harsh tactics, if any, do you think the interrogators can use to break a source? Can they be roughed up (pushing, slapping, etc.)? would tying the victim off to a disguised bungee cord (such as camouflaging it as a restraint) and threatening to toss him off a bridge be torture? Can they hold a mock trail, sentence the prisoner to death, and tie him off to the hangman’s noose, with no intention of pulling the lever? Can they use stress positions? Sleep deprivation? Hard physical labor? Can female guards be in charge of them or head the interrogation routine? Can a female guard strip and make out with another female guard in their presence? Can the play loud rock and roll music non-stop? Can they withhold the Koran or even threaten to flush the Koran down the toilet, burn it or otherwise desecrate it? Can they treat cooperative prisoners better than non-cooperative prisoners, when it comes to perks and other privileges?

  235. GL @ 255 —

    Many, many problems with what you said.

    First off, I am FAR from a “torture apologist.” I think that virtually everything the U.S. has done post-9/11 has been indefensible and immoral, and has done nothing but justify and validate the opinions of the very terrorists we claim to be fighting against. See my post @ 85 in this thread for more on that. You are barking up the wrong tree with this “torture apologist” crap. Nor is it very useful for liberal-minded people like yourself to resort to petty name-calling, particularly when your accusations are completely unfounded. That sort of behavior makes the rest of us look bad. People like you make it harder for people like me to have a civilized conversation with conservatives, because they assume that I’m going to behave like you. So do us both a favor and try to act like a grown-up. You’re on the correct side of the fence politically — so how about representing the good guys’ side with some class? Give it a shot.

    At no point in this thread, or anywhere else, have I suggested in any way that torture is acceptable, productive, or morally justifiable. What I am taking issue with is the characterization of President Barack Obama as some sort of war criminal because he has decided, at least as of now, to exercise his prosecutorial discretion in not pursuing criminal charges against the various layers of individuals responsible for torturing detainees. He doesn’t want to go after the individual soldiers because they were following orders from superiors. He doesn’t want to go after the superiors because they were carrying out instructions from the administration. He isn’t interested in going after the administration because they were acting pursuant to a legal opinion that they may have thought was valid (and, incidentally, going after the administration, from a political perspective, appears overly agressive, confrontational, and therefore out of character vis a vis Obama himself, which I’m sure is part of the calculus). And as for those who wrote the legal opinions (Yoo, etc.), if I recall correctly, he’s leaving that up to Holder. Do I agree with these decisions? Not really. I’d like to see someone held responsible for this, and I think our failure to even give the appearance that we are going after those responsible for the torture of detainees is probably a bad idea from an image perspective — to say nothing about my desire to see justice done as well. But I also think that I understand why Obama is hesitant to pursue criminal penalties against our military personnel, particularly given the context in which they did what they did, and the nature of the administration they did it under. And I also understand why he is hesitant to try to peg GOP leaders as war criminals. That’s not how Obama rolls. He’s a “reach across the aisle” guy. Plus, maybe they feel that their chances of getting convictions aren’t that great — and nothing would be more embarassing for the administration than going after GOP brass and/or U.S. military personnel on torture charges, only to be unable to get a conviction.

    Finally, as to the “facts” — the article you posted confirms precisely what I was saying. In the very first paragraph. Read it carefully. Nowak says that immunizing the torturers violates international law — “and, specifically, the clear obligations of the U.S. under the Convention Against Torture (signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988).” The clear obligations OF THE U.S. Not of the President. Not of any individual. Obligations of the United States of America. Which absolutely confirms what I said @ 253 — “In other words, an individual leader like President Obama is not “in violation” of a treaty because his nation refuses to prosecute individuals known to have tortured someone. The nation-state itself carries the obligation, and thus it would be the nation-state itself in violation, not its executive.”

    Again, Barack Obama is not a criminal. Is the U.S. in violation of the torture treaty it signed in 1988? Possibly. According to one U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, according to an article on Salon.com, the answer is yes. Even if Novak is right, does that mean Barack Obama has committed a crime? No. It means that the United States of America is failing to live up to a commitment it made over 20 years ago regarding torture. Is that a good thing? Of course not. But it doesn’t mean that Barack Obama has broken the law.

    Not that I expect the facts to change your mind, or prevent you from being condescending, despite that you are clearly wrong.

    Bottom line — you don’t understand how international treaties work. Which is why you make comments @ 246 like “…since Obama isn’t prosecuting them, Obama is himself in violation of the anti-torture treaty. I don’t expect Obama to bring himself up on charges after he’s made clear he isn’t going to prosecute anyone else either, but those are the facts of the laws and treaties in place.” According to the article YOU posted, Obama has no obligations under any treaty. The United States does. Obama cannot be “prosecuted” under a treaty that only binds nation-states, not individuals. What you are saying makes no sense.

    Your heart is in the right place, GL, but you need to learn to educate yourself on issues before you run your mouth about them…particularly when you are calling the President of the United States a criminal. President Barack Obama is not a criminal. He may be making decisions right now that I question, but I don’t make it a practice to resort to petty name-calling and baseless accusations when someone does or says something I disagree with.

  236. stevem: “But assuming (a big assumption) that waterboarding does not cause severe physical pain and suffering”

    What the hell are you talking about? It DOES cause severe physical pain and suffering! Have you ever even gotten water up your nose? Do you even live on a planet with large bodies of water?

    Also, list all the specifics you want. You can always find a borderline case for any definition. This is called “rules gaming” and it’s done by people with no fundamental ethical principles.

    You’re not allowed to deliberately cause suffering to prisoners in your custody. Period. Paragraph.

    While that outlaws most of the things on your list (no, slamming them around isn’t OK either), a few are iffy cases. It might depend on what’s in the torturer’s mind, and it certainly depends on the subject. Putting lard in all your food may not bother YOU, but to a Moslem it is torture, because he’s forced to choose between starvation and violating his religion. Pee on a bible in front of me and I’ll laugh at you; to some Christians it would cause the greatest distress.

    It’s like you keep saying “Oh, come on, we’re at least allowed to smack them around a little, right?” And we keep saying “No, that’s just it. You’re not allowed to smack them around.” And you keep not getting it. The test is, are you trying to make the person suffer? If you are, you’re not allowed to do it. Period. I don’t know why that’s so hard to understand.

    Actually I do. 1) You have watched too many cop shows. In reality Jack Bauer would (or should) have spent the rest of his days behind bars after the first season of 24. Elliott Stabler needs to find a new line of work. You don’t get the kind of results they get by the things they do (Law & Order is a little more realistic in that regard).

    2) You think these are bad guys, and because you’ve watched too much of the bilge that Hollywood sloshes out of its rank and putrid holds, you think “bad guy suffering == happy ending.” The problems with that are a) not all of them ARE bad guys and b) even if they are, it’s not the right thing to do.

    And don’t even bother calling me a dewy-eyed idealist or anything else that implies I’m just not tough enough for a post-9/11 world blah blah. You get the most and best-quality information out of suspects and prisoners by being really, really nice to them. That sucks if you want to punish them, and if you have Hollywood revenge-movie standards for what that means. Sucks especially if you want to punish them for being brown, or being Moslem, because the ones with no information, or who are completely innocent of any wrongdoing, undergo no suffering at all.

    And this is as it should be. Too bad if it doesn’t make a good adventure movie starring a former porn star who can barely grunt out his lines (Stallone). Reality makes a lousy movie, but facing it makes a better world. Deal with it.

  237. stevem@256, I’m not playing your definition game. there is a hundred years of history behind the current definition of what is and is not torture. What is and is not torture is exceedingly clear to anyone who’s country hasn’t committed recent torture. Some americans are slightly confused on the topic because they can’t believe that their own government tortured. Instead of acknowledging that basic adn simple fact, they want to play games of defintion, or try to downplay it. No thanks. I have no desire to engage in that silliness.

    Cheney and company authorized torture. A number of American military and intelligence personnel engaged in torture. That’s all that is required to demand a criminal investigation and prosecution.

    LB@257, I expect that the facts will not change your opinion in the slightest. And you simply confirmed that.

    > Obama has no obligations under any treaty.
    > The United States does. Obama cannot
    > be “prosecuted” under a treaty that only
    > binds nation-states,

    Yeah, I’m sure the treaty is worded that the proper
    response to the current situation is to bring “america”,
    as a concept, before the Hague and try her, as a nation,
    on war crimes. (/sarcasm)

    But you keep arguing that and maybe it’ll come true.

  238. GL @ 259 — “Yeah, I’m sure the treaty is worded that the proper response to the current situation is to bring “america”, as a concept, before the Hague and try her, as a nation, on war crimes. (/sarcasm)

    But you keep arguing that and maybe it’ll come true.”

    I don’t have to “argue” anything.

    Here’s a copy of the U.N. convention on torture. Please show me the part of this convention that permits the United Nations, or any other body, to prosecute the President of the United States for failing to prosecute individuals who commit acts of torture.

    http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cat.html

    They will not prosecute the United States of America, obviously. For what they will do (if anything), review Article 20 and Article 24.

    Apparently, instead of educating yourself on how international law works, you’re more interested in being right…even when you’re clearly wrong. Before you run your mouth, how about reading the damn thing?

    Again — your heart is in the right place here, but you obviously don’t understand how international law works, and you don’t know what you are talking about.

    The “facts” haven’t changed my views because the “facts” are completely consistent with my views…and obviously inconsistent with yours.

    This is the part where a rational person would waive the white flag, and maybe even apologize for your tone. Now let’s find out if you’re a rational person.

  239. Xopher at 258: You might want to have your eyes checked, re-read my post and the re-consider your comments.

    GL at 259: I thought so. With that said, you are remarkably consistent, though vague and self-righteous. By any sane definition, I think that about 1/2 of the examples I gave of “harsh” interrogation techniques aren’t evenly slightly harsh.

  240. stevem, in all humility I reread your entire comment, and I stand by my reply. You’re asking what they can do to “break” a prisoner, and the answer is that breaking prisoners is not a goal and should not be a goal.

    You still don’t understand that forcing or coercing prisoners into cooperating is ineffective, and using harshness or anger or outrage to influence them is counterproductive at best and sometimes illegal.

    You probably think I didn’t understand your hypothetical about waterboarding. “What if being slowly boiled alive didn’t actually cause physical pain or suffering” is a fairly ridiculous proposition to contemplate, and so is yours, so I rejected it. But to answer it now: yes, that would still be torture. Mock executions are torture too. They deliberately inflict suffering on the prisoner. Inflicting permanent physical damage is worse than not inflicting it, but it’s the intentional inflicting of suffering, regardless of the type, that makes it torture.

    And your “by any sane definition,” given how you used it, is a “no true Scotsman” argument.

  241. Xopher – OK, I’m going to disagree *slightly* with you. The Army FM 32-54 manual on interrogation actually does list “fear up” as a technique, but it’s still not what stevem, thinks. Let me just quote the entire section to avoid confusion

    INCREASED FEAR UP APPROACH

    The increased fear up approach is most effective on the younger and more inexperienced source or on a source who appears nervous or frightened. It is also effective on a source who appears to be the silent, confident type. Sources with something to hide, such as the commission of a war crime, or having surrendered while still having ammunition in his weapon, or breaking his military oath are particularly easy to break with this technique. There are two distinct variations of this approach: the fear up (harsh) and the fear up (mild).

    FEAR UP (HARSH)

    In the fear up (harsh) approach, the interrogator behaves in a heavy, overpowering manner with a loud and threatening voice. The interrogator may even feel the need to throw objects across the room to heighten the source’s implanted feelings of fear. Great care must be taken when doing this so that any actions taken would not violate the Geneva Conventions. This technique is to convince the source that he does indeed have something to fear and that he has no option but to cooperate. A good interrogator will implant in the source’s mind that the interrogator himself is not the object to be feared, but is a possible way out of the trap. The fear can be directed toward reprisals by international tribunals, the government of the host country, or the source’s own forces. Shouting can be very effective in this variation of the fear up approach.

    FEAR UP (MILD)

    The fear up (mild) approach is better suited to the strong, confident type of interrogator as there is generally no need to raise the voice or resort to heavy-handed, table banging violence. It is a more correct form of blackmail when the circumstances indicate that the source does indeed have something to fear. It may be a result of coincidence; the soldier was caught on the wrong side of the border before hostilities actually commenced (he was armed, he could be a terrorist), or a result of his actions (he surrendered contrary to his military oath and is now a traitor to his country, and his own forces will take care of the disciplinary action). The fear up (mild) approach must be a credible distortion of the truth. A distortion that the source will believe. It usually involves some incentive; the interrogator can intimate that he might be willing to alter the circumstances of the source’s capture, as long as the source cooperates and answers the questions.

    In most cases, shouting is not necessary. The actual fear is increased by helping the source to realize the unpleasant consequences that the facts may cause and then presenting an alternative, which of course can be effected by answering some simple questions. The fear up approach is deadend, and a wise interrogator may want to keep it in reserve as a trump card. After working to increase the source’s fear, it would be difficult to convince him that everything will be all right if the approach is not successful.

    Emphasis added by me. And I’m not even going to get into what inflicting abuse does to an interrogator. Anyone with half a brain can google the Millgram and Zimbardo experiments to see where that gets you. The idea of an interrogator as some sort of tragic Jack Bauer-esque hero is still a right wing fantasy. In reality, when we create conditions in which torture is condoned, and limits leading up to torture are pushed, we create monsters. Abu Ghraib is proof of that, as are the Zimbardo experiments. We owe our soldiers a lot, putting them into a situation like Abu Ghraib or Gitmo is going to wound them, psychologically speaking. And it wounds them for no good reason.

  242. Xopher @ 262 — “You’re asking what they can do to “break” a prisoner, and the answer is that breaking prisoners is not a goal and should not be a goal.

    You still don’t understand that forcing or coercing prisoners into cooperating is ineffective, and using harshness or anger or outrage to influence them is counterproductive at best and sometimes illegal.”

    With all due respect X, this strikes me as a bit naive. At the risk of sounding too much like the Bush administration, we are talking about a group of people hell-bent on killing us and destroying our way of life. Few of them are going to simply turn over information without being forced or coerced.

    That isn’t uniformly true, of course — particularly as it relates to the “terrorists” who are involved with Al Qaeda and similar organizations for the money rather than the ideology — we can simply treat those people well and pay them more than Al Qaeda can, and all of a sudden they’re working for us. But these people are surely less trusted with important information than the ideologues. And the ideologues aren’t going to tell us a damn thing unless we force them to. And sometimes, forcing them to tell us what we need to know is going to get unpleasant.

    Now, that said, nothing stated above justifies torture. Nor does it make torture necessary, even if (hypothetically speaking) torture really is an effective means of obtaining information. Ultimately, torturing detainees sacrifices the very ideals that we are fighting for in the first place. And, therefore, it isn’t worth it.

    Since nobody else wanted to play stevem’s “is this torture?” game, I will go ahead and give it a shot, but with the following caveat: this isn’t a legal opinion about what I think legally constitutes torture. I haven’t done the research necessary to be qualified to give that opinion. So my commentary below reflects not what I think is illegal, but what, in my opinion, should be illegal.

    “Can they be roughed up (pushing, slapping, etc.)?”

    Yes, but this strikes me as unlikely to be effective, unless used in conjunction with other methods.

    “would tying the victim off to a disguised bungee cord (such as camouflaging it as a restraint) and threatening to toss him off a bridge be torture?”

    No, directly threatening to kill the detainee, and staging a mock execution, is over the line. Tactics of this nature are immoral and unjustified under any circumstances.

    “Can they hold a mock trail, sentence the prisoner to death, and tie him off to the hangman’s noose, with no intention of pulling the lever?”

    No. See above.

    “Can they use stress positions?”

    Yes.

    “Sleep deprivation?”

    To a point.

    “Hard physical labor?”

    Definitely, and not a bad idea.

    “Can female guards be in charge of them or head the interrogation routine?”

    Sure, but I don’t see how this accomplishes anything.

    “Can a female guard strip and make out with another female guard in their presence?”

    Can they? Sure. Should they? If the goal is to get them sexually aroused, then yeah. If the goal is to get information, then this probably isn’t going to work. I think the bigger question here would be whether the military can require female guards to strip and make out with eachother. I suspect the answer is no…because if the answer were yes, the military would probably be a lot more popular.

    “Can the play loud rock and roll music non-stop?”

    Sure. But if this were effective to get them to talk, then why the hell were we waterboarding people?

    “Can they withhold the Koran or even threaten to flush the Koran down the toilet, burn it or otherwise desecrate it?”

    Yes, but this is a really, really bad idea. Not only is this unlikely to get information, but it is very likely to further inflame — and, frankly, justify — hatred of America amongst militants.

    “Can they treat cooperative prisoners better than non-cooperative prisoners, when it comes to perks and other privileges?”

    Absolutely, and this strikes me as a very good idea.

    —–

    Okay, having gone through that exercise, I can see now why the others refused to do it. Pretty silly, especially considering the subject matter.

  243. JJ @ 263 — “And I’m not even going to get into what inflicting abuse does to an interrogator. Anyone with half a brain can google the Millgram and Zimbardo experiments to see where that gets you. The idea of an interrogator as some sort of tragic Jack Bauer-esque hero is still a right wing fantasy. In reality, when we create conditions in which torture is condoned, and limits leading up to torture are pushed, we create monsters. Abu Ghraib is proof of that, as are the Zimbardo experiments. We owe our soldiers a lot, putting them into a situation like Abu Ghraib or Gitmo is going to wound them, psychologically speaking. And it wounds them for no good reason.”

    Exactly.

    I think this strikes at the heart of the problem. Ultimately, the people best situated to understand what is and is not effective for eliciting information from terrorist detainees are the guards and military personnel who interact with them regularly. The problem is that we know that there are psychological phenomena that occur in the context of prisoner/guard dynamics that cause us to be skeptical of the claims that guards will make about what really is necessary and/or effective. It is far too easy to get carried away when given this sort of power over another human being, in ways that are ultimately very destructive.

    Ultimately, we need to employ individuals with expertise in matters of interrogation and international law who are detatched from the situation to establish what tactics should and should not be used based on principles of international and domestic law, as well as our knowledge and understanding of what tactics are and are not effective…and based on these findings, we have to set standards, and we have to actually enforce them. Our military personnel needs to understand why we do things the way we do them, and why we do not do things that are over the line. It needs to be understood amongst those directly charged with the duty of acting as guards to our prisoners of war that we do not exceed the boundaries of protocol, not only because it is immoral, but because (1) it is not effective; and (2) it is counter-productive from a national security standpoint. In other words, you are NOT doing your job better by torturing people.

    The problem is that we have had an administration that doesn’t really believe any of that…as Dick Cheney is now confirming on his “you’re safer now because of our misconduct” media tour. There has been a failure of leadership. Hopefully, that failure of leadership has come to an end.

  244. LB – FYI, my opinions on the topic are informed by a someone who participates over at Making Light (home of Smarter Discourse Online) and who was also an Army interrogator during Gulf War I.

    I have never once seen anyone who claims to be a soldier *and* trained as an interrogator contradict him. It’s possible it’s happened, but not where I’ve seen it.

  245. Mine too, Josh. But I missed the fear-up part. Terry sez that interrogation (the real kind) is not at all a nice process, and does involve deceit sometimes…just not torture.

  246. I’ve been researching the issue in depth since Abu Ghraib came out in the news. Knowing my way around the field manual short circuited a lot of debates where people say really stupid stuff about what works and what doesn’t.

  247. LB@260: This is the part where a rational person would waive the white flag, and maybe even apologize for your tone. Now let’s find out if you’re a rational person.

    bifurcation, false dichotomy, whatever you call it, I’m not playing your nonsense.

    stevem@261: By any sane definition, I think that about 1/2 of the examples I gave of “harsh” interrogation techniques aren’t evenly slightly harsh.

    I don’t care what you think is and is not torture. International law has a hundred years of history that is very clear on the matter and you making defintional arguments is nothing, i repeat nothing, but an attempt to avoid the issue of Americans torturing people and try to play avoidance games by turning the conversation to “what is the definition of torture, really?”. Next you’ll be asking me what “is” means.

    Americans have approved torture. Americans have committed torture. The “definition” argument is a smoke screen to avoid those simple facts.

    LB@264: With all due respect X, this strikes me as a bit naive. At the risk of sounding too much like the Bush administration, we are talking about a group of people hell-bent on killing us and destroying our way of life.

    Horsepuckey.

    We’re talking about thousands of human beings being tortured without due process for years. The vast majority of those people have since been released after years of torture because someoen pounded it over our heads that they were in fact innocent. All the things they confessed to? False confessions given under the duress of torture.

    Yes, you’re sounding exactly like the bush administration and yes you’re sounding exactly like anyone who is a torture apologist who thinks the only people we torture are “guilty” people.

    Of the thousand or so who went through Guantanamo, probably less than a hundred are really terrorists and will be put on some kind of trial or tribunal. About a hundred died in custody, about 30 of those were ruled homicides at the hands of American captors, and the rest, about 800 human beings, were released as completely innocent.

    After years of torture.

    That isn’t counting the thousands who went through Bagram, Afghanistan, or the countless nameless who went to some third world country and into the hands of non-americans.

    So don’t give me this bullcrap trying to apologize and defend torture on some fantasy version of reality where we completely subverted due process for years and never torturred hundreds of innocent people.

    The vast majority of people we tortured were innocent people.

    And whetehr they were innocent or not, the “destroying our way of life” has already been done. Due process, individual freedom, limits on power, protections against torture, are all in the toilet right now. So, no matter what position you say you hold, you are making the arguments of the most extreme torture apologist.

    We’ve tortured hundreds, probably thousands, of innocent people, many of them for years. That is a simple fact.

    And the facts are completely consistent with my views…and obviously inconsistent with yours.

    This is the part where a rational person would wave the white flag, and maybe even apologize for your tone. Now let’s find out if you’re a rational person.

    LB@265: Ultimately, the people best situated to understand what is and is not effective for eliciting information from terrorist detainees are the guards and military personnel who interact with them regularly

    Again, this is the standard argument from ignorance fo a torture apologist. Whatever you claim is your position, you’re as far into neocon territory as one can get.

    The CIA director of 2004 said Torture didn’t help.

    http://www.warhw.com/2009/04/27/cia-inspector-general-torture-didnt-help/

    An FBI interrogator at quantanamo said KSM had provided information under normal interrogation techniques and that torture did not thwart any terror plots

    http://www.warhw.com/2009/04/23/fbi-interrogator-at-quantanamo-torture-didnt-work/

    Here are some statistics on torture. Including 330 known cases of abuse, involving 460 detainees, and 600 american personel. 54 Americans have been convicted of abuse. 40 americans have served prison time. 100 detainees have died in custudy. 30 of those have been ruled homicide.

    http://www.warhw.com/2009/05/04/us-torture-statistics/

    Not just torture, murder.

    So don’t get all “gee, wally, maybe we should ask the interrogators what works best” because the facts speak for themselves. The CIA director himself said torture hasn’t helped, an FBI interrogator said normal techniques were working fine, and a bunch of Americans who were involved in torturing detainees ended up murdering them, not exactly the sort of people to take advice from.

    So, in the face of all those facts that totally contradict your horsepucky, any white flags?

    I didn’t think so.

  248. my previous post went into moderation cause of the links. Posting it again with just 1 link.

    —————–

    LB@260: This is the part where a rational person would waive the white flag, and maybe even apologize for your tone. Now let’s find out if you’re a rational person.

    bifurcation, false dichotomy, whatever you call it, I’m not playing your nonsense.

    stevem@261: By any sane definition, I think that about 1/2 of the examples I gave of “harsh” interrogation techniques aren’t evenly slightly harsh.

    I don’t care what you think is and is not torture. International law has a hundred years of history that is very clear on the matter and you making defintional arguments is nothing, i repeat nothing, but an attempt to avoid the issue of Americans torturing people and try to play avoidance games by turning the conversation to “what is the definition of torture, really?”. Next you’ll be asking me what “is” means.

    Americans have approved torture. Americans have committed torture. The “definition” argument is a smoke screen to avoid those simple facts.

    LB@264: With all due respect X, this strikes me as a bit naive. At the risk of sounding too much like the Bush administration, we are talking about a group of people hell-bent on killing us and destroying our way of life.

    Horsepuckey.

    We’re talking about thousands of human beings being tortured without due process for years. The vast majority of those people have since been released after years of torture because someoen pounded it over our heads that they were in fact innocent. All the things they confessed to? False confessions given under the duress of torture.

    Yes, you’re sounding exactly like the bush administration and yes you’re sounding exactly like anyone who is a torture apologist who thinks the only people we torture are “guilty” people.

    Of the thousand or so who went through Guantanamo, probably less than a hundred are really terrorists and will be put on some kind of trial or tribunal. About a hundred died in custody, about 30 of those were ruled homicides at the hands of American captors, and the rest, about 800 human beings, were released as completely innocent.

    After years of torture.

    That isn’t counting the thousands who went through Bagram, Afghanistan, or the countless nameless who went to some third world country and into the hands of non-americans.

    So don’t give me this bullcrap trying to apologize and defend torture on some fantasy version of reality where we completely subverted due process for years and never torturred hundreds of innocent people.

    The vast majority of people we tortured were innocent people.

    And whetehr they were innocent or not, the “destroying our way of life” has already been done. Due process, individual freedom, limits on power, protections against torture, are all in the toilet right now. So, no matter what position you say you hold, you are making the arguments of the most extreme torture apologist.

    We’ve tortured hundreds, probably thousands, of innocent people, many of them for years. That is a simple fact.

    And the facts are completely consistent with my views…and obviously inconsistent with yours.

    This is the part where a rational person would wave the white flag, and maybe even apologize for your tone. Now let’s find out if you’re a rational person.

    LB@265: Ultimately, the people best situated to understand what is and is not effective for eliciting information from terrorist detainees are the guards and military personnel who interact with them regularly

    Again, this is the standard argument from ignorance fo a torture apologist. Whatever you claim is your position, you’re as far into neocon territory as one can get.

    The CIA director of 2004 said Torture didn’t help.

    http://www.warhw.com/2009/04/27/cia-inspector-general-torture-didnt-help/

    An FBI interrogator at quantanamo said KSM had provided information under normal interrogation techniques and that torture did not thwart any terror plots

    Here are some statistics on torture. Including 330 known cases of abuse, involving 460 detainees, and 600 american personel. 54 Americans have been convicted of abuse. 40 americans have served prison time. 100 detainees have died in custudy. 30 of those have been ruled homicide.

    Not just torture, murder.

    So don’t get all “gee, wally, maybe we should ask the interrogators what works best” because the facts speak for themselves. The CIA director himself said torture hasn’t helped, an FBI interrogator said normal techniques were working fine, and a bunch of Americans who were involved in torturing detainees ended up murdering them, not exactly the sort of people to take advice from.

    So, in the face of all those facts that totally contradict your horsepucky, any white flags?

    I didn’t think so.

  249. GL @ 269 —

    You’re obviously not even reading my posts — or, if you are, you aren’t capable of understanding them. You are lashing out at a straw man and taking quotes out of context to make it seem like I support a position that I have made very clear that I don’t. You are making generalizations based on the common views of a group of people to which I don’t even belong, and attributing views to me that I clearly do not hold based on those generalizations. Then, you are attacking me based on my alleged holding of those views, and reciting information to me that I am obviously aware of in an effort to argue against those views, even though I have made very clear that I don’t hold them. In short, you are being a dick. This blog has a clearly delineated policy on being a dick that I would encourage you to review.

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2009/05/17/because-flowcharts-make-everything-clearer/

    I don’t need you to recite statistics about the autrocities that have been commited at the hands of Americans over the past decade (and even before then). I’m aware of them. I never denied them. I never tried to justify them, and I’m certainly not an “apologist” for them. We have detained, tortured, and murdered innocent people. There is no valid justification for that. The conduct America has engaged in, particularly since 9/11, has been morally reprehensible, and is probably in violation of its duties under international law. America is in the wrong, and has been for a long time. Is there any way I can make this any more clear?

    My complaint about your commentary is, and has always been, about the fact that you have accused the CURRENT President of the United States of America (not the one who presided over this disgusting behavior, but the one who is endeavoring to resolve it — albeit not necessarily in the same way that you or I would — and is presently being met with significant resistance from his own party) of violating international law, and essentially being a war criminal, and have effectively called for his prosecution for failing to prosecute others. I have demonstrated that your claims in this regard are obviously baseless, ridiculous, and rooted in your ignorance of international law. Rather than acknowledging this, you have tried to change the subject and attempted to attribute views to me that I have made very clear I do not hold.

    What is truly amazing about your dialogue with me in this thread is that I fundamentally agree with virtually everything you have said, with the exception of your comments about the legal ramifications of President Obama’s present position on pursuing legal action against those alleged to have been involved in acts of terror, which are demonstrably false and which I have already disproven beyond any possible reasonable dispute. If you are incapable of engaging a person like me in a civilized manner, what hope is there for you engaging a person who actually disagrees with you? Pretty bleak, I would say.

    Again…this sort of irrational lashing out gives those of us on the side of justice a black eye. Take a deep breath and try to listen and make sure you understand what people are saying before you respond. For a good example, see Kevin @ 254.

    At this point, you are obviously more interested in trying to save face by mischaracterizing my comments than you are in engaging in any sort of meaningful dialogue, so I’m going to go ahead and end it here.

  250. LB, you keep claiming you’re not a torture apologist, and you keep making torture apologist statements.

    Allow me to demonstrate.

    Xopher@262: You still don’t understand that forcing or coercing prisoners into cooperating is ineffective, and using harshness or anger or outrage to influence them is counterproductive at best and sometimes illegal.”

    LB@264: this strikes me as a bit naive. At the risk of sounding too much like the Bush administration, we are talking about a group of people hell-bent on killing us and destroying our way of life.

    Tell, me, oh ye who is not a torture apologist and who knows we tortured people and who knows torturing poeple is illegal: When xopher says torture is ineffective, counterproductive, and illegal, he’s saying facts backed up by the CIA director and by FBI interrogators. When he says it’s illegal, he’s quoting international law.

    You, on the other hand, come back not with facts or law but with “I think this is naive”? You come back with some shpeel about how “they” are out to destroy “our way of life”? You fail to acknowledge the basic facts of torture. It is truly ineffective, it produces enough false positives that it will always outweigh any real intel recovered. And we don’t just torture “they” who are out to destroy “our way of life”. We torture innocent people. 80% of the people at guantanamo were innocent. 10% were murdered in custody. 10% have enough evidence against them to get a conviction.

    Don’t be making statements to the effect that you’re a “just the facts, maam” kind of guy while you’re throwing out neocon nuggets like “our way of life” or that we only torture guilty people.

    Don’t be making what is effectively an argument from ignorance @265, Ultimately, the people best situated to understand what is and is not effective for eliciting information from terrorist detainees are the guards and military personnel who interact with them regularly.

    Don’t be acting as if the jury is still out on the effectiveness of Guantanamo and Bagram. We know the numbers 80% of the people were innocent. 10% are likely to be convicted. and 10% were murdered in custody before getting to trial. That is in no way qualifies as being “effective for eliciting information”.

    And ultimately, it doesn’t make a dam bit of difference if torture “works” or not. Torture is illegal. We’ve signed treaties to the effect. There is no escape clause saying torture is legal if you get good information out of it.

    trying to save face by mischaracterizing my comments

    I’ve quoted you, repeatedly, words that would just as likely come out of the mouth of Dick Cheney to defend torture. We only torture guilty people? We only torture people out to destroy our way of life? The people who tortured detainees are the best source of whether or not torture is effective? Those are your words. I don’t have to save face by quoting you.

  251. I’m not sure why I’m bothering, but here goes…

    GL @ 272 — “I’ve quoted you, repeatedly, words that would just as likely come out of the mouth of Dick Cheney to defend torture. We only torture guilty people? We only torture people out to destroy our way of life? The people who tortured detainees are the best source of whether or not torture is effective? Those are your words. I don’t have to save face by quoting you.”

    You either know damn well I didn’t say any of those things, or you’re insane.

    You claim I said: “We only torture guilty people?” and “We only torture people out to destroy our way of life?”

    Me @ 271 — “We have detained, tortured, and murdered innocent people. There is no valid justification for that.”

    Hello? Anyone home?

    You claim I said: “The people who tortured detainees are the best source of whether or not torture is effective?”

    What I actually said @ 265: “Ultimately, the people best situated to understand what is and is not effective for eliciting information from terrorist detainees are the guards and military personnel who interact with them regularly. The problem is that we know that there are psychological phenomena that occur in the context of prisoner/guard dynamics that cause us to be skeptical of the claims that guards will make about what really is necessary and/or effective. It is far too easy to get carried away when given this sort of power over another human being, in ways that are ultimately very destructive. Ultimately, we need to employ individuals with expertise in matters of interrogation and international law who are detatched from the situation to establish what tactics should and should not be used based on principles of international and domestic law, as well as our knowledge and understanding of what tactics are and are not effective…and based on these findings, we have to set standards, and we have to actually enforce them. Our military personnel needs to understand why we do things the way we do them, and why we do not do things that are over the line. It needs to be understood amongst those directly charged with the duty of acting as guards to our prisoners of war that we do not exceed the boundaries of protocol, not only because it is immoral, but because (1) it is not effective; and (2) it is counter-productive from a national security standpoint. In other words, you are NOT doing your job better by torturing people.”

    To summarize: people who are actually in the situation have a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t. But we can’t trust those people. We need to look to outside experts to establish what we can and can’t do, and then we need to enforce those boundaries. How is this difficult for you to understand?

    I resent the fact that you feel it is appropriate to put words in my mouth to facilitate your self-righteous finger wagging. You’re acting like an absolute tool.

    We were actually talking about something else entirely before you took a weird turn and decided, for reasons that no rational person could possibly understand, that I am a “torture apologist.” Remember? You were accusing the CURRENT President of the United States (Obama, not Bush) of being an international war criminal for exercising prosecutorial discretion? And I demonstrated that you are wrong about that? And instead of recognizing that what you were saying was demonstrably false (because it was), apologizing for your obnoxious tone, and thanking me for educating you on the workings of international law, you started throwing insane accusations at me?

    Here, I can play your game too…ready?

    You know, people who behave in an irrational, intellectually dishonest manner, as you have, are generally neocons! And neocons hate gays, blacks, and jews! Holocaust deniers like you make me sick.

    And look at all these quotes from you, supporting torture. Supporting torture!

    You @ 272 — “…the jury is still out on the effectiveness of Guantanamo and Bagram.”

    No, the jury is not out. It wasn’t effective. You are a bad person for saying that.

    You @ 255 — “I expect rules gaming, and I expect lawyerisms, and I expect much more dancing around the facts to find torturers and their apologists a loophole.”

    You want gaming and lawyering and dancing around the facts so that torturers and their apologists can find a loophole? You want these people to get away with it! You’re an awful person. I am a moral, upstanding person for pointing this out.

    You @ 201 — “Then wouldn’t it be even more effective to rape a terrorist’s son in front of him? Amputation? Until we allow all these techniques, aren’t we fighting terrorists with our hands tied?”

    You sick bastard. You want to rape children. God, I am a much, much better person than you.

    You @ 135 — “Can committing Evil bring us closer to a world of Good?”

    You ask that as though it were a legitimate question. Well, it isn’t. Obviously evil doesn’t create good. How dare you suggest otherwise. You must be evil.

    You @ 235 — “The point is Bush invoked Iraq as being behind 9/11 and if we didn’t invade Iraq there’d be another 9/11.”

    There is no factual support for your crazy statement that if we hadn’t invaded Iraq, there would have been another 9/11. Here’s the news, stupid: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are enemies. I guess ignorant people like you wouldn’t understand that. They are all the same to you, aren’t they? I guess you just want to drop a big nuclear bomb on the whole region and get it over with, just like all the other war-hawking a-holes like you. These are your opinions because I say so.

    Actually, this is pretty fun. I can see why you are so into this…

  252. Obama now proposing pre-emptive indefinite detention.

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/05/22/preventive_detention/index.html

    This is exactly what Bush Jr. proposed immediately after 9/11, that we can hold anyone we want, for as long as we want, without charging them or convicting them of anything, ever.

    The only reason, and I mean only reason, thta Obama is burying the release of those photos is because it will generate more outrage in America and prevent him from expanding presidential power to a point far more than any president has ever had.

    America is doomed if this goes through.

  253. LB and Greg: While you disagree on some points, you’re fundamentally on the same side.

    I would really, really appreciate it if you’d stop tearing each other up. Greg, LB does have a valid point about you misinterpreting some things LB has said. Could you just leave each other alone please? PLEASE?

    I have no authority here. I’m just asking. I can’t make you stop it or bring down a hammer on you if you don’t. I’d just really like it if you would.

    Greg, I agree with you on preventive detention. That’s the worst yet from the Obama administration, and I weep for my once-great country if he manages to get that pushed through.

  254. *sigh*

    First you do it to me…now you’re doing it to Obama.

    Here’s what Obama actually said, folks — and mind you, this comes in the context of a discussion about how we will go about closing Guantanamo Bay (something that Obama is struggling to do, and is now being attacked by both major political parties for his trouble), after Obama announces that “enhanced interrogation techniques” are illegal, after he announces that of the 250 detainees, 21 are being freed, 50 are being sent to another country, many others are going to be tried in our federal courts, and many others will be tried by military commissions that have been reformed to comport with due process requirements:

    “Now, finally, there remains the question of detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people. And I have to be honest here — this is the toughest single issue that we will face. We’re going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country. But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases because evidence may be tainted, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. Examples of that threat include people who’ve received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, or commanded Taliban troops in battle, or expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.

    Let me repeat: I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people. Al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture — like other prisoners of war — must be prevented from attacking us again. Having said that, we must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded. They can’t be based simply on what I or the executive branch decide alone. That’s why my administration has begun to reshape the standards that apply to ensure that they are in line with the rule of law. We must have clear, defensible, and lawful standards for those who fall into this category. We must have fair procedures so that we don’t make mistakes. We must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.

    I know that creating such a system poses unique challenges. And other countries have grappled with this question; now, so must we. But I want to be very clear that our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for the remaining Guantanamo detainees that cannot be transferred. Our goal is not to avoid a legitimate legal framework. In our constitutional system, prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man. If and when we determine that the United States must hold individuals to keep them from carrying out an act of war, we will do so within a system that involves judicial and congressional oversight. And so, going forward, my administration will work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution.”

    To summarize: There may be a narrow group of people who are in Guantanamo Bay who cannot be prosecuted for any specific criminal act for various reasons, but who we know are at war with the United States. We have very good reason to believe that these people want to kill you, and if released, we know they will try to do so. These people are prisoners of war and will be treated as such — but, unlike the previous administration’s tribunals, these tribunals will be subject to judicial and congressional oversight, and will be consistent with the Constitution and American values.

    The overreaction in GL’s post above, and in the salon.com article he posted, is precisely the reason why liberals have trouble with credibility on national defense issues. Seriously, what would you have us do with a person in Guantanamo Bay who we know was trained at a terrorist camp to kill Americans, and who openly vows that he will kill as many Americans as possible if given the opportunity? Should we release this person because we don’t have hard evidence that would stand up in court that he or she has already killed people? Regardless of how salon.com wants to twist Obama’s words, there is nothing unusual about detaining prisoners of war. Obama has vowed to do this legitimately, and until we have reason to doubt it, I am inclined to believe him.

    While the rest of the country is buzzing about how Obama’s high-minded left wing ideals are putting us all in danger (which I find ridiculous), GL is arguing that Obama is a war criminal (which is possibly even more ridiculous).

    Thank God Barack Obama is running this country.

  255. X @ 276 — “LB and Greg: While you disagree on some points, you’re fundamentally on the same side.

    I would really, really appreciate it if you’d stop tearing each other up. Greg, LB does have a valid point about you misinterpreting some things LB has said. Could you just leave each other alone please? PLEASE?”

    Yes, and I’m sorry things got out of hand. It just pisses me off that someone is putting words in my mouth as a vehicle to be self-righteous.

    Re: the so-called “preventative detention” issue, see my post above. I would encourage people to read what Obama actually said, not the post-speech spin.

  256. LB: who cannot be prosecuted for any specific criminal act for various reasons, but who we know are at war with the United States.

    Since you seem to hold the position that Obama is not violating international law until convicted ofviolating international law, it’s interesting that you “know” who is at war with the US even if you cannot convict them.

    We have very good reason to believe that these people want to kill you,

    Because they said so while being tortured? (no innocent person would ever confess simply because they were beign tortured) Because they were handed in for a $20,000 bounty by various warlords in Afghanistan? (no warlord would every turn in innocent people just for the money of course.)

    and if released, we know they will try to do so.

    Because we know.

    These people are prisoners of war

    Really? If they were picked up on the battlefield with weapons in hand, they can easily be convicted of crimes. If they were civilians turned in for a bounty or civilians who were in teh wrong place at the wrong time, then the Geneva Convention has rules on how to treat civilians in war time. i.e. you do not treat them as POW’s.

    and will be treated as such

    Right, Obama can’t convict these people of past crimes but we can magically divine that they’re going to commit crimes in the future.

    — but, unlike the previous administration’s tribunals, these tribunals will be subject to judicial and congressional oversight, and will be consistent with the Constitution and American values.

    Values like, Guilty until proven innocent? Due process? beyond a reasonable doubt?

    You’re taking bullcrap and putting a pretty ribbon on it.

    The overreaction in GL’s post above, and in the salon.com article he posted, is precisely the reason why liberals

    Oh sod off.

    have trouble with credibility on national defense issues.

    We have trouble with national defense issues because neocons preach fear and people like you eat it up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then people like you claim you’re not a neocon.

    Seriously, what would you have us do with a person in Guantanamo Bay

    who we know

    How do you know?

    was trained at a terrorist camp to kill Americans

    What proof do you have they trained at a camp? Was it obtained under torture?

    and who openly vows that he will kill as many Americans as possible if given the opportunity?

    Will he plead guilty to any crime? Or is he talking trash like you are?

    You’re a neocon through and through. Every little nugget in your last post is exactly the sort of thing that Dick Palpatine Cheney would say. You talk like a neocon. You use arguments like a neocon. You claim facts of a neocon. You declare you have absolute knowledge like a neocon. And just because you say youre not a neocon, doesn’t change all that.

    Should we release this person because we don’t have hard evidence that would stand up in court that he or she has already killed people?

    Should we put anyone in prison we can’t prove is guilty?

    You’re arguing Cheney’s “One Percent Doctrine” and applyign it to someone’s guilt. If someone is 1% likely to be guilty, then throw them in jail.

    Regardless of how salon.com wants to twist Obama’s words, there is nothing unusual about detaining prisoners of war. Obama has vowed to do this legitimately, and until we have reason to doubt it, I am inclined to believe him.

    there is nothing unusual about detaining prisoners of war

    This is pure neocon horsepuckey. If these guys were picked up on the battlefield carrying weapons, conviction is a slam dunk. We already convicted an American of carrying arms against US troops in Afghanistan. If they weren’t carrying arms against the US, then they’re not POW’s.

    All you’re doing is repeating the neocon mantra, “We know they’re guilty, we just can’t prove it.”

    Neocon nonsense. If the witch sinks and drowns, she’s innocent. If she floats, she’s guilty. You haven’t proven squat. All you’ve done is change the definition of how you “know” something to be “because I declare them to be guilty”.

    GL is arguing that Obama is a war criminal (which is possibly even more ridiculous).

    For someone who’s willing to convict detainees without a shred of court admissable evidence, that’s not saying much.

    Thank God Barack Obama is running this country.

    Compared to McCain/Palin, I’ll take Obama. Doesn’t mean Obama (or you) are always right. Doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t argue against fear-mongering bullcrap when Obama (or anyone else) shovels it out.

  257. GL @ 279 —

    First off, thanks for addressing what I actually said this time, as opposed to what you wanted to pretend I was saying. There was still a fair amount of name-calling and childishness, but at least you are making a decent effort not to mischaracterize what I said.

    One exception: you said “Since you seem to hold the position that Obama is not violating international law until convicted ofviolating international law, it’s interesting that you “know” who is at war with the US even if you cannot convict them.” I, of course, don’t hold that position at all. What I have stated over and over again is that President Obama’s present position on prosecution (or lack thereof) of individuals involved in torturing detainees does not expose Obama himself to any potential criminal charges, through an international tribunal or otherwise. It may mean that Obama is pursuing a policy that is arguably inconsistent with certain obligations the United States has under the U.N. Convention on Torture. If that is the case, then the United Nations can and should take all appropriate actions, which essentially would consist of the United Nations exercising some oversight with respect to the United States’ present practices in connection with detainees. (See Articles 20 and 24 of the Convention). I suspect they are not doing so because Obama’s stated policies and practices against torture itself have rendered that unnecessary…but if the U.N. were interested in monitoring any of our detention facilities, I suspect they would not be met with much resistance from the Obama administration.

    As far as the rest of what you said — I think we have two fundamental differences here. First, I disagree with your presumption that if we picked up an individual in a battlefield, “weapons in hand,” then there should be no problem convicting that person of a crime. I don’t know what you are basing that upon, but I don’t think it’s always going to be accurate. Moreover, I’m sure there are also circumstances other than someone running around with an assault rifle that make it clear that the person is a member of a terrorist orgainization plotting to harm innocent people. We have ways of getting intelligence that don’t necessarily involve seeing a guy shooting at us, and don’t necessarily involve evidence that is going to be admissible in court and constitute proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Secondly, I think you are presuming that the only information we have on these particular detainees pertaining to whether or not they are, in fact, members of terrorist orgainzations at war with the United States was obtained through torture. Maybe some of it was (and that information should not be relied upon), but certainly most of it was not. Frankly, I suspect that most with strong Jihadist beliefs are pretty candid about their desire to destroy America, and the measures they have taken in pursuit of their goals (so long as they aren’t divulging details that would hurt the ability of others to carry out plans). Moreover, given that the Obama administration will not tolerate torture, I’m confident that they will also not tolerate relying upon statements made under torture to detain people. This administration is not stupid. They know what information is reliable, and what isn’t.

    I can tell that you are passionate — indeed, angry — about the way that the United States has conducted itself, particularly since 9/11. I’m angry too. But I also understand that there are legitimate issues of national security at stake. More so now than before, in fact, because our “national security” policy has been completely counterproductive for nearly a decade. Letting that anger cloud your judgment is not constructive. (Indeed, much of the misconduct that we are so upset about now came to be because people let their anger and fear cloud their judgment). There are two sides to nearly every issue, and this is no exception. It is important that America maintains its ideals and does not, as Obama put it, “lose its moral bearings.” It is also important that America does not lose sight of its national security interests and fail to protect itself.

    I have a great deal of trust in the present administration’s ability to protect those security interests without resort to unethical practices. I don’t think Obama has given us any reason at this point not to trust his motives or his judgment. I think a lot of people have an inherent skepticism of our government’s military practices…and this is understandable, as it comes from years and years of being blatantly lied to. But I think the era of our government blatantly lying to us is over — at least for now.

    President Obama is trying like hell to clean up a mess in the aftermath of the most disastrous administration in American history, and the last thing he needs is wild, baseless accusations coming from his left as he tries to fend off the right. Do you realize how difficult a time he is having just trying to close Guantanamo Bay down? Can you not see how little support he is getting from his own party, much less the Republicans? If you want him to accomplish anything, you need to accept that the policies that are going to come out of the fray are going to seem less than perfect at times. But Obama continues to be the best hope we have, and I don’t think attacking him (especially when those attacks are ill founded) is constructive.

  258. LB: your presumption that if we picked up an individual in a battlefield, “weapons in hand,” then there should be no problem convicting that person of a crime. I don’t know what you are basing that upon

    once again, your favorite tactic: Argument from ignorance. You take something you don’t like, you assert without zero evidence that it isn’t true, and then you allow your self-inserted doubt to be “proof” that you’re right.

    Do you have any evidence upon which to cast doubt on my assertion that a man caught on the battlefield with an AK47 pointed at American troops would be able to escape conviction of a crime? Or is it that you simply don’t like that, cast doubt on it, and then use the “doubt” you created to be the “proof” to support your implied assertion that it would for some reason be hard to convict someone captured on the battlefield?

    Any evidence at all?

    My evidence? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Walker_Lindh

    being one example.

    I think you are presuming

    Hold on. I’m the one presuming here? Let’s just take a look at the rest of this paragraph from you:

    that the only information we have on these particular detainees pertaining to whether or not they are, in fact, members of terrorist orgainzations at war with the United States was obtained through torture.

    80% of detainees in guantanamo have been or are planned to be released without charges becase the US government said they’re not guilty of anything. 10% are dead at the hands of Americans, 30% of which were ruled homicides. And the remaining 10%?

    Well, we have such a good track record of 80% failure rate and 10% fatality rate, you just presume that these guys must be guilty?

    Again, all you’re doing is argument from ignorance here. You’ve got squat to prove any of your presumptions. I’ve got numbers. 80% failure rate is enough to cast doubt on the remaining 20%. This is like the string of death penalty convictions that were overturned after DNA testing was applied to old cases, proving the “guilty” people in prison, on death row, were in fact innocent.

    What do you have to presume that after such an attrocious witch hunt as to torture and kill nearly a thousand innocent people for years, that the last 100 must be guilty? You’ve got nothing but argument from ignorance, casting doubt on data you don’t want to belive, and you’re own presumptions to believe what you want to believe.

    Maybe some of it was (and that information should not be relied upon),

    Maybe??? Maybe????

    but certainly most of it was not.

    CERTAINLY??? You’re just making shit up right now. YOu’ve got NOTHING to prove this crap. NOTHING. You have PRESUMED that MOST of the information is solid, but you’ve got nothing, NOTHING, to prove it, and only you’re overwhelming desire to want to believe the neocon propaganda (that you keep regurgitating on this thread) that this time we got it right.

    Don’t accuse me of presuming anythign when this is pure fantasy conjured from your mind.

    Frankly, I suspect

    SUSPECT? Why is that so much better than PRESUMING? Why is it you dismiss my point as nothing but presumption with no basis in facts and then replace it with this totally fabricated crap that you suspect to be true, which is in fact based on absolutely no facts?

    that most with strong Jihadist beliefs are pretty candid about their desire to destroy America, and the measures they have taken in pursuit of their goals

    If I assume that this is true, I am immediately presented with the problem that these people you say are so “candid” about how they want to kill americans, won’t be so candid as to plead guilty to whatever specific crime Cheney thinks they commited in the past.

    You present the scenario where they’re just candid enough to tell you “off the record” but no candid enough that they can be convicted in a court of law. Which is pure neocon propaganda: We know they’re guilty but we can’t convict them in a court of law.

    It is neocon propaganda, and you keep regurgitating it. Without any facts to support that any of it is actually true. But you keep saying it because that’s the “truth” you want to believe.

    And you accuse me of presuming.

    Nice.

    But I also understand that there are legitimate issues of national security at stake.

    Only because you know these guys are guilty, but can’t prove it in a court of law. And that’s total crap. It’s total neocon propaganda. If it is “legitimate” issue, it’s only because you’ve already decided that these guys are guilty even though you haven’t enough evidence to convict them.

    Analogy: There is a number of people killed by a serial killer. The cops pick up someone they think is the one. The killings stop. The cops don’t have any evidence to convict the suspect, but they decide that there are “legitimate issues of security at stake” becuase this suspect might be the killer, and if they let him go, the killings will resume.

    So, they’re saying that they should put the guy in prison for life in case it keeps future killings from occuring.

    That’s all you’re saying. If you’ve got insufficient evidence to convict these guys, but saying that there is a legitimate concern, then you’re trying to have it both ways. You can’t convict, but you magically know they’re guilty. And that’s neocon propaganda 101. Neocons hate the courts and they hate the rule of law. They “know” who is good and who is bad. They don’t need annoying roadblocks like due process, habeous corpus, reasonable doubt, and so on to get in their way. That is exactly why these assholes approved torture in the first place, because they fucking knew these detainees were guilty. Except they were wrong. 80% were completely innocent, but only released after years of torture.

    And now you’re trying to tell me that they got the last 10% right. That they can divine the guilt of these people, even though they don’t have the evidence for a conviction, and that somehow, this time, it’s different?

    Why? Because there are legitimate issues of national security at stake.

    Say what????? What rock have you been sleeping under the last eight years, because that’s the exact same excuse they’ve given us for the last 8 years, and they’ve been wrong every time!!!

    Ritter and Blix and the UN said Iraq was disarming. But there were “legitimate issues of national security at stake”, so we invaded just to be safe.

    FBI interrogators were producing actionable intel using normal interrogations techniques on detainees, but there were “legitimate issues of national security at stake”, so we started torturing detainees, just in case.

    One of the senate members who had read the classified information about how the CIA had been using the illegal wiretapping of the entire united state of america had said that we would be ashamed when the truth was finally declasified, but there were “legitimate issues of national security at stake”, so we’ve rolled over on wiretapping.

    You think that a murder isn’t a legitimate issue of security? Do you think for one second that just because a murder occurred that the government should suspend due process, rule of law, proper evidence, and other channels????

    DO you think terrorism is any different? If you do, you’re doing so only because you are viewing yourself as a potential future victim, and you’re willing to fuck with someone else’s liberty to make yourself feel more secure.

    We’ve fucked with thousands of innocent people, torturing them, for years, but this time, somehow, yo’uve magically divined that we got it right. This time, these people need to be held outside of the rule of law because they WILL KILL AMERICANS. Because you KNOW this, even though you can’t PROVE this.

    the last thing he needs is wild, baseless accusations coming from his left as he tries to fend off the right.

    Do you consider yourself an independent? Who have you voted for in presidential elections? Did you vote for Bush? Have you voted for any third party candidates? Do you consider the “Right” and the “Left” to be equally bad and do you consider yourself to be the “moderate” who choses what is right and what is best?

    Just to answer for myself, I’ve voted for every presidential candidate on the democrat ticket in every presidential election that I voted in.

  259. Jonathan Turley from George Washington University on Obama’s preventive detention proposal:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsT1vw_EGOg

    1:05, this is not just for Guantanamo detainees, Obama is considering preventitive detention for persons picked up in the future.

    2:15, we’ll give them the right to a trial, unless we think they’ll win, in which case we’ll hold them indefinitely.

    3:20, many are members of terrorist organizations and we can prove that without resorting to torture.

    3:35, there are some detainees we have no evidence against that was not obtained through torture.

    4:05, If we cannot convict them, we can deport them, and we can hold them until deportation, we don’t have to release them until they’re deported.

  260. Anyone still following this thread in email followups might be interested in this update

    Did the photos contain pictures of rape? Doesn’t matter, because anyone can claim anything about them. People can claim “sources” or possibly produce pictures claiming to be ones from the non-released photos showing who knows what. And there’s no way the Pentagon, or the White House can prove anything about the claims. Because they’re refusing to release the pictures.

    Eventually, the claims will become more damning than the reality of the pictures.

  261. GL @ (everywhere):

    Here you go. This is a small taste of what Obama knew, that you didn’t.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20090601/wl_mcclatchy/3243795

    You may now return to your regularly scheduled panic attack, keep behaving as though you know everything, and continue undermining the man who is by far the greatest President in either of our lifetimes.

    By the way, I’m a lawyer. I understand the difference between information that can be presented in a court of law to support a conviction, and information that can’t serve such a purpose, but is otherwise reliable. And I understand that it is entirely plausible that the United States is holding prisoners of war for legitimate reasons that would not reliably support a conviction in U.S. court. And if Barack Obama tells me that is the case, I have absolutely no reason to believe otherwise.

    If you can read my posts and honestly think it’s possible that I voted for Bush, you’re an idiot. I consider myself to be well to the left of the Democratic party…so much so that I have difficulty bringing myself to vote for Democrats at times. But every President I have ever voted for has been a Democrat.

    But I’m also not an ideologue who aligns myself with the far left for the sake of doing so. I’m willing to listen to an opposing argument, for what it may be worth. When it comes to national security, I think Barack Obama more or less has it right, and I believe that he is doing what he can to maintain American ideals and maximize our safety within the political context in which he must operate. (And let’s not forget that — you and I have the freedom to say whatever the hell we want and support whatever position we feel is right, whereas Obama has to actually work with others to get things done…see, e.g., the Guantanamo Bay closure fiasco, in which he is trying to do the right thing and is being stabbed in the back by his own party).

    I think Obama has a rare combination of outstanding policy judgment and political savvy, and when he supports a policy that I don’t agree with, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I know that (1) Obama is privy to information that I’m not aware of; (2) Obama is smarter than I am (and a hell of a lot smarter than you are); and (3) when Obama makes decisions, he has very good reasons behind them. That isn’t to say that he’s infallible — he is going to make mistakes…maybe even make mistakes that I wouldn’t have made if I were in his position…but all things considered, he’s probably the best President we’re ever going to get. So when someone accuses him of being a war criminal out of absolute ignorance and a total inability/unwillingness to understand the basic tenets of international law, I tend to get a little peeved. Especially when that someone is a liberal who ought not bite the hand that is feeding him.

  262. LB: what Obama knew, that you didn’t. … Obama is smarter than I am (and a hell of a lot smarter than you are

    Oh. My. God.

    Get off your high horse. You’re telling me that I didn’t know that there would be Iraqis who would start protesting the moment these photos went public? That’s you’re big “Ha! Gothca!”?? Really??? From Josh’s link, the photos include:

    a male uniformed US soldier receiving oral sex from a female prisoner, a government contractor engaged in an act of sodomy with a male prisoner, and penetration involving phosphorous sticks and brooms

    Which was pretty much the sort of shit I figured would be in the photos given what we saw from previous Abu Graib photos.

    So, please. Get over yourself. People should be protesting shit like this. Americans and Iraqis should be pissed that these bastards, including the bastards who authorized this shit, haven’t all been hauled to court.

    If these bastards were all in court the day the photos were released, there’d be protest and angry crowds in Iraq, but there wouldn’t be anything we would need to worry about. But since Obama is acting like a political coward and giving us the “look forward, not back” bullshit, of course people are going to go apeshit when they see the stuff that he has been telling us isn’t worth criminal prosecutions. They are. Obama’s lying.

    I think Obama has a rare combination of outstanding policy judgment and political savvy, and when he supports a policy that I don’t agree with, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt

    I’m not interested in your hero worship. Save your “Mistakes were made” speech for the choir. Obama is human just like everyone else. And he screws up, just like everyone else. And he’s screwing this one up badly, just like a lot of cowardly american politicians currently are.

    all things considered, he’s probably the best President we’re ever going to get.

    Keep brown-nosing Obama. Maybe he’ll give you a gummint job. For those dealing with reality, saying Obama is “the best we got” isn’t the same as sayign Obama is doing this particular thing right. He isn’t. His “look forward, don’t look back” is political cowardice. His push to bury these photos is political cowardice. His actions on this subject are immoral and indefensible. Obama should release the photos and start criminal cases against everyone involved.

    I tend to get a little peeved. Especially when that someone is a liberal who ought not bite the hand that is feeding him.

    Oh get over yourself and stop pretending like this is a purely left-wing extremist point of view. In Josh’s link in post#283, General Patreaus was in favor of releasing the photos, “lets lance this boil” being his sound bite for it.

    You think Patreaus didn’t know the repurcusions either? You wanna keep portraying Obama as the only one who knows jack shit? You wanna talk up Obama as the most brillian man on planet earth right now? You’re talking like a shill at this point.

  263. GL —

    The photos are going to be released eventually. If Obama doesn’t do it willingly, the courts will force him to release the photos at some point. Obama knows that. He is stalling because he has been advised by the Prime Minister of Iraq that releasing the photos now would be at best counterproductive, and at worst a bloody disaster resulting in hundreds (thousands?) of additional deaths and a significant increase in danger to Americans still stationed in Iraq. So Obama wants them released later, instead of now. To save lives. The Prime Minister didn’t say Iraqis would “protest.” He said they would kill people. Not protest. Kill. And he’s probably right. You call Obama a “coward” for listening to the advice of the Prime Minister of Iraq, but you’re not the one who America entrusted to make these decisions. You can sit on your couch with your thumb up your ass and and be a self-righteous, indignant dick, and (fortunately) there are no real world consequences. If Obama says “to hell with the consequences,” people die. Obama has to look the Prime Minister of Iraq and say “sorry, I know this is going to destabilize your country and set your security efforts back dramatically, but darn it, it’s just really important that people see these photos.” You don’t. You’re just some jerk off on a blog. Thank God he’s calling the shots, and not you.

    And regardless of your smokescreen, you are still wrong about any potential to “prosecute” Obama under international law for not pursuing legal action against torturers, which was my original point, and which you haven’t addressed in the last 100 posts or so. You have done a nice job of changing the subject to avoid looking like an idiot, but you could have accomplished that by just recognizing that you were wrong. That would have been much more respectable.

    I’m through debating the merits of this with you becuase you are incapable of having a civilized discussion. It is people like you who create conservatives. Seriously, talking to you makes me want to throw a bag of aluminum cans in the dumpster and clear cut a few acres of rain forest, just to piss you off.

  264. people die.

    You’re like Guilianni invoking 9/11 in every sentence. Be afraid. Be afraid.

    You’re just some jerk off on a blog.

    And Patraeus is just some general in the US military. He said we should release the photos too. But you’re not very consistent about argument, are you? If you were, you’d be attacking Patraeus with the same self-righteous indignation and superiority you’re laying on me. But you’re not, which means you’re really going after me personally.

    talking to you makes me want to throw a bag of aluminum cans in the dumpster and clear cut a few acres of rain forest, just to piss you off.

    Well, at least you admit where your priorities really are. Do the wrong thing just in hopes that it pisses me off.

  265. GL — “Well, at least you admit where your priorities really are. Do the wrong thing just in hopes that it pisses me off.”

    …well, I wasn’t actually going to do it. But since you kept it up, I’m going to go club a baby seal now. That baby seal blood is on your hands. Next time try not being such a dick, and maybe more baby seals will live.

  266. Even better idea: Let’s all stop being dicks in this thread, eh? Honestly, it’s annoying to have to come in here and remind people, again, that the way of the dick is not the way to go.

  267. Thanks. I was considering either unsubscribing from comments or telling them to can it, but figured the later was your business.

  268. Just in (yesterday actually), the Lieberman-Graham photo suppression amendment was dropped due to insufficient support. The military budget it was attached to would not have passed had the ammendment remained.

    http://firedoglake.com/2009/06/08/breaking-lieberman-graham-dropped-from-supplemental/

    Also just in (today), Obama is fighting the relase of any information surrounding the CIA videotapes of their interrogation/torture sessions with certain prisoners, including who ordered the tapes destroyed, what the tapes revealed, etc.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/08/AR2009060804117.html?hpid=topnews

  269. As one of the troops in question, I’ll say this: I’m happy he made the decision the way he did. John, as a reader, I’ll refer you towards your own explanation by Viveros in Old Man’s War…idealism finds itself woefully irrelevant in the face of pragmatism. Releasing more pictures towards a pliable enemy serves no purpose…many will perceive these pictures by their volume alone as proof of widespread abuse by our forces. Such is not the case, and the horrific (actual) torture by their forces will result. I personally volunteer myself to be waterboarded, rather than have my eyes gouged out or to have myself gelded by radicals (refer to actual incidents).

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