Friday, November 02, 2007

Waterboarding

For all the hysterics about waterboarding, you would think that it was a daily occurrance down at Gitmo. Now ABC news (yes, ABC, not Fox) is reporting that waterboarding has been used exactly three times--no, not three dozen or three hundred!

One of the three forced to undergo waterboarding was Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the mastermind of 9/11. The technique only had to be used for about a minute and a half before KSM broke and provided information about planned attacks on America (contrary to those on the Left who say that such techniques never work).

Since, according to ABC, the CIA hasn't used waterboarding since 2003, I thought I would suggest an interrogation technique that may be acceptable to the Left: Force the terrorist to watch CSPAN or listen to NPR every day. After a week of that, the terrorists may prefer waterboarding.

16 comments:

Steve said...

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

You may think torturing only three people is no big deal, but Jesus disagrees with you.

Dennis said...

Steve, help me understand your interpretation. In the passage you cited do you think Jesus was intending to address a government’s criminal or foreign policy?

If so, do you think Jesus would oppose putting terrorists or criminals in prison?

Do you think Jesus would oppose a policeman who used force to subdue a criminal who was resisting arrest?

Do you think Jesus would oppose a policeman who shot a gunman who was about to kill a hostage?

Is it just the "torture" you oppose or is it any mistreatment of anyone for any reason? For example, do you also oppose other "aggressive" forms of interrogation, like asking the terrorist (or suspect) questions for hours on end?

In other words, do you think we should confine terrorists to the Holiday Inn or just never arrest them at all?

What exactly is your position? How do you apply the passage you just quoted?

Steve said...

I think to torture another human being is repugnant and it doesn't matter if it is three or three thousand. And it doesn't matter if it is a terrorist or alleged terorist or a murderer or a child molester or an abortionist, or anyone else you happen to hate, they are all human beings and they should not be subjected to cruelty. You can quibble all you want with the definition of torture, but the fact remains that it is against the law, it is against the Geneva Conventions and it is against the moral law of any civilized human being. And on top of that the people who were tortured were alleged terrorists who were not convicted of any crimes or given any kind of due process.

When Jesus said "the least of these" he meant terrorists and alleged terrorists, too. And he did not say 3,000 or 3, he said "one of the least of these brothers of mine." The words are clear as day even if you are too blind to see them.

And finally, to call yourself a Christian and make all kinds of rationalizations and justifications for this kind of behavior or the behavior of soldiers in Abu Ghraib is particularly heinous.

How low do you think we have to sink to "win" the war on terror? How much do you think we have to become like them? What exactly are we fighting for if not our moral and legal principles? What good is your morality if it is so easily rationalized away?

Dennis said...

Its easy to accuse me of rationalizing but I noticed that you didn't even try to answer any of my questions (you never do).

I guess if Steve believes it, that should be good enough for everyone! In fact, how dare anyone who disagrees with Steve call himself a Christian!

Of course Steve doesn't have to defend his outrageous statements it is enough for him just to demean and ridicule anyone who disagrees with him because he's Steve. Everyone bow to Steve.

Steve said...

OK, I'll answer your questions as ridiculous as they are:

"Steve, help me understand your interpretation. In the passage you cited do you think Jesus was intending to address a government’s criminal or foreign policy?"

He was addressing people. A government is run by people. What does this have to do with the subject of torture?

"If so, do you think Jesus would oppose putting terrorists or criminals in prison?"

Of course not. What does this have to do with the subject of torture?

"Do you think Jesus would oppose a policeman who used force to subdue a criminal who was resisting arrest?"

I don't think Jesus ever gave his opinion on this subject. That is why I think it is foolish to base all of your morality on the recorded sayings of one person. My own opinion is that of course I don't oppose the police using force when necessary but I do oppose excessive force. What does this have to do with the subject of torture?

Do you think Jesus would oppose a policeman who shot a gunman who was about to kill a hostage?

Again, Jesus, no opinion as far as I know. Me: of course I wouldn't oppose it if it were necessary. What does this have to do with the subject of torture?

Is it just the "torture" you oppose or is it any mistreatment of anyone for any reason? For example, do you also oppose other "aggressive" forms of interrogation, like asking the terrorist (or suspect) questions for hours on end?

I oppose mistreatment of prisoners that is outlawed under U.S. law and the Geneva conventions. How hard is this for you to understand?

In other words, do you think we should confine terrorists to the Holiday Inn or just never arrest them at all?

You've got to be kidding. Talk about an absurd loaded straw man question. Of course I don't support confining terrorists to a Holiday Inn or never arresting them. You really demean yourself asking a question as devoid of intelligence as that one.

What exactly is your position? How do you apply the passage you just quoted?

I stated my position in the previous comment. Rather than my recopying it here go back and read it.

I didn't answer your questions because the questions were so embarrassing and the answers so obvious. Are you happy now.

Now you tell me why you think it is OK for a Christian to parse Jesus words and rationalize immorality.

Dennis said...

Steve wrote, “He was addressing people. A government is run by people. What does this have to do with the subject of torture?"

True, a government is run by people, but according to the Bible, God gives different responsibilities to governments (and the people who run them) than he does to average citizens. For example, the same God who said, “Thou shalt not murder” (murder is in fact a better translation of the Hebrew), also commanded the death penalty for various criminal offenses.

Whether we agree with the death penalty is beside the point here. The point is that under Jewish law (which Jesus affirmed) it was wrong for an individual to commit murder but it was OK for the governing leaders, after a trial, to execute criminals who were found guilty—and to do so by stoning, a manner in which we would today unquestionably think of as torture!

Western societies have made this distinction between individual and government rights and responsibilities for centuries.

We could just try to dismiss this distinction as Old Testament stuff, no longer applicable for today but that will not do. In the New Testament, Paul said that governments were ordained by God for the punishment of evil doers and that the government “does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans did not use the sword to spank people. They used the sword to execute people—in a way that we would consider torture today).

If we take Jesus’ words out of his Jewish context and try to apply them to government policy they become nonsense, as if a policeman, for example, should “turn the other cheek” while trying to arrest a violent criminal!

Of course basic principles still apply—for example while that policeman is fully justified under the law (and under the Bible, in my view) to use any and all necessary force to subdue the criminal, the officer is not justified in kicking him after he has been subdued because that would go beyond his duty and would amount to taking the law in his own hands, which by law (and by the Bible) he is prohibited from doing.

My point is this: Context is everything. You can’t just pull a saying of Jesus out of its Jewish context and assume that it automatically applies directly government law enforcement, foreign policy or government treatment of terrorist prisoners.

I asked, “do you think Jesus would oppose putting terrorists or criminals in prison?" and Steve responded, Of course not. What does this have to do with the subject of torture?"

See below in my discussion of the Holiday Inn.

Steve wrote, “That is why I think it is foolish to base all of your morality on the recorded sayings of one person.

You were the one who was quoting Jesus to me and I was simply trying to point out that we either interpret Jesus in his broader Jewish context or we make nonsense out of some of his sayings.

But since you bring it up, Jesus morality was not just his—it was entirely consistent with all the Jewish prophets before him.

Steve wrote, “I oppose mistreatment of prisoners that is outlawed under U.S. law and the Geneva conventions. How hard is this for you to understand?”

First, some have argued that the Geneva conventions and the U.S. laws are not specific enough or updated enough to deal with WMD’s. We cannot just say we are against torture without very specifically defining that term so investigators know exactly what is allowed and what is not.

Second, I was not saying that the CIA or military should violate U.S. laws. As a voting U.S. citizen I was discussing what I think should be, not necessarily what is.

In response to my question, “do you think we should confine terrorists to the Holiday Inn or just never arrest them at all?” Steve wrote, “You've got to be kidding. Talk about an absurd loaded straw man question. Of course I don't support confining terrorists to a Holiday Inn or never arresting them. You really demean yourself asking a question as devoid of intelligence as that one. What exactly is your position?

I asked the question, Steve, because, as you know, punishment is not just black or white. There are degrees of punishments ranging from mild to severe. You reject the severe ones (anything you arbitrarily decide to label “torture”) but I wanted to know if you reject all punishment and if not, just how much punishment are you willing to allow.

It’s all fine and well to say we are against torture. I am too—if by torture we mean cutting off body parts like fingers, or knocking out teeth or putting bamboo shoots under fingernails!

But waterboarding does no permanent physical damage and is apparently very effective. So if you are against waterboarding, where do you draw the line? Are you (in order of severity) also against making the subject stand for long periods of time, or against depriving them of sleep, or against putting them in an cell in isolation or against making them sleep on a hard floor or against putting them up in a Motel 6 instead of a Holiday Inn?

You’re intelligent enough to know that my Holiday Inn remark was sarcasm, but my point was to ask where you personally would draw the line. I haven’t heard an answer yet.

It sounds to me like the Left wants to wait until someone in the Bush government does it and then declare it to be torture after the fact! My point is that it sounds so moral and ethical to be against torture, but it is not fair to give CIA or military people the duty of interrogating terrorists and then decide after the fact that their interrogation procedures have crossed the line to some arbitrary definition of “torture” for which the interrogator may be prosecuted!

My next question would be, do you draw the line at different places depending on the circumstances?

For example, I don’t think anyone should ever be waterboarded just as a “fishing expedition” to see how much they know. But if we have a known terrorist leader in custody (like the 9/11 mastermind whom we have in custody) and we know he is involved in planning a WMD attack, then I don’t believe there is anything morally wrong with the government subjecting such a person to waterboarding in order to save thousands of lives.

I don’t think this is necessarily in violation of Jesus’ teaching because (in my view) Jesus was not directly addressing government policy—though there would obviously be some application as I mentioned above.

Steve wrote: "Now you tell me why you think it is OK for a Christian to parse Jesus words and rationalize immorality."

What you call parsing Jesus words, I call interpreting within the broader context of Jesus’ Jewish background, as opposed to what I think you have done, which, in my opinion, is to rip Jesus’ words out of any context. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree but I thank you for at least interacting with my questions. I think our readers are better served if we actually interact with each other’s arguments rather than just cutting each other down.

Steve said...

No legitimate governing body defines torture as as only something that "leaves permanent physical damage." Not American law, not the Geneva Conventions, not the law of any civilized country. By inventing your own definition of torture you have 1) demonstrated your complete ignorance of international law and 2) surrendered any moral high ground you pretend to have in this argument.

Truly repugnant. I can't believe I am having a conversation about how much cruel and inhuman treatment it is acceptable to inflict on another human being with someone who calls himself a Christian. God help us all if we don't get these fake Christians out of power.

Dennis said...

Steve, every time I get a glimmer of hope that we could have a genuine conversation you crush it. You demonstrate that you really didn't even read my response seriously since I made it very clear that I'm discussing the issue of where to draw the line, not what international law says (you're right I don't know international law and I don't pretend to).

I understand why you didn't want to answer my question about putting terrorists up in the Holiday Inn because you know that idea is absurd, but the moment you actually try to spell out how to actually deal with terrorist captives you open yourself up to criticism because some Leftist wacko somewhere is going to define it as cruel and unusual, if not torture.

So it's much easier just to leave the term "torture" deliberately vague so you can pretend to be so morally superior while attacking everyone in govenment who actually has to deal with this issue or those of us who just want to discuss it.

But that's really no surprise since that's exactly what the Democrats are usually doing in Congress.

As Joseph Lieberman recently pointed out, the Democrats in general seem much more interested in attacking George Bush and gaining political power than they are at seriously dealing with the problem of terrrorism.

Steve said...

It's not "leftist wackos" who believe waterboarding is torture. The Department of Defense considered it torture until some people in the Bush Administration, over the protests of others in the Administration, changed the policy and forced out those who opposed them. It's people like John McCain, certainly no "leftist wacko." You don't want to have this discussion to clear up "vagueness," you want to have this discussion so that you can define torture down, so that you can change a definition that has been clearly spelled out in Army manuals, for example, for decades.

You want to do this because you're scared of terrorists and you are abandoning your morality out of fear. Again, the Geneva Conventions are very clear on whether this is permissable under international law: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

It's fascinating to me how Christians claim that their morality is built on a stronger foundation than that of non-Christians because they have this book to base it on, but when the words in that book become inconvenient it is suddenly so easy for them to reinterpret what it says to justify their actions.

Once we start having this discussion of how much torture is OK, how much cruel and inhuman treatment is permissible, under what circumstances can we allow some torture, then we have no more moral leg to stand on. You are deliberately characterizing the definition of torture as "vague" despite the fact that it was not perceived as "vague" until recently because your real agenda is to permit some forms of torture in some circumstances because you are afraid. So forgive me if I don't really want to "discuss" something that was already quite clear until fear caused people like you to lose their moral grounding.

William James in "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life" asked what if we could live in Utopia "on the one simple condition that a certain lost soul on the far‑off edge of things should lead a life of lonely torture, what except a specifical and independent sort of emotion can it be which would make us immediately feel, even though an impulse arose within us to clutch at the happiness so offered, how hideous a thing would be its enjoyment when deliberately accepted as the fruit of such a bargain?" He believed that the repugnance people would feel toward that condition was "brain-born," that it was innate in all human beings.

William James never met you.

Dennis said...

You’ve convinced me, Steve. All torture is morally evil. In fact, I must conclude that locking people up in cages like animals is cruel and unusual. You might even call to torture. Would you like to join me in a campaign to release all people from prison on the grounds that locking people in cages is inhuman and constitutes torture?

I know from your reaction to my Holiday Inn question that you don’t recognize sarcasm very well so just in case you’re confused—I’m being sarcastic.

You re-frame this argument in a way that makes it sound like I’m all in favor of regularly torturing people, when I've made it clear over and over again that I’m only reluctantly in favor of waterboarding in extreme cases in which known killers are involved and when we know they have information on plans to use WMD’s.

That’s a very unlikely scenario which would make waterboarding very, very rare. Yet to hear you go on and on, you’d think I wanted to randomly torture anyone who we even suspect to be a terrorist!

It is kind of like if I said I was against killing but conceded that it may be necessary for police snipers to kill someone in extreme cases in which the lives of hostages are in imminent danger—and you were to re-frame the argument to make it sound like I was in favor of police brutality and indiscriminate killing!

Good strategy, but I doubt that most of our readers are stupid enough to fall for it. But who knows, there are a lot of people who fall for it when the Democrats use the same strategy.

Dennis said...

By the way, once again you twisted my words. I did NOT say it was only left wing wacko's who think waterboarding is torture.

I wrote "the moment you actually try to spell out how to actually deal with terrorist captives you open yourself up to criticism because some Leftist wacko somewhere is going to define it as cruel and unusual, if not torture."

In other words, if we did a nationwide survey and asked, "Do you consider locking people up in prison cells to be a form of torture" there is absolutly no doubt in my mind that a few left wing wackos would respond "Yes".

Steve said...

All right, Dennis, I'll try one more time. No one has said that merely putting people in prison is torture except for the mythical "leftist wacko," which you yourself invented. This is a perfect example of what is known in rhetoric as a "straw man argument." It is, perhaps, the poorest form of argument resorted to only by people who have no leg to stand on.

You then put words in my mouth, another poor form of argument: "You re-frame this argument in a way that makes it sound like I’m all in favor of regularly torturing people, when I've made it clear over and over again that I’m only reluctantly in favor of waterboarding in extreme cases." No, Dennis, I did not "make it sound like" you were in favor of regularly torturing people. I said your opinion was reprehensible because 1) Even to torture ONE person is morally repugnant (see William James quote) and against U.S. and international law and 2) The Geneva Conventions, which the U.S. signed, specifically states, ""No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture," meaning that it is not permitted even in "extreme circumstances. Period.

So if you want to argue that the U.S. should pull out of the Geneva Conventions, change U.S. law and reverse centuries of moral doctrine, then please be honest and argue that. Don't pretend that you are trying to clear up "vagueness" that doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Khalid Sheik Muhammad (KSM) was waterboarded 183 times in one month.

http://www.drudge.com/news/120104/ksm-waterboarded-183-times-one-month

Dennis said...

Yep, and he was responsible for the deaths of about 3,000 innocent people (maybe he should have been waterboarded another 2,817 times!)and the messing up of the lives of probably 20,000 of their sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, and other loved ones.

Scott, I really don't undestand the kind of thinking that says we shouldn't waterboard a known terrorist mass murderer mastermind to ensure that another 20,000 (or far more) don't loose loved ones. After all, it was the waterboarding of this monster that saved thousands of people in the tallest building west of Chicago from a similar fate.

Anonymous said...

Yep, and he was responsible for the deaths of about 3,000 innocent people (maybe he should have been waterboarded another 2,817 times!)and the messing up of the lives of probably 20,000 of their sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, and other loved ones. Are we collecting evidence or are we punishing? Torture is "supposed" to help in intelligence gathering, but it's ineffective, and that is recognized, in part, by the fact that our own court system won't allow coerced testimony, which doesn't even rise to the level of torture. Our Constitution also doesn't allow cruel and unusual punishment. Meaning, when we are PUNISHING PEOPLE, we have limits. So, even when we are punitive, and punish for punishment's sake, there are still boundaries. It does not matter what life is like in the "Land of the Terrorists;" we are Americans. If we want to be at the forefront of leadership for the free world and tell other countries what type of governments allow for the most "freedom", then we need to act like the moral leaders.

Dennis said...

Steve, we are collecting evidence, though in his case, I think using it for punishment would be more "just" than allowing this savage to watch TV all day.

Second, the idea that waterboarding is ineffective is quite simply a liberal lie! Liberals think that by repeating this lying propaganda long enough people will believe it--and unfortunately they are right about that. The fact is that thousands of lives have been saved by "enhanced interrogating techniques."

Third, perhaps you're right. We are Americans. We are better than they are. So why stop by eliminating waterboarding?

After all, think of all the pain, suffering and yes, "torture" our guns and bombs cause in war. Perhaps we should outlaw our guns and bombs and issue our troops paint ball guns and fire-crackers to show the world that we are better than they are!

Of course that would inevitably result in the loss of thousands, if not millions, of American lives--and eventually the loss of our freedom. But at least the world would know that we were once better than they are. Of course, once they conquered us, we would then be just like they are.

Steve your brand of self-righteous moralism is going to get us killed--by the thousands!

What makes us better than our enemies, is that unlike our enemies we do not target civilians, in fact, we take great pains to limit the number of civilian casualties in war.

Unlike our enemies, we don't torture people just for the sake of torturing them.

And unlike our enemies, we don't cut the heads off our enemies. We don't stick pins up under their fingernails or in their eyes. We don't knock their teeth out, cut their ears off or burn them.

What we do...only in the most extreme cases when thousands of lives may be in danger, is pour water over some mass-murderer's head!

Our enemies understand--and laugh at us. It is only the Left that doesn't get it. I suspect some on the Left may come around some day when New York City or Los Angeles is nothing but a smoldering rubble from a terrorist's nuclear bomb, but by then it will pretty much too late, don't you think?