The View From 1776

Political Posturing Costs Lives

It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the unilateral Democrat-Socialist Party condemnation of CIA post-9/11 interrogation tactics is anything other than a flip-flop of opinion aimed solely at diverting attention from the Obama administration’s continually unfolding scandals at the IRS and revelations of lying about ObamaCare, as well as public rage over the president’s imperial enactments of immigration regulation and unauthorized changes to ObamaCare implementation.

Read Putting the “Torture Report” In Historical and Moral Context, Peter Wehner’s article in the Commentary website.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/10 at 06:29 PM
  1. Well, Thomas, this raises a number of fairly clear questions.

    Do you believe that the United States should be in the business of torture?

    Do you agree with Republican John McCain that "It's about us: what we were, what we are, and what we should be, and that's a nation that does not engage in these kinds of violations of the fundamental basic human rights that we guaranteed when we declared our independence."

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/16  at  11:57 AM
  2. The point raised was that timing of the report and the one-sided manner in which it was conducted suggest strongly that it was motivated a combination of two things: Sen. Feinstein's anger that the CIA had tapped Congressional phones and a desire to divert attention from the depredations of the Obama administration.

    With regard to whether we should employ torture, I say absolutely yes in the case of Islamic jihadists plotting to murder our citizens.

    If you are so concerned about protecting peoples' right under our legal system, why don't we hear your protests against the IRS's criminal use of taxpayer data delivered to the White House? about the IRTS deliberately working to stop free speech by conservatives? about colleges and universities illegal suppressing the rights of students accused of rape or the free speech rights of students expressing religious or political views that offend any of the many particularist groups such as women, blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals, etc.?
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/16  at  03:16 PM
  3. Thomas,

    We should all be concerned about the issues you raise in your third paragraph (when, of course, such accusations are supported by evidence). The fundamental strength of America arises from the principal that we are a nation of laws and maintain equal treatment of all, including the accused, before the law.

    And one would think that looking through the eyes of our forefathers from 1776, that they would also have unanimously been in favor equal justice before the law for all.

    And I seriously doubt that they would have countenanced the torturing of Red Coats, even if they were suspected of plotting to kill our brave and loyal Minutemen.

    As John McCain put it so eloquently, the question is more about us than about our enemies. Use of torture degrades us and brings us down to the level of those who attack us. Even sadder is the fact that this degradation of our moral fiber served utterly no purpose, since the record indicates that no useful intel was obtained by this horrendous torture, committed in our name, while great damage was done to the reputation and soul of our once great country.

    And finally, Thomas, do you totally discard your once dearly held biblical teachings and consider them "inoperative" when considering whether you should torture an Islamic person of whom you are suspicious?
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/17  at  11:12 PM
  4. J Jay,

    Do you believe that the United States should be in the business favoring some by punishing others (so-called ‘progressive-taxation’, reparations, &c)?

    Do you believe that the United States should be in the business of keeping blacks in their place by fostering suspicion and hate while limiting options and discouraging self-achievement (politics of race, class-warfare)?

    Do you believe that the United States should be in the business of rendering its citizens powerless victims of crime (2nd Amendment abuses)?

    Do you believe it is okay letting pedophiles target school children (i.e., what sex-education has become)?

    Do you believe that the United States should be in the business of mass-murdering infants (abortion), especially black infants?

    You see, we can play that game too. What you have done here is to engage in a particularly offensive form of slander for which you rightly ought to be ashamed. I may as well ask you, “So, just how long have you been abusing your wife” for all the moral legitimacy that has. How can anyone answer such a question without appearing guilty? They can’t, except by turning the tables on you, by making your nasty little trick obvious to all.

    The other dirty little trick you played (on readers) is you falsely portrayed interrogation as torture, and then falsely contrasted that with foundational principles. The techniques complained of here do not rise to the level of torture, at least not to those which you can legitimately class as torture of a heinous variety. What you and the left have done is to move the goal post on what it means to torture someone. In the past, and what was legitimately disparaged, was tortures as disfigured, maimed, crippled or killed their subjects to no justifiable end. American-Indians routinely and slowly roasting captives to death (without any thought to extracting vital information) and scalping still-living victims as prizes were torture. Nazi soldiers impaling babies before a parent was torture. Breaking limbs, burning flesh, ripping out fingernails, branding, searing lungs, anal impaling, castration, crippling, severing hands, gouging eyes, brutal beatings, disemboweling, beheadings, &c – those are torture.

    I neither agree nor disagree with McCain, as you have not given us a proper citation we can check to see what it is we are supposed to disagree with. Provide that, and I will be happy to disabuse you of whatever mischaracterizations you are making of him. Yes, we know McCain is against torture, but we can also see McCain is politically and emotionally obliged to oppose it. His personal experience of torture (as a victim of it) and that of his war buddies colors his perception of what constitutes torture (almost as much as it does yours). McCain rests his political career on his personal ordeal, so no real surprise there. In this, he is like a lot of war veterans wearied of the carnage and brutality who want no further association with it; and who can blame them for that. But, that is not a rational argument for or against torture, it is an emotional one.

    Despite what you have been taught, the founders were not wholeheartedly opposed to torture. What they uniformly opposed was savagery for its own sake as had been practiced by all armies to their time. What they disparaged was wanton butchery, pillage, rape, and torture for torture’s sake only. There is no getting around, however they did in fact advocate savagery in a just cause, because that is what war is; inflicting maximum damage on your enemy before he can inflict it on you. Not only did they support such savagery, they celebrated it whenever battles went our way. In other words, while there are evidences that most (if not all our founders) were opposed to prisoner abuses, there is no real evidence they would have opposed the occasional use of ‘minimalized tortures’ as might save the lives of countless patriots; which is nothing different from what conservatives have said here and elsewhere.

    To put this in perspective, ask yourself, which is worse: killing or torture. Torture opponents are apparently more squeamish regarding the latter than the former, as they spend far more ink condemning torture than they do battlefield and bystander casualties, despite there are far more of those even now. Of course, just a few short years ago (when Bush was president) the opposite was true (more ink spent railing against collateral deaths). Why might that be? Could it be because Obama is only responsible for collateral deaths (plus a few of the battlefield variety) since he took over? Might it be little ink is spent on those to spare him embarrassment? Whatever became of the weekly body-count reports the left kept up right until Bush left office? Can it be the body-count miraculously vanished at that point, or (as is far more likely) did ‘humanitarians’ on the left simply loose interest in rubbing our collective face in it without Bush to blame? As then, this complaint of yours is far more partisan than humanitarian. And, supposing Obama were caught using torture, I have no doubt you on the left would be defending it to the skies.

    Finally, there is your baseless assertion ‘no useful intel was obtained’ from these interrogations. In fact, we know that, not only was the intel gathered useful, but it did, in fact, saved many lives (see http://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/did-torture-save-lives-20090425 ). Obviously, there is some contention regarding its ‘relative effectiveness’, with your side arguing standard interrogation techniques (e.g., gaining the perps confidence) works better, but that is a highly partisan claim that cannot be verified without first declassifying an awful lot of sensitive information – and the erstwhile opponents of enhanced interrogation both know that and are relying on it staying classified. It is often claimed, and this is something we repeatedly see reported in the press, that confessions made in this way are unreliable (because those so interrogated will say anything to make the pain stop), and therefore ‘inadmissible’. What they are arguing is relevant to a courtroom, but not to anticipating an enemy’s moves, to catching, killing, or ending his villainy. Moreover, standard techniques take too long to matter where lives hang in the balance (cops take shortcuts in those cases too, they just don’t say so). Another difference is, your typical street criminal is acting alone or in combination with one or two associates who have gone to ground. The threat from those are non-immediate, so cops can take their time grilling the perp for clues to his associates, stash, details of his crime, &c. A terrorist, on the other hand, is part a larger, far more immediate threat. What do we care, then, whether his information is admissible in a court of law? We are here trying to find out what they are up to and stop it in time, not prove guilt or innocence.

    The Soviets and Chi-coms used torture effectively for decades, so why should we assume torture only works when it is wielded by brutal regimes. Yeah, yeah, I get it using brutal methods (supposedly) makes us ‘the brutal regime’, but that also needs some quantifiers and qualifiers to make it stick. The commies used torture in a clandestine war to subvert and subdue us. We are, here, using torture against those who attacked us, killed thousands of our fellow citizens, torture every prisoner without justification and with maxim brutality, and who want to go right on butchering us. We, by way of contrast, interrogate terrorists selectively (a mere handful) using minimalist techniques. Every terrorist who was interrogated in this way was, first, positively identified as an enemy actively engaged in killing Americans having intimate knowledge of our enemy’s activities.

    Further links and comments:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_André
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoners_of_war_in_the_American_Revolutionary_War
    http://cja.org/article.php?list=type&type=409
    http://spycurious.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/interrogation-techniques-and-prisoner-treatment-in-turn/
    http://www.kentuckypress.com/live/title_detail.php?titleid=2388
    http://www.academia.edu/6159700/Prisoners_of_War_and_American_Self-Image_during_the_American_Revolution
    http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/abuse_of_iraqi_prisoners.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andersonville_National_Historic_Site - treatment worse than torture
    http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1191.html – Washington (and other officers) typically flogged soldiers guilty of misdemeanors and hanged or shot those guilty of crimes (desertion, treason, spies, theft, mutiny, &c).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_United_States#Treatment – many of the founders either owned slaves (Jefferson, Madison, Mason, Lee, Patrick Henry, Pinkney, Washington) or trafficked in them (e.g., Robert Morris).
    http://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/slavery/ten-facts-about-washington-slavery/ – as a slave-owner, Washington is known to have had high scruples regarding them (e.g., strongly opposed breaking up slave families, unfair punishments, sexual abuses and the gratuitous brutality common to slave-holders) but was also known to have punished slaves he thought lazy or troublesome. So, how squeamish would he have been in torturing a British spy or even a battlefield captive, assuming he thought they had vital information? Asserting Washington would have balked, then, at torturing prisoners (assuming it just might save lives of his own men) rises to the level of absurdity as measured against his harsh treatment of slaves and troops under his command.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flagellation#Flogging_as_military_punishment – Congress authorized as many as 100 lashes early in the war, and Washington is known to have ordered as many as 800 to a single miscreant.
    http://alphahistory.com/americanrevolution/continental-army/ - more on floggings
    http://www.lewis-clark.org/article/2641 - and more, plus gauntlet running

    http://www.pensitoreview.com/2014/12/18/memo-to-dick-cheney-george-washington-ordered-execution-as-penalty-for-torturing-prisoners/ - here a rabid Bush critic contends Washington so abhorred torture that he admonished none other than Benedict Arnold to punish any American soldier caught doing it, and to make the punishment equal to the injury. Note however, nowhere in the letter to Arnold does Washington specifically mention ‘torture’ or similar terms. Nor is the letter anything to do with other brutalities common between combatants (e.g., prisoner executions, scalping, looting). Rather, he is cautioning Arnold to respect non-combatant Canadians only, and makes no mention of how Arnold should treat combatants, spies or others actively engaged in opposition to Arnold’s invasion. This is not the first time this particular quote has been cited out of context as an anti-torture polemic.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/23  at  07:16 AM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.