Wednesday, January 31, 2007

One step forward, two steps back ...

I've noted before that Mark has been shifting his goalposts on the issue of torture away from his fundamentalist interpretation of Gaudium et Spes and towards a far less controversial (in the sense of moral theology) that US treatment of detainees violates the Church's view that prisoners should be treated humanely. As I've noted before, I have no real moral theology problems with Mark railing against our current system of how we deal with detained terrorists. Rather, my ire is directed towards his fundamentalist insistence at dragooning two encyclicals to support his view and then proceeding to argue that anyone who disagrees with him (as long as they aren't a Catholic apologist that he knows) is the equivalent of an abortion supporter, apologist for Satan, et al.
Now I imagine that I'll still part ways with Mark's other arguments concerning torture because of his apparent inability to argue outside of triangulation, straw man arguments, and hyperbole (all of which are exemplified by his "have you stopped beating your wife yet" style of argumentation in the combox), but this is at least a far better improvement from where we were before.

That said, Mark also continues to fundamentally misunderstand the views of a lot of the people who disagree with him on this one. The only motivation that he can even conceive of as far as why anyone would take issue with his point of view on this one apart from a slavish loyalty to the Bush administration. It's very much akin to the claim by gay rights activists that the only reason anyone could ever conceiveably oppose gay marriage is due to a deep and burning hatred of homosexuals or the claim that the only reason that you could ever oppose affirmative action is a desire to do harm to African Americans.

Also, is it me or is this line of argumentation (which I think I've also seen Zippy use) less than persuasive:
It really is simple. If you are captured, would you want to be waterboarded? Yes or no? If no, then you should not do it to prisoners you have captured. Repeat for whatever other technique you want to try. Not complicated at all.

I wouldn't want to be executed either, but I don't think it is at all objectionable for such procedures to be carried out in war. The power of the sword is explicitly granted to the state by God, regardless of the specifics of when it should be implemented. I really don't think that this is very convincing, since I would think that very few of the people who should be executed are going to desire to have it happen to them.

138 comments:

kathleen said...

"It really is simple. If you are captured, would you want to be waterboarded? Yes or no? If no, then you should not do it to prisoners you have captured. Repeat for whatever other technique you want to try."

personally, i wouldn't want to be interrogated at all, ever, in any fashion, even if I were sitting in a La-Z-Boy in full recline with a glass of chilled vinho verde. I would rather resent interrogation of any sort. I guess that means I, and in turn my country, have no right to interrogate others at all, ever, under any circumstances.

it really *is* simple

Donald R. McClarey said...

"It really is simple. If you are captured, would you want to be waterboarded? Yes or no? If no, then you should not do it to prisoners you have captured."

What an immensely silly argument! Would you wish to be kept in a POW camp for years? Would you wish to face the prospect of being shot if you tried to escape? Would you wish to have your mail read and your conversations monitored? This type of argument can only be put forward by someone fundamentally uninterested in proposing rules that can actually govern the treatment of prisoners of war in the real world as opposed to a fantasy land created in blogworld. There are serious arguments to be made about the morality of water-boarding as an interrogation technique both pro and con. Zippy's is not one of them.

Donald R. McClarey said...

I believe that Zippy has utilized this argument in the past, and I understand that the quoted section was not written by Zippy.

Christopher said...

I submit the following exchange with Mark as evidence of his complete inability to listen and dialogue. He is quite happy to attribute all manner of opinions to others which they indeed flatly deny. It is, as far as I can tell, the entire exchange between me and Mark on his most recent thread on the subject.


Begin:
From the Original Article cited by Mark: In one corner are those who say we face such a dire threat that dire means, and even torture, may be necessary and justified to protect lives. In the other corner are those who argue that torture in intrinsically evil and can never be allowed.

Welcome to the land where there are only two sides to every discussion, eh?
Chris-2-4 | 01.30.07 - 3:51 pm | #
--------------------------------

Chris:

I look forward to your discussion of the actionable intelligence we got from freezing a prisoner to death in a cold cell in Afghanistan, from torturing Maher Arar for months, and from subjecting a Muslim at Gitmo to a mock baptism at the hands of an interrogator dressed in priestly robes. Do tell how these "dire means" have made us so much safer that we can afford to piss on the Catechism in the name of Homeland Security.

Complete the following sentence: "These acts of torture and murder (as well as as their cover-ups)--not to mention blasphemy--are proven to keep us safe (and are therefore completely compatible with Catholic teaching) because..."

Put up or shut up.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 01.30.07 - 5:01 pm | #

-------------------------------

Respectfully,

My point was merely that there are not simply 2 diametrically opposed sides in this heated debate.

Since my position is b) torture is intrinsically evil and can never be allowed. but I disagree with you on what can properly be considered torture, does that make me:

a) In your corner
b) In the corner of those who think its okay to torture if necessary or
c) Some other corner

Please answer. A, B, or C.

(It's one letter, much easier than the "have you stopped beating your wife" essay you demanded of me)

If you say, "A", fine. If you say, "B" then you are grossly mischaracterizing my stance and maliciously. If you say, "C" then I think that proves my simple point.
Chris-2-4 | 01.30.07 - 7:55 pm | #

--------------------------------

Chris:

You failed to answer my question. Were the people I mentioned tortured (I don't count the blasphemous baptism as torture, merely as illustrative of how far Catholic Bush apologists are willing to degrade themselves in defense of the Administration).

This time, please answer my question.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 01.30.07 - 8:08 pm | #

--------------------------------
Yes, from all accounts they were tortured and it is despicable. And indeed the mock baptism was also abusive. They are clearly not the cases where you and I would disagree.

Now, will you reciprocate and answer my question.
Chris-2-4 | 01.30.07 - 8:14 pm | #

-------------------------------
And just to clarify...

Your original question was not "were they tortured" but rather assumed that fact and demanded that I either justify it regardless or shutup.

Surely you can see the have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife-ism in it and why I did not answer.
Chris-2-4 | 01.30.07 - 8:19 pm | #

--------------------------------

Chris:

You were the one who was suggesting that it is legitimate to argue that dire times call for "dire means". I listed some of the dire means we have employed and asked you to show how these means have led to the good ends you say it is legitimate to argue for. If you now want to change your mind and say that this promise of good ends achievable by "dire means" is somewhat lacking in substantiation by the facts, be my guest.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 01.30.07 - 8:36 pm | #

-----------------------------------
Chris:

You write:

Your original question was not "were they tortured" but rather assumed that fact and demanded that I either justify it regardless or shutup.

Right. I "assumed" freezing somebody to death is both torture and murder. At least one of my readers still seems to have trouble figuring that out and professes bafflement over what might be called "torture". I am gratified to see that you, at any rate, are not feigning bafflement though you were terribly eager to change the subject from my point and drag the conversation back in the the tiresome fever swamps of "Gosh! Isn't it mean and simplistic to dismiss those who want to abuse prisoners for a good cause if they aren't exactly torturing them? What a black and white world Shea lives in!"

In answer to your question: I would say "D": in the corner of those who never seem willing to address the main point, which is that it's not about achieving a definition of Torture or Abuse with Clintonian legalistic accuracy. It's about obeying the basic command "Treat prisoners humanely. Do that and you won't have to worry about how cold the cold cell is before it's technically, legally, exactly, precisely torture."

Patrick's right. This is not complicated. That's why Bush apologists have to spend so much time making it look that way.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 01.30.07 - 9:12 pm | #

-----------------------------------
You were the one who was suggesting that it is legitimate to argue that dire times call for "dire means"

WHAT? I did no such thing. As you would say, Documentation please...

And you still haven't had the courtesy to respond to my question as I did to yours.
Chris-2-4 | 01.30.07 - 9:31 pm | #

-----------------------------------
Your "answer" of "D" was not a serious considered answer but an attack.
Chris-2-4 | 01.30.07 - 9:33 pm | #

-----------------------------------
Okay, Chris. I'll bite. If you were not implying that it was simplistic to say torture is intrinsically evil and can never be allowed, what were you saying?

Judging from what you wrote, you were saying "Torture is wrong, but I don't agree with your definition of torture." Since my "definition" involves defining not the word "torture" but the phrase "Treat prisoners humanely", I have to assume you mean to say that that the Field Manual is simplistic and that there is some wonderful Third Way to which you subscribe.

What is that Third Way? The Field Manual (and the Catechism) say "Treat prisoners humanely". Tell us about the Third Way you apparently have mapped out which doesn't exactly treat prisoners humanely but also doesn't torture.

In case I have no made it clear, I've abandoned completely the whole "Golly! What *is* torture?" game. The question is not your definition of "torture" vs. mine. The issue is "How do we treat prisoners humanely and still get the intelligence we need?" If I you think waterboarding (or whatever) is not torture, I don't give a shit. Whatever it is, it's not "treating a prisonershumanely" which was a perfectly functional standard right up until the Bush Administration decided it wanted to engage in brutalism as a manifestation of its utter incompetence.

Or could it simply be that you simply don't know what you are saying?
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 01.30.07 - 9:53 pm | #

end:

Bubba said...

How about this?

"If you are captured, would you want to be detained? Yes or no? If no, then you should not do it to prisoners you have captured."

I wouldn't want to remain in a POW camp, no matter how nice it is: I would want to be released so I can go back either to my family or my fellow soldiers/terrorists/thugs.

By Mark's argumentation, even keeping captured prisoners of war is outside the bounds of morality because it violates the Golden Rule.

Bubba said...

And that is an impressive exchange, the point of your original post being entirely lost on Mark, seemingly because he was too busy attacking you.

Christopher Fotos said...

It really is simple. If you are captured, would you want to be waterboarded? Yes or no? If no, then you should not do it to prisoners you have captured. Repeat for whatever other technique you want to try. Not complicated at all.

It is for such cases that the Jimmy Akin Clause was invented, aka proceeding to argue that anyone who disagrees with him (as long as they aren't a Catholic apologist that he knows) is the equivalent of an abortion supporter, apologist for Satan, et al as Torq notes.

Diane said...

I would rather resent interrogation of any sort.

LOL--you'd love my boss, the grand mistress of the third degree. She would have made a fabulous Grand Inquisitor. I've taken to calling her team meetings "Self-Criticism and Re-education."

Boss: How are you faring with the whatsit project?

Me: I'm well into it, and it's coming along fine.

Boss: How far into it? How many copy blocs have you written? How many do you still have left to do?

Me: I haven't counted exactly....

Boss: Could you tell me exactly?

Me (opening document on screen): One...two---three...four....

You haven't experienced being demeaned, insulted, and treated like a child till you've worked for Ms. Control Freak.

Sometimes I think I'd prefer waterboarding. :p

Sorry for getting off-topic. :)

Diane from Dilbert-World

Anonymous said...

JOSEPH D'HIPPOLITO SAYS....

What intellectually motivates Mark is the same thing that, unforutunately, motivates much of contemporary Catholic "moral theology": an etherial, esoteric view of the world and of humanity that bears no resemblence to actual events or human nature.

I maintain that such etherial, esoteric thinking governed JPII's positions on so many issues, and I'm not the only one who thinks this. So does Renzo Guolo, professsor of the sociology of religion at the University of Trieste, an expert in Islamic fundamentalism and a columnist for "Avvenire," the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference.

Guolo wrote the following in his book, Xenophobes and Xenophiles: Italians and Islam, regarding the late pope's focus on ecumenical dialogue with Islam.

...in the conviction that it is impossible to make progress in dialogue between religions by using strategies from the past, Wojtyla has ignored these criticisms (of dialogue at any cost). He seems to believe that only the prophetic gesture, the utopian perspective, the mystical leap powered by an intense spirituality, can achieve this objective.

Granted, ecumenical dialogue is a far different animal than the imprisonment of terrorists, but that's a separate issue. The main thrust is the late pope's fundamentally esoteric approach, and it formed one of the foundations of his appeasement of Islam.

frank sales said...

Mark, you deserve some credit for venturing here to continue your argument.

I agree with everything that Jimmy Akin wrote on torture. I think that in certain rare circumstances waterboarding, and similarly transient forms of pain/discomfort may be licit. I take some comfort in Jimmy's analysis in that I don't think my position conflicts with Church doctrine or is "pissing on the Catechism". I also probably agree with 99% of what you condemn on a case by case basis.

Finally, I take these discussions to be theoretical in the sense that I'm not worrying about slippery slopes when I try to discern the moral truths involved. I understand, however, that slippery slopes do come into play when dealing with prudential application of these concepts.

You seem to be a good guy and a faithful Catholic, which is why it really bothers me when you argue unfairly .

Christopher said...

Hi Frank:

Note that Mark didn't post here, I copied him from his comments and pasted them here and left the original byline.

frank sales said...

oops. thanks, Chris. I'll make a mental note to be more careful before praising Mr. Shea. Maybe he does deserve a one-handed clap though for debating you in his comboxes rather than just deleting your posts.

Christopher said...

Frank:

Um. Yeah. That's kind of throwing the term "debate" around pretty loosely.

Anonymous said...

JOSEPH D'HIPPOLITO SAYS...

You know, there are two points here that seem to be rather funny in a sad sort of way.

Frist, Mark expresses more concern over the status of inmates accused of terrorism than over the possible fate of their potential victims.

Second, Mark does a great job of expressing rhetorical concern over moral issues, yet fails to treat real people who disagree with him with any sort of respect, let alone Christian "charity."

None of this makes him an anti-Semite or an ally of Islamic terrorists. It does, however, demonstrate how broken his moral compass is and how he should not be taken seriously when he pontificates on moral issues.

Anonymous said...

JOSEPH D'HIPPOLITO ADDS...

Whatever it is, it's not "treating a prisonershumanely" which was a perfectly functional standard right up until the Bush Administration decided it wanted to engage in brutalism as a manifestation of its utter incompetence.

If the preceding were applied to Mark, it would read as follows:

Whatever Mark's style of argument is, it's not "treating someone who disagrees humanely" which was a perfectly functional standard right up until Mark decided it wanted to engage in personal attacks as a manifestation of his utter incompetence.

So, Mark, how you like your argument now?

Then again, Mark's Dirty Little Secret is that he never applies the standards he uses to measure others to himself. I think Christ had something to say about that, if I recall....

Pauli said...

Joe writes: "It does, however, demonstrate how broken his moral compass is and how he should not be taken seriously when he pontificates on moral issues."

Right on. He's blown his cred. That's why I was recently saying to a friend that as much as I like some of Mark's apologetics material, I would never recommend it to someone investigating the Church's teachings. They might tune in to the blog and say "If this incoherent rambling is enjoying Catholicism then I'm outta here, man." Then again they might realize it's just his opinion, but why take the chance? There's a lot of other great stuff out there that's properly neutral on nuanced political issues.

doubting thomas said...

Pauli,
Unfortunately I have to agree. I might even refrain from recommending his otherwise good books because this might lead one to link to Mark's blog. It would not be too much of a stretch to see someone in their initial stage of exploring Catholicism to become incredibly scandalized by what is passed off as Catholic debate.

Ken said...

To all:

I'm currently in the RCIA. Much of my investigation of the CC has been via the "Apologetic Oligarchy" of Mark Shea, Jimmy Akin, Karl Keating, David Armstrong, etc. Though I have a heavy dose of papal encyclicals and Church councils under my belt as well as some partistic writings.

I have to say that Mark's behavior and argumentation in this area is one of the factors that has caused me to rethink my possible conversion.

Ken said...

Also, with respect to torture and the Catholic Church, one has to take into account the apparent contradiction of the Church utilizing torture to get heretics to "see the light" and the current day teaching of B16 that coercive measures to effect a conversion are against "God and Reason".

While the Regensburg address was seen as an attack against Muslims (which it really wasn't) it was actually an attack on the contradiction of physical violence to effect a conversion. According to B16 it is a contradiction because it is against Reason which has its source in God alone.

So the idea that a couple of misread encyclicals or church documents are the problem is incorrect. It is indeed magesterial teaching, even at the highest levels, that "forced confessions" violate the will of God. However, it is without a doubt that Catholic practice and teaching in the past allowed for such, and in some cases demanded it.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

The counter-examples provided by Kathleen, Bubba, et al. are quite apt, but they raise an important question. For those of us who are Christians, the Golden Rule is supposed to be a fairly important ethical principle. If it is subject to so many counter-examples as to make it laughable to even bring up, then what does that say about Christianity?

My own view is that the Golden Rule is best understood as an "intuition pump." It assumes that deep down a person already has a fairly good idea of how you ought to treat someone, and that this is reflected in how you think you ought to be treated. So while treated the Rule as an absolute can get you in trouble, it is still a useful ethical guide, just as asking "What Would Jesus Do?" can be a useful ethical guide without being applicable in every situation.

Tom Connelly said...

Ken,

I hope you will not let such a momentous decision be unduly influenced by some guy with passionate viewpoints and a blog on which to express them.

I think that would be unwise for you and, frankly, unfair to him.

paul zummo said...

Ken:

Let me just reaffirm what Tom says. Let not one individual's snarkiness turn you off completely. After all, such snarkiness is not confined to the realm of Catholic apologetics writers. And observe how the other writers you mentioned maintain a very even and charitable air even in the face of uncharitiable criticisms.

Andy Nowicki said...

Ken, I'm going to put it much more bluntly than the last two posters. Shea's an ass. Shea, however, is not the Church. He is a member of the Church with (apparently) good apologetic skills when he sticks to mere apologetics, but some significant personality flaws when it comes to the process of debate and interaction with others. Again, however, it would be a big mistake to let him derail your conversion-in-process. If you decide not to be a Catholic, don't let it be because of the objectionable behavior of Mark Shea or that of any other member of the Church.

Patrick said...

Folks - I'm the one whose post Mark quoted to start this thing. I said nothing about encyclicals, catechisms, or ethical issues. All I did was quote from a 1984 US Army field manual about how prisoners are to be treated and interrogated. The relevant sections were quite clear, I think.

Note that the Army also does not concern itself with the theological basis of its policies. It is interested in what actually WORKS in acquiring useful information from prisoners. Torture and coercion were prohibited because they have been found ineffective and even counterproductive.

The practical question, then, is why is it so critical to arm ourselves with interrogation techniques that we know are not likely to work for us, and may even work against us?

Donald R. McClarey said...

"even at the highest levels, that "forced confessions" violate the will of God."

I don't think that is correct. Forced conversions, yes, the Church has always been against those, and throughout the ages has taken to task rulers who have attempted to engage in forced conversions. The attitude of the Church as to the use of force to extract confessions has varied over time. Usually the Church has been more restrictive as to the use of force to compel confessions than have the secular governments of the time. After the loss of the papal states in the 1870s the Church adopted a stance of forbidding the use of force to compel confessions. This was at a time when most Western nations, albeit with much backsliding, were also implementing policies against compelling confessions. Of course this all ties in with the torture debate that led to Coalition for Fog. There is a difference between the Church teaching that prudentially something may be allowed or banned depending on the circumstances and the Church teaching that something is inherently evil, blasphemy, infanticide, rape, abortion, etc.

frank sales said...

Patrick:

If it's so clear that torture is counterproductive, why is waterboarding used by the CIA? Do they just like abusing folks? Or do you think there is legitimate disagreement on this among experts?

Also, the Field Manual is promulgated for all kinds of prudential reasons, among which is reining in and directing the actions of the average soldier, who is trained to inflict violence. It is not meant to govern the extremely rare and isolated cases where limited physical coercion may save thousands of lives.

Phillip said...

Patrick,

I think you are wrong in claiming that torture never works. This topic was tackled on Chris Blosser's blog a while back. No clear winner but the biggest supporter of you contention is Mr. Comerford who has long since been discredited as any authority on the matter.

There are plenty of reports out there where torture provided actionable intelligence. A very convincing set of cases was presented several nights ago on the History Channel. Here a former Army special forces member recounted cases in Vietnam where torture in the field of captured Viet Cong soldiers provided accurate intel. The problem was that then, apparently like the Field Manual you cite, higher ups didn't accept the intel as valid until too late.

This is not to say that torture is right. But choosing to argue from "it never works" is a flawed argument.

This then leads to many other issues that have been tackeled ad nauseum on various blogs. Included was a simple question that perhaps you could answer. Is making a person stand for four hours torture? If not why not? If so why?

Patrick said...

I don't know why the CIA uses waterboarding, if indeed they do. But yes, there certainly are people who enjoy inflicting pain on others. It is much easier for such people to get away with evil acts in a shadowy organization like the CIA than in a well-disciplined army that has a defined code of conduct.

Also, I find the assumption behind your comment odd. You seem to be saying that if people in the CIA do X, then they must have a good reason. I'm sure they appreciate your trust but have they earned it? On what basis are you willing to give them this kind of unlimited authority? Would you give that same kind of power to your local police?

Christopher Fotos said...

Ken, let me strongly recommend Amy Welborn as an oasis of Catholic sanity and education. Amy is the author of many books and articles and relentlessly turns the focus back on Christ and Christianity. She tackles all manner of subjects without indulging in slander and invective. Some of the commentariat there is harsh--that includes me, at times, I'm afraid--but you'll never confuse any of them with Amy.

Let me also recommend this article by Fr. Brian Harrison, professor of theology at the Pontifical University of Puerto Rico, as a calm, erudite review of Church tradition on torture. In fairness I should tell you Harrison is one of those whom Mark slimed during the torture debate, but then again that's a long list.

Church history and theology is so deep and sometimes nuanced that, as you know, it's very important to consider the context of statements when trying to nail down their true meaning and applicability. I think Pope Benedict's Regensburg address was a masterpiece in expressing the distinctive yet unitive truths that we call faith and reason. I do not believe what Benedict said about violence in that address can be easily transferred to the torture debate, but I'm saying that off the top of my head. Donald's latest comment is a good brief summary of some of the key issues and positions.

Best wishes in your journey. Don't stop.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

The problem with torture is not that it will never produce accurate information. Even a magic eight ball can do that. The problem with torture is that it doesn't produce reliable information. The person being tortured is liable to say anything, true or not, to make the torture stop, and there's no way to tell by the quality of a man's screams whether or not he's telling you the truth.

So we're left with a choice: either we assume that everything said under torture is true (which would be manifestly stupid), or we assume none of it is. And if we assume none of it is, then there's no point (other than simple cruelty) for engaging in torture in the first place.

kathleen said...

Ken, if you want to read contemporary apologetics, reading Ratzinger/Benedict alone would suffice. no reason to read contemporary american apologists. not sure why, but many of them give me the heebie jeebies. and since catholicism is not about a particular time or place, not necessary to look to your contemporaries for guidance anyway.

Anonymous said...

JOSEPH D'HIPPOLITO SAYS...

Pauli and doubting thomas, there's another major problem with Shea's credibility: He cites Pat Buchanan as an "expert" on Middle East policy and rides his bandwagon on that issue. Why is that a problem? Consider what Buchanan wrote in his own magazine, The American Conservative, in February 2005:

The 9/11 killers were over here because we are over there. We were not attacked because of who we are but because of what we do. It is not our principles they hate. It is our policies.

That is nothing but propaganda straight from the mouths of the jihadists themselves. Whether Buchanan actually believes this garbage or finds its convenient to promote his agenda is a secondary issue; either way, he cannot be taken seriously.

Using Pat Buchanan to oppose Amercian intervention in Iraq or friendship with Israel is no different than using Jack Chick to oppose Catholic doctrine.

Patrick said...

I think you are wrong in claiming that torture never works.

I didn't say this. I said it has been found ineffective. Torture may indeed work on rare occasions, but that does not mean it should be added to the regular toolbox.

Incidentally, since your source on this is someone on the History Channel, I was a military intelligence officer for eight years. I was not an interrogator, but I knew many of them and I saw many reports of the information they acquired from prisoners. They had no trouble obtaining massive quantities of very useful intelligence, without coercion.

Patrick said...

Is making a person stand for four hours torture? If not why not? If so why?

Quick answer: Yes.

Long Answer: The key word in your question is "making." This presupposes that the prisoner faces some kind of underlying threat that is even worse than standing up.

What happens when the person decides to sit down without permission? What do you do then? Yell at them? Beat them? Hang them up by their thumbs?

Answer this and I think you will see that once you start down this road, it will quickly become either ineffective or abusive. There are much better ways to achieve the goal of obtaining useful intelligence.

Phillip said...

Patrick,

Its good you admit that torture does work in some circumstances. Something that has been hard to get out of Mark in spite of much evidence to the contrary.

Yes as a former military officer myself, I know there are many things that are said and many things that are not said. Perhaps this is why the CIA uses waterboarding.

How do I know the CIA uses waterboarding, Mark asserts so repeatedly.

Phillip said...

Patrick,

Good. An answer. Something one cannot get from Mark. Then how about playing loud music or perhaps limiting to four hours of sleep per night?

But since you've raised the point. What happens if I put my child in time out. Is this torture because I am making him do so? And what if he chooses to get out? I might spank him. Is this now abuse or torture? Are we now on this slippery slope also?

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Here's a rule of thumb I have: if you think a given tactic (forcing a suspect to stand for four hours, or making him listen to loud music, or sending him to time out) is likely to cause a tough-as-nails Jihadist to break down and tell you where he hid the bomb, then its a good bet it counts as torture. If not, then whether or not is counts as torture, it would seem to be pretty pointless.

doubting thomas said...

Premise 1:
"They had no trouble obtaining massive quantities of very useful intelligence, without coercion."
Patrick

Premise 2:
"Here's a rule of thumb I have: if you think a given tactic (forcing a suspect to stand for four hours, or making him listen to loud music, or sending him to time out) is likely to cause a tough-as-nails Jihadist to break down and tell you where he hid the bomb, then its a good bet it counts as torture."
Josiah

Conclusion:

Non-coercion is torture.

Seems wrong - no?

Victor said...

Josiah:

You seem to be defining torture in almost the opposite way -- "that which works is torture." That seems both rather counterintuitive and makes nonsense of all forms of interrogation.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

There are all sorts of interrogation techniques that are uncontroversially not considered torture and which are quite effective in gaining intelligence. That's true. Presumably, though, someone who favors using torture (or "tough methods" or whatever) on terror suspect doesn't think these non-controversial methods will work on a tough-as-nails terrorist. If he did, then why not use them instead?

On the other hand, if you think the only way to get a guy to talk is to break him, then anything actually harsh enough to break him is probably going to be torture. So it seems to me that asking questions like "is it torture to give a guy fifty lashes with a wet noodle?" is misplaced. Either wet noodles have some unexpected coersive power, in which case using them would probably be torture, or they don't, in which case only a fool would try to use it to get information out of someone like KSM.

Patrick said...

What happens if I put my child in time out. Is this torture because I am making him do so? And what if he chooses to get out? I might spank him. Is this now abuse or torture? Are we now on this slippery slope also?

We talking about prisoners, not children. There is a fundamental difference between the parent-child relationship and that of a combatant who is being held by a military or other governmental organization. Time-out or spanking for a small child is not comparable to inflicting pain on an adult whom you suspect (but do not know) has useful information.

However, to use your analogy, the salient question is what happens when your child refuses to accept time-out, and spanking does not convince them?

If you resort to handcuffs, beating, choking, or other such acts, then I suspect most police agencies would regard it as abusive and arrest you. Your obligation as a parent is to find other ways to discipline your child.

Likewise for those who hold prisoners: find ways to interrogate without torture or coercion. It is possible, though not always easy.

Patrick said...

What happens if I put my child in time out. Is this torture because I am making him do so? And what if he chooses to get out? I might spank him. Is this now abuse or torture? Are we now on this slippery slope also?

We talking about prisoners, not children. There is a fundamental difference between the parent-child relationship and that of a combatant who is being held by a military or other governmental organization. Time-out or spanking for a small child is not comparable to inflicting pain on an adult whom you suspect (but do not know) has useful information.

However, to use your analogy, the salient question is what happens when your child refuses to accept time-out, and spanking does not convince them?

If you resort to handcuffs, beating, choking, or other such acts, then I suspect most police agencies would regard it as abusive and arrest you. Your obligation as a parent is to find other ways to discipline your child.

Likewise for those who hold prisoners: find ways to interrogate without torture or coercion. It is possible, though not always easy.

Patrick said...

What happens if I put my child in time out. Is this torture because I am making him do so? And what if he chooses to get out? I might spank him. Is this now abuse or torture? Are we now on this slippery slope also?

We talking about prisoners, not children. There is a fundamental difference between the parent-child relationship and that of a combatant who is being held by a military or other governmental organization. Time-out or spanking for a small child is not comparable to inflicting pain on an adult whom you suspect (but do not know) has useful information.

However, to use your analogy, the salient question is what happens when your child refuses to accept time-out, and spanking does not convince them?

If you resort to handcuffs, beating, choking, or other such acts, then I suspect most police agencies would regard it as abusive and arrest you. Your obligation as a parent is to find other ways to discipline your child.

Likewise for those who hold prisoners: find ways to interrogate without torture or coercion. It is possible, though not always easy.

doubting thomas said...

Josiah,

I think you present a false dichotomy - that is either you must use techniques that work on a simple crook in D.C. or you must torture.

But this has been the point in asking the question of what is torture in the first place. Perhaps the terrorist is tough as nails. At least tougher than the D.C. crook. So then tougher means must be used. But if these means are torture, then morally and legally they shouldn't be used.

But perhaps there are techniques that are tougher than standard police/military methods and yet still are not torture. May we not ask what these are? And in order to know what they are, do we not need to know what torture is?

Patrick said...

Sorry for the triple post. Whoever is in charge can delete two of them. Blogger won't let me do it.

Phillip said...

Patrick,

True enough a child is not an adult. And talking back is not blowing up a building. So the difference in what either can do in part limits the punishment.

The obligations of the parent and the state are also different. A parent only for the family. But given that the state has the moral obligation to defend society and in doing so may wage war, imprison and execute. Then why are there not forms of coercion that may be licitly used by the state?

Phillip said...

Given that a person may be planning to blow up a building, I don't see making him stand for four hours or sleep depriving is actually torture.

Ken said...

Guys, don't worry, I'm not going to dump the CC just because of Mark Shea's antics. However, it has made me reevaluate the Catholic apologia I have read. Perhaps returning to it with a more critical eye than before.

I have other concerns, including what I detect to be "bait and switch" tactics among Catholic apologetics with Newmanian development of doctrine.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Tom,

It's important when discussing these matters to separate out two different sorts of issues that are often and easily conflated. First, there are some interrogation tactics that are just plain immoral, and would be wrong to do even if they unfalingly produced reliable life-saving intelligence. The Second issue is a practical one: what interrogation techniques do actually produce reliable intelligence and which are counter-productive.

Having a good definition of torture may be very important to resolving the first issue, particular if you think, as many do, that torture is never justified come what may. It's less important, it seems to me, in dealiing with the second issue. If a given technique doesn't produce reliable intelligence (or if just as reliable intelligence could be gotten in alternative, less costly way), then whether or not that technique meets a certain definition of torture is largely irrelevant. It's not torture to try and extract information from suspects by using psychics, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Now we have a fairly well developed body of interrogation techniques that have been used in millions of interrogations and have been honed through a process of trial and error over decades. We know that they produce good information in a large percentage of situations, including extreme situations. We also have some new, untested techniques, which have at best a mixed record.

It seems to me that if we want to be smart about this, we should stick with the interrogation tactics that have a proven track record of success, rather than chucking them in favor of whatever "forward leaning" tactic is the flavor of the month.

notrwc said...

Philip:

I am just a dummy.

You (big brain)say: how about playing loud music or limiting sleep to four hours?

I (very littl brain) say: This is a violation of the Third Commandment and the 5th Amendment (or vice versa).

When I was a Navy Seal taking over Panama, we were taught to play quiet music to our prisoners. As a result we received lots of actionable intelligence. I found the hardest men liked the quietest music.

If you are a member of the secret Washington society of Conservative so-called Catholics, please identify yourself. Please also provide the identity of this "Dick Cheney" who seems to be your leader. Kindly also provide the name and address of your attorney for service.

God Bless.

notrwc

doubting thomas said...

I agree with this. But this is quite distinct from what has been argued up to this point on Mark's and other's blogs.

And still the exception. As you point out, there may be those tough as nail cases with whom the standard techniques with proven results are not effective. This still leads to the question, what can be done? Given that I too oppose torture, that is out. But what is there that may be licit but is not part of the standard box of interrogation tools?

Then if the yield is low, what if there is sufficient yield of reliable information to stop an attack that kills thousands. At what point do we say that this licit technique, though prone to bad information, may nonetheless be used to stop the attack?

doubting thomas said...

My response was to Josiah.

roger h. said...

If it's so clear that torture is counterproductive, why is waterboarding used by the CIA?

Independent of whether it may be regarded as torture under all circumstances, it does seem as though waterboarding has been effective in the extraction of reliable information of terrorist plots. Brian Ross of ABC News, for instance, told Bill O'Reilly that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was induced through waterboarding to reveal a planned attack on the U.S. Bank Tower (aka the Library Tower) in Los Angeles.

Whether Ross can be believed is up for grabs, but it is an example of why the CIA would want waterboarding to be an interrogation option.

Diane said...

Ken: There's no bait-and-switch with Development of Doctrine, but there's a whole lot of misunderstanding. If you want an excellent explanation, try Mike Liccione at mliccione.blogspot.com. He's one of the most brilliant guys in the blogosphere. Also a real gentleman.

Don't be fooled by claims to the contrary: There ain't a communion on God's green earth which hasn't experienced Development of Doctrine. Development Happens. Just ask a fetus. :)

Ken said...

Kathleen,

I surely read more of Ratzinger's writings than the standard apologist stuff nowadays. Though of course the Pope is very deep intellectually and requires careful study.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Tom,

Yeah, there's so much water under the bridge in this whole debate that it's hard not to make assumptions about what someone is saying that aren't necessarily accurate.

I think we need to draw a distinction between accurate intelligence and reliable intelligence. A ouija board will occasionally give you accurate intelligence. It will never give you reliable intelligence. So also with torture and other harsh methods of interrogation.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Roger,

Given that the Library Tower plot was foiled in 2002, while KSM wasn't captured until March of 2003, it seems unlikely that waterboarding KSM was what foiled the plot:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_Tower

On the other hand, waterboarding has led us to other bits of "valuable" information, such as KSM's plan to cut down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blow-torch, or the conntections between al-Qadea and Iraq:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/19/AR2006061901211.html

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14924664/site/newsweek/page/2/

"They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, 'thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target.' And so... 'the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered.'"

Patrick said...

Then how about playing loud music or perhaps limiting to four hours of sleep per night?

If the music is so loud as to damage the prisoner's ears, then yes, it is torture. Mere annoyance is not torture though. Also, I see we have a commenter with real experience who says this technique was not effective in Panama.

The sleep question again begs the next step: how are you keeping the person awake? Someone who is tired enough will sleep through even the loudest noise and brightest lights. If you beat the prisoner every time he shuts his eyes, then it's torture again. It is possible to die from sleep deprivation, too.

AnonymousIV said...

Patrick: Notrwc was making a joke. Still, I like what you're saying, and how you're saying it.

roger h. said...

Roger,

Given that the Library Tower plot was foiled in 2002, while KSM wasn't captured until March of 2003, it seems unlikely that waterboarding KSM was what foiled the plot


If Ross is to be believed, it's possible the President gave the wrong year for when the plot was foiled. He did, after all, mistakenly refer to the Library Tower as the "Liberty" Tower.

In any event, my point was to give an example of why the CIA would want to have waterboarding as an interrogation option.

Phillip said...

Josiah,

So the argument hinges on accuracy of intel obtained. At this point that hinges upon the opinion of lawful authorities.

Phillip said...

"Someone who is tired enough will sleep through even the loudest noise and brightest lights. If you beat the prisoner every time he shuts his eyes, then it's torture again. It is possible to die from sleep deprivation, too."

Patrick,

Death from sleep deprivation is rare and usually occurs after days not hours as was approved at Gitmo.
But thanks for your answer. Again one Mark refused to address.

But this points out that the techniques of limited sleep deprivation at Gitmo really isn't torture nor is standing for four hours as again they were quite limited.

Your argument that they are depends not on what is beinng done, but what is the means used to enforce what is requested. This again says that time out is torture if the means used to enforce it is branding with a hot iron. But if the means isn't, but rather a spanking or a no bedtime story, then it certainly isn;t

So at Gitmo, if making a person stand for four hours or only get four hours of sleep meant having someone go in and yell at them, then it wasn't

S.F. said...

Thank you so very much for this site. I myself was banned by Mark for being "pro-torture" (I'm nothing of the sort).

He really needs our prayers. The man is very angry about something. It's not the love of Christ we witness on his blog.

Patrick said...

Phillip, I don't know what has been done at Gitmo. If they are just telling people to stand up for 4 hours or get yelled at, I suspect the result is a lot of yelling and not much standing.

Without a really significant consequence, all such tactics are useless. What consequence are you willing to use?

Christopher Fotos said...

notwrc--that was perfect

Also I think this is the longest thread in the recorded history of CFF.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Phillip,

I'm not sure I understand your point. The accuracy of intel doesn't depend on whether the lawful authorities think it's accurate.

Phillip said...

Josiah,

No, you're right. But if licit coercion provides some useful intel, it is up to the authorities to decide what threashold is necessary to permit such coercion. That is, if coercion gives 1% useful intel and that intel prevents a terrorist attack, then they may decide to go forward. If there is only a one in a million chance maybe not. But it is the prudential decision of the lawful authority.

Phillip said...

Patrick,

"Suspect" is a weak basis to be claiming a moral wrong is being committed. My experience from those who I have talked to that have been there is that varied measures have been utilized to enforce tecniques, none of which rise to the level of beatings or killings.

But again, the moral species is the act committed, not some subsequent act. Short periods of standing, moderate sleep deprivation and loud sounds per se are not torture.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

The fact that something is "the prudential decision of the lawful authority" does not place it beyond criticism. Clinton's handling of terrorism during the 1990s was "the prudential decision of the lawful authority." Carter's handling of the Iran hostage crisis was "the prudential decision of the lawful authority."

The idea that you can believe what a person says when you have forced him to say it is just dumb. Even if there were no ethical questions involved, it would be a bad idea to use such tactics, just as it would be a bad idea to employ psychics in interrogation.

Phillip said...

Josiah,

Criticising a decision as prudentially flawed and saying it is morally flawed are different.

Patrick above also has admitted that in some circumstances torture provides valid information.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Phillip,

I don't mean to be snippy, but it sounds like you aren't listening to what I've been saying. Here's an excerpt from an earlier comment of mine on this very thread:

"It's important when discussing these matters to separate out two different sorts of issues that are often and easily conflated. First, there are some interrogation tactics that are just plain immoral, and would be wrong to do even if they unfalingly produced reliable life-saving intelligence. The Second issue is a practical one: what interrogation techniques do actually produce reliable intelligence and which are counter-productive."

If you really want, we can discuss the moral question of what interrogation techniques are or are not immoral, but I haven't said word one about the issue on this thread.

Here's another thing I've said repeatedly but which doesn't seem to have registered: the fact that a given interrogation technique will occasionally produce accurate information is of no real significance. A magic eight-ball will occasionally produce accurate information. I ask it whether it will rain today, it says, "My sources say no" and, behold, it doesn't rain. That hardly means we should build our counter-terrorism strategy around magic eight-balls. If you can't separate the good information out from the bad (which you can't in the case of coercion), then the information is worthless. This is why most interrogators oppose the use of coercive interrogation tactics.

Here's another thing, once you start using "tough" tactics on somebody, you make it difficult, if not impossible, to use traditional interrogation tactics effectively. One of the things that upset the FBI about Guantanamo is that it seemed like whenever they were making headway with a particular detainee, developing a rapport and getting him to divulge information, the CIA would step in and start using more “forward leaning” methods, instantly eliminating whatever progress they had made.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2302-2005Jan11.html

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Also, on the subject of what happens to you in Gitmo if you don't do what you're told, people might want to look into the story of Sean Baker, a U.S. solder who pretended to be a detainee as part of a training exercise at the camp. He was beaten so severely, he had to be discharged by the Army:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Baker

It seems unlikely that this was just a fluke occurrence.

Phillip said...

Josiah,

But most of the comments have been about the morality of this. If you do not wish to address it that's fine.

Back to the utility of coercive measures. If there is no utility then there is clearly no value to them. If there is some utility, then given the situation it may be prudent to do so.

The FBI rejecting such measures follows the first line of argument. The CIA and military have chosen the second. Given the premise that such measures are not per se immoral, then they constitue prudential judgement. Given Patrick's assertion that on some occasions they provide legit intel, the second assertion again may be argued.

doubthing thomas said...

Or perhaps it is the fallacy of accident. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accident_(fallacy)

doubting thomas said...

That was for Josiah.

Patrick said...

Phillip, you are twisting what I said. I said that torture may occasionally yield useful info - and it might. Likewise, a broken clock is correct twice a day. The problem is that we can't know with certainty that now is a time when the clock is correct, or that torture will be effective in obtaining information that a particular prisoner may or may not possess.

Consider an analogy. Suppose a pharmaceutical company invents a drug it believes will cure a disease. Clinical trials show that in fact it does cure the disease in 1% of the people who use it. The other 99% are not cured and many have serious side effects.

Furthermore, there is no way to know in advance whether any particular patient is part of the 1%, or the 99%.

The prudential decision of the FDA in these circumstances would be that such a drug will not be approved for public use. The potential risks far outweigh the potential rewards.

In the torture scenario, the ratio is even worse because you do not know whether the person has the disease in the first place.

So, if the prudential decision of our current administration is that torture can be used because in extremely rare circumstances it MIGHT be useful, I think their judgment is flawed. Their decision is also different from that of all previous administrations, many of which also faced dire situations.

Maybe you trust GWB to make these sort of decisions prudently. The problem is that we aren't giving the authority only to GWB. We're giving it to GWB and all his successors, forever; to Hillary Clinton, quite possibly. Is that what you want?

Phillip said...

"Phillip, you are twisting what I said. I said that torture may occasionally yield useful info - and it might. Likewise, a broken clock is correct twice a day."

No all I am claiming you say is that some torture works. Saying that "...torture may occasionally yield useful info" in fact says that some torture works.It is not a matter of it being a broken clock as a clock is never working. Rather time just passes it twice a day. Once a day in a 24 hour clock.

Phillip said...

An alternative to your analogy. A doctor may consider performing a test on a patient. The test he blieves has only a 1% chance of revealing anything. Should he do the test? If its to reveal a hangnail perhaps not. If it is to reveal a brain tumor perhaps so.

Phillip said...

Josiah, Patrick,

I may not have much more time to respond today as many things to do. I have to say you comments have been respectful and in the spirit of debate. This is much in contrast to the most recent juvenile pontifications of Mark and his court attendent Zippy.
Thanks.

Tom Connelly said...

Here's an interesting, if somewhat dated, article by Heather McDonald.

If accurate, the article calls into question the efficacy of traditional interrogation techniques such as those mandated in the Army Field Manual.

Whether this justifies harsher interrogation techniques is, of course, a wholly separate question.

Anonymous said...

JOSEPH D'HIPPOLITO SAYS...

Mark Shea, everybody knows you read this blog. I suggest you read this thread. Carefully.

Notice anything? Notice the general tone of reasoned yet passionate disagreement, particularly on the last several posts before this one?

Notice, also, the lack of personal attacks, straw-man arguments, smarmy sarcasm, victimzation facades, outright retreats into silence and other "rhetorical techniques" in which you specialize?

Instead of bitching about us, you might want to learn from us.

Then again, that might involve disciplining your ego and we can't have that, can we? For we all know that despite your Catholic facade, Mark, you're really a pagan at heart. You worship yourself and your blog is your religion's ultimate sacrament.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Phillip, you're confusing the likelihood that a given test will reveal anything with the reliability of the test. If there's a 1% chance that I have a certain disease and there's a test that can tell with 100% accuracy whether I have that disease, it might make sense to give me that test. On the other hand, if the test will give the wrong answer 50% of the time, then it doesn't matter how likely or unlikely it is that I have the disease, the test is worthless. You might as well flip a coin.

Also, we need to be clear about what we mean when we say that in a given case torture "worked." Do we mean in
that case that the tortured person said something that turned out to be true? If so, then torture does sometimes work - but so does using psychics. If, on the other hand, we mean that it produces reliable information, then the answer is no. You cannot tell by the quality of a man's screams whether he is telling you the truth or just telling you what he thinks you want to hear.

You'd think this would be obvious, but for some strange reason people tend to make the opposite assumption: that if a guy tells you something to get you to stop pulling out his finger-nails, it must be extra-trustworthy. You'd think that after the spanish inquisition, witch trials, shows trials, etc., people would have learned their lesson. Sadly not.

Tom, I'm not sure how I've committed the fallacy of accident. Perhaps you could explain further.

doubting thomas said...

Josiah,

The fallacy of accident arises from believing the premiss which has a qualified meaning applies in all circumstances without restriction.

In this instance, because of what happened to Sean Baker it must be happening to others necessarily.

doubting thomas said...

Josiah,

Using your approach one could conclude that torture/coercion provided useful information in one case therefore it necessarily would in others. One cannot go back with such data without entering into the realm of opinion which is far from certainty.

What offers more certainty is the article linked by Tom which shows that not only were traditional methods not useful but that more coercive measures were effective.

Mark Adams said...

For we all know that despite your Catholic facade, Mark, you're really a pagan at heart. You worship yourself and your blog is your religion's ultimate sacrament.

Geez, Joseph, in two sentences you manage to invalidate everything that came before it. And in the process you make the Coalition for Fog look bad and bolster the arguments of those who say, "Stay away from there b/c they have a crazy vendetta against Shea."

doubting thomas said...

Mark Adams,

An example of the fallacy of accident.

Patrick said...

Guys, let's try to simplify this. Consider one technique: waterboarding. Is it EVER permissible? If so, under what conditions? Cast your votes.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

I didn't say that because something happened to Sean Baker, it must be happening to others necessarily. I said it was unlikely the only guy to be abused at Gitmo would be the one guy who was actually an undercover solder. More likely there are other such cases that we haven't heard of because the people involved weren't U.S. solders. Many of the released detainees have also claimed that they were abused. I initially viewed their claims with some skepticism, but after learning about what happened to Sean Baker, that would seem more like willful blindness.

It's hard to tell what's going on in Gitmo. If Heather MacDonald is right, then the interrogators there are operating under more restrictions than your average police detective. If so, then we'd probably be better off just closing the place and moving the detainees to Rikers. I have to admit, though, of being a bit skeptical, especially as portions of her narrative are at odds with other accounts of the same events.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1071284-1,00.html

Ken said...

Here's my bypass for the torture problem.

All non-uniformed combatants should be given a 30 day review. If its determined that they pose an ongoing threat to the United States, execute them.

The bar should be pretty low, such as if they are caught while engaged in combat, or caught while carrying a weapon. Or even caught in a known combatant camp.

But that will never happen so eventually the U.S. will lose this war, simply because Americans no longer have the political will to fight.

Ken said...

BTW, non-cooperation with interrogation would be viewed as hostile intent against the United States and would be a mark in favor of the fact that they pose an ongoing threat to the government of the United States, her citizens and her soldiers.

Tom Connelly said...

Count me as opposed to Ken's "solution."

Donald R. McClarey said...

Terrorists, like pirates of old, should always have a death sentence hanging over their heads. After being duly convicted of terrorism by military tribunals they should be summarily executed, after one expedited appeal, such as was given to the German saboteurs landed by U-boat in this country in 1942, who were tried by Military Tribunal on July 2, 1942, had their sentences upheld by the Supreme Court on July 31, 1942, and six of whom were executed on August 8, 1942. The two who helped capture the other six had their death sentences commuted by President Roosevelt. I believe this case should serve as a model of how to deal with terrorists.

As the Court stated in its opinion in Exparte Quirin, "...the law of war draws a distinction between the armed forces and the peaceful populations of belligerent nations and also between those who are lawful and unlawful combatants. Lawful combatants are subject to capture and detention as prisoners of war by opposing military forces. Unlawful combatants are likewise subject to capture and detention, but in addition they are subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals for acts which render their belligerency unlawful."

With a death sentence before them, and one which would be implemented in weeks following a trial and not decades, I think we would find quite a few of the captured terrorists being willing to give a fair amount of accurate information to the authorities.

Patrick said...

I assume Ken's solution is not meant to be taken seriously. At least I hope not.

The comparison to WW2 German spies breaks down a little bit with the current terrorist situation. In that case, the spies landed on our shores and clearly had intent to attack the U.S. They would not have been here otherwise.

In contrast, most of the prisoners at Gitmo and elsewhere were actually captured outside the U.S., many in their home countries. We don't always have eyewitness evidence of their alleged hostile acts.

This doesn't mean they are not dangerous to the U.S., but it does make that fact somewhat harder to prove. I am not suggesting we apply our civilian standards of due process - but before we execute someone, there needs to be some reasonable amount of evidence against them. I'm not sure we have that with many of the current prisoners. Sometimes people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"Sometimes people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Indeed. That would be for the military tribunals to decide. I would note that quite a few of the prisoners at Guantanamo have been released as the military authorities have decided that they were either innocent, or, at the very least, not dangerous enough to hold. Of course some of those released have later been taken prisoner again, captured while engaging in post release acts of terrorism. Nothing is fool proof, including the wisdom of military authorities in dealing with captive accused terrorists. My point is that the threat of tribunals handing down death sentences, and making such a threat a reality in cases where the evidence is sufficient, would work wonders on the willingess of captured terrorists to offer information to our forces.

torquemada05 said...

I'm still reading through this thread, but for those seriously interested in learning more about what actually happened concerning Abu Zubaydah, I would recommend that described in Posner's book to that favored by Suskind and Co.

Also, I would note that those who want to pooh-pooh al-Libi might do well to keep in mind the following:

http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/Articles/Understanding%20alLibi.html

Indeed, as the Washington Post reported in August 2004, "under questioning, al-Libi provided the CIA with intelligence about an alleged plot to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Yemen with a truck bomb and pointed officials in the direction of Abu Zubaida, a top al Qaeda leader known to have been involved in the Sept. 11 plot."

The point is that things aren't often nearly as clear-cut as the morality tale that some want to turn al-Libi into.

Patrick said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we already have that threat? I believe the president approved a set of procedures to establish such tribunals, and the machinery is in motion to apply it to a few prisoners.

Also it seems a little inconsistent to say the threat of a (presumably humane) execution will be so motivational to captured terrorists, when we are also saying they are bloodthirsty savages who aren't afraid to die for their cause.

If the latter point is true, then they may actually welcome martyrdom. Remember, they think they have 72 virgins waiting to serve them in paradise.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we already have that threat?"

No, not until we execute a few terrorists expeditiously after they are tried by a tribunal. A threat is only effective if the person at whom the theat is aimed has very good reason to believe it will be quickly carried out. Currently most of the terrorists in our hands face death only from obesity due to the rich meals they are receiving.

"Also it seems a little inconsistent to say the threat of a (presumably humane) execution will be so motivational to captured terrorists, when we are also saying they are bloodthirsty savages who aren't afraid to die for their cause."

Terrorists, at least some of them, I assume are no different from many of the career criminals I have defended over the years. They present a facade of bravado, and have no inhibition about preying upon the weak, and are often quite bloodthirsty. However, when they are facing long years in prison, or worse, more than a few of them are eager to inform on associates in exchange for leniency. Some terrorists will not cooperate, no matter the threat or the punishment, but you don't need everyone to talk in order to glean lots of useful information.

Patrick said...

No one has responded to the question I posted earlier today. Here it is again:

Guys, let's try to simplify this. Consider one technique: waterboarding. Is it EVER permissible? If so, under what conditions? Cast your votes.

This is not a complicated question. If some of you will answer it clearly, it will help to disprove Mark Shea's allegation that the Coalition For Fog doesn't really want a definition of torture and would rather cloud the issue.

If, on the other hand, you can't or won't answer this simple question, then it begins to look like Mark has a point.

Any takers?

torquemada05 said...

Patrick:

Both Victor and I posted our answers to that question and others you might be interested in reading to Dave Armstrong when he first asked them several months ago. He agreed that our view was reasonable and it is, as I have repeatedly noted since, indistinguishable from that provided by Jimmy Akin at around the same time.

Which is one of the reasons we keep making the point that Mark hurls vitriole down on us while completely ignoring the elephant in the room. Of course, we're a much easier target.

Patrick said...

Great, can you give me a link to these answers? Thank you.

Christopher Fotos said...

Patrick, this is a long discussion by Jimmy Akin on point.

He tentatively concludes waterboarding and other forms of physical coercion and inflicting pain is not intrinsically evil under all circumstances.

Take waterboarding as an example. I would say that waterboarding is torture if it is being used to get a person to confess to a crime (it is not proportionate to that end since it will promote false confessions). I would also say that it is torture if it is being used to get information out of a terrorist that could be gotten through traditional, less painful interrogation means (it is not proportionate to the end since there are better means available). I would not say that it is torture if it is being used in a ticking time bomb scenario and there is no other, less painful way to save lives (it is proportionate since there is not a better solution). And I would not say that it is torture if it is being used to train our own people how to resist waterboarding if it is used on them (this is apparently something we do, and it is proportionate on the understanding that there is no better way to help people learn to resist waterboarding).

Christopher Fotos said...

Oh, and Patrick:

This is not a complicated question.

But it can be a complicated answer.

Victor said...

Patrick:

This was what I said back then:
------------------------------
It (waterboarding) certainly is "torture" in the colloquial sense that it's some bad shit that I wouldn't want to undergo myself (but I wouldn't want to be imprisoned either, which proves that the Golden Rule is not very relevant on this sort of issue).

Frankly, I'm not sure whether waterboarding is torture. My inclination is to say that it isn't because it doesn't threaten life or limb or do serious physical damage. It clearly does intend to change the person's mind in short order, so it may depend on what the definition of torture is. But I'm very wary of defining "changing a person's mind" apart from "doing serious physical damage" as the essence of torture, for reasons relating to other matters. I'm open to persuasion on this, but I'm totally not-persuadable ("anti-persuadable" might be more like it) by using pictures, piling on adjectives or bald assertions, which is all certain other people do.

But to use Shea's two other favorite examples, "Palestinian hanging" and "cold cells" certainly are torture, particularly if (in the latter case) it risks hypothermia. Which is a judgment call, sure, but certainly one that non-doctors are not fit to make.
------------------------------

It is of course to be expected of Shea the Pathological Liar that after having said this, he then attributes the following to me:

... ostensibly intelligent, literate people who spend the day working with words, yet who suddenly find themselves utterly baffled about whether freezing somebody to death constitutes "torture" (what does that undecipherable word *mean*?)...

doubting thomas said...

"I didn't say that because something happened to Sean Baker, it must be happening to others necessarily. I said it was unlikely the only guy to be abused at Gitmo would be the one guy who was actually an undercover solder. More likely there are other such cases that we haven't heard of because the people involved weren't U.S. solders."

Josiah,

Then if you don't mean to say that it is necessarily happening to others, then your claim must be that what happened to Sean Baker and the others you reference must be accidental - that is exceptions - and not the rule. Otherwise again you would commit the falacy of accident conflating what has happened on occasion for what is the rule.

This is one of Mark's fundamental flaws in his analysis of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other such instances. He finds the exceptions (which in most cases have been punished) and states them to be the rule (policy.)

But the link Tom provides seems to support at least substantially the claim that the rule was in fact not torture but relatively limited, albeit forceful, coercive measures.

The link Tom provides also substantially raises doubt to the popular claim that such coercive measures are not necessary and only more persuasive measures are needed.

doubting thomas said...

Patrick,

I will answer your question as I have elsewhere. I do believe that waterboarding is torture. There are others on this blog who do not. That being said I believe that Jimmy Akin has also made the argument that waterboarding is not (though I have not read all of his posts so do not claim this directly.) The import of this is that a serious Catholic apologist is making such a claim and not merely those "committed to fog."

That being said, you also claim that forced standing, loud noises and sleep deprivation are not torture per se. That being the case, what is the distinction in your mind between waterboarding and the latter measures?

Patrick said...

Terrorists, at least some of them, I assume are no different from many of the career criminals I have defended over the years.

This is an interesting comparison. If we determine that waterboarding, cold rooms, and similar methods are useful and appropriate for terror suspects, should we also then use these methods on common criminals in the U.S.? It could yield valuable information and save lives.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"It could yield valuable information and save lives."

Not in most criminal enterprises. Outside of comic books, for example, criminal organizations are not attempting to gain nuclear weapons while many terrorist organizations are avidly seeking them. However, if a criminal gang were to threaten the same type of mayhem that is the hallmark of the terrorist, than I have no objection to using similar methods against them. Evidence elicted by coercion could not be used in a criminal prosecution, but sometimes saving lives should take precedence over building a solid case.

Patrick said...

I see. So how many lives must be saved in order to justify coercion of a suspect? 10? 50? 100? 3,000? 10,000? When does it become proportionate? At what point does "crime" become "mayhem?"

doubting thomas said...

"I see. So how many lives must be saved in order to justify coercion of a suspect? 10? 50? 100? 3,000? 10,000? When does it become proportionate? At what point does "crime" become "mayhem?"

Patrick,

You already admit that certain coercive measures are not per se immoral. Mark has also. I think most Catholics would.

That being the case I ask my question again.

What distinguishes prolonged standing, sleep deprivation etc. from waterboarding?

Patrick said...

In the article linked above, which everyone seems to like, Heather McDonald says that waterboarding arguably crosses the line into torture.

Donald Rumsfeld apparently feels likewise, since he would not authorize it to be done within his jurisdiction at DoD.

As I understand it, waterboarding causes no permanent injury except perhaps psychological. It isn't life-threatening. The votes here seem to place it in the same category as forced standing, loud music, etc. I am not conceding that point yet, but for now I'll accept it so we can move on.

Let's go a step further. Suppose we have a non-cooperative prisoner to interrogate. Each time he fails to answer a question, we snip off one of his fingers. He gets ten chances then we move on to other appendages.

Of course, we dress the wounds quickly so he doesn't bleed to death. How many fingers he loses is entirely up to him.

Are you willing to use this method on terror suspects? If not, why not?

Donald R. McClarey said...

"I see. So how many lives must be saved in order to justify coercion of a suspect? 10? 50? 100? 3,000? 10,000?"

One I should think if it were your child. That is why relatives don't get to make that type of decision and why cops have been known to be fairly rough on child kidnappers when a kidnapper in custody refuses to say where a child is. I would draw the line at more than 10 people at risk. Arbitrary, but that is what line drawing tends to be. Where would you draw the line, or would you prefer to see a city blown to bits rather than coercing a suspect to reveal information? Would it matter if the lives to be lost were strangers to you or family members? What are the moral implications of allowing a suspect not to be subjected to coercive interrogations at the price of innocent lives?

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Doubting Tom,

First, I think the fallacy you mean to accuse me of is hasty generalization, not the fallacy of accident. The fallacy of accident is where something is true generally is treated as if it was true in every case. Children should obey their parents, therefore if my father tells me to rape a nun, I should do it. If I had said, "prisoners in Gitmo get abused; Sean Baker was a prisoner at Gitmo; therefore Sean Baker must have gotten abused" then I would have committed the fallacy of accident. But I didn't say that.

Hasty generalization is where you conclude that because something has happened in one or a few cases, it must have happened in most or all cases. The key word here is "hasty." We all make generalizations. It's only where you generalize on too few cases, or in a way that doesn't make sense (e.g. I once got mugged by a black guy, therefore all black guys are muggers) that it becomes a problem. If Sean Baker had been an ordinary detainee and I said the fact that he was abused proves that abuse at Gitmo was widespread, I would have committed the fallacy of hasty generalization.

But Sean Baker was not a detainee, he was a solder who was only mistaken for a detainee. What are the chances that out of hundreds of detainees at Gitmo, the one guy to get abused is the one guy who is actually an undercover solder? Minuscule.

I have to say I'm a bit taken aback by the credulity some people on this thread have shown towards anyone who says that torture provides valuable information. Brian Ross says that waterboarding KSM stopped the Library Tower plot. His account is inconsistent with the account given by the President of the United States? Well, then the President must have gotten it wrong. Heather MacDonald says that torture works? Well then it must work; nevermind that her account doesn't square with other accounts of the same events. The fact that someone, somewhere, published an article saying that torture works proves that it does work. It's... strange.

I'm all for taking Suskind's treatment of the al-Libi incident with a grain of salt. But what I don't get is the kind of new math that treats every rumor about torture producing valuable information as true, but is highly suspicious of any alleged cases where it has been counter-productive or led to abuse.

Oh, and put me down in the "no waterboarding" camp.

doubting thomas said...

Patrick,

Nice but you still haven't answered my question. Why, even for the sake of argument, do you accept waterboarding as torture and sleep deprivation etc. as not.

doubting thomas said...

Josiah,
Not in Aristotle's orginal description but that is how it has come to be defined by more modern logicians.

But now we are arguing opinions. McDonald gives hers and Time Magazine theirs. Why is is necessarily wrong that torture works?

Patrick said...

Thomas, I am still thinking this through. As a non-lethal, non-permanent type of coercion, waterboarding is obviously very much like loud music etc. Right now I can't think of a logical distinction that makes waterboarding any worse than those other things.

However many people, such as Heather McDonald and Donald Rumsfeld, along with a lot of lawyers at DoD, seem to think it crosses some kind of line. They must have reasons. I'm trying to understand what kind of difference they see before I make a final judgment. Waterboarding does seem like it would have more of a psychological impact than the other methods, so maybe that is their reasoning.

Now, please answer my question about fingersnipping.

Anonymous said...

Geez, Joseph, in two sentences you manage to invalidate everything that came before it. And in the process you make the Coalition for Fog look bad and bolster the arguments of those who say, "Stay away from there b/c they have a crazy vendetta against Shea."

JOSEPH D'HIPPOLITO SAYS...

No, Mark, I didn't. The previous (and ongoing) discussion either validates itself on its inherent merits or invalidates itself on its inherent demerits. My opinion of Shea is an irrelevant tangent.

As as the accuracy of what I said about Shea is concerned, well, how else would you describe a man who makes a living as a self-described Catholic apologist, can recite doctrines perfectly yet, when push comes to shove, effectively rejects Christ's teachings on interpersonal behavior?

doubting thomas said...

Patrick,

Thank-you. I am not sure either. That's why I ask. That's why this topic is so difficult. There is not an easy definition and thus it makes it hard to fit one thing or another into given categories.

Have a good night Army and enjoy the Superbowl tomorrow. Go Colts!

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

"now we are arguing opinions. McDonald gives hers and Time Magazine theirs."

Er, no. MacDonald says that interrogators were not able to get any information Kahtani through traditional methods, but that they were able to get valuable information from him using tougher (though still fairly mild)* tactics. These are factual claims. Either they are true, or they are not. MacDonald doesn't say exactly what her sources are for her claims.

The Time magazine article, by contrast, is based on Kahtani's interrogation log, and tells a somewhat different story. According to it, Kahtani was subject to prolonged sleep deprivation and isolation, as well as other harsh tactics, to the point that the interrogation had to be stopped at several points for medical reasons and eventually stopped altogether because he had been driven half insane.

As for the value of the information provided, it seems to consist mainly of the fact that he'd met UBL, was a member of al-Qaeda, and had been sent to the U.S. by KSM. In other words, nothing actionable. At best, the information would be useful in a prosecution, which can probably never happen now, because of the methods used on him. Our tax dollars at work.

*MacDonald maintains, somewhat implausibly, that most of the tactics approved by Donald Rumsfeld in December 2002 were never used on any detainees at Gitmo, and that none of them were used on anyone other than Kahtani.

Tom Connelly said...

Since MacDonald's article has generated some interest, I thought you might be interested in these reactions to her article, which appeared in the next issue of City Journal, and in this debate between MacDonald and John D. Hutson.

Greg Mockeridge said...

For we all know that despite your Catholic facade, Mark, you're really a pagan at heart.

Joe,

While I would agree that Mark's behavior is horribly unChristian, you do not have the right to call him "pagan at heart" since you do not have access to his inner forum.

Let's stick to judging pwople's actions and not what's in their heart.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Pretty much anything can be torture if done in the right way. Chinese water torture, for example, consists of noting but dripping water on a guy's forehead.

One of the things that disturbs me about some of the techniques used in Gitmo (and elsewhere in the war on terror) is that they seem to have been chosen as much for their PR value as for anything else. So, for example, detainees are forced to listen to Barney's "I Love You; You Love Me" song over and over. It almost sounds comical, but if played for twenty four hours straight (which was apparently done), the song would no doubt become a very effective means of inflicting mental torment.

Sleep deprivation, "stress" positions, exposure to hot and cold, are all unobjectionable in small enough doses. But of course they won't be at all effective in those doses, and so would be useless unless used for lengthy periods. Like the dripping water of the Chinese water torture, it can be portrayed as mild even though as used it is incredibly harsh.

Patrick said...

I'm still waiting for opinions about fingersnipping. Surely some of you have thought this through. Please share with us.

Patrick said...

I'm still waiting for opinions about fingersnipping. Surely some of you have thought this through. Please share with us.

Mark Adams said...

No, Mark, I didn't. The previous (and ongoing) discussion either validates itself on its inherent merits or invalidates itself on its inherent demerits. My opinion of Shea is an irrelevant tangent.

Yes Joseph, you did. You told Mark Shea to examine this thread as an example civility for, among other things, its "lack of personal attacks" and then you go on to declare him to not be a Catholic but a pagan, a personal attack if there ever was one. I don't see how that doesn't invalidate what you said. But even if one can make the argument that it doesn't technically invalidate what you said, my larger point is that the "you're really a pagan at heart" line conflicts with the rhetorical purpose of your post as well as one of the broader rhetorical goals of the blog. People need to see that Mark Shea's opponents take the actual words and "ideas" of Mark Shea and argue with them without making simply asserting things like, "Mark is shilling for xyz", "Mark is no different than those people at Catholics for a Free Choice" or "Mark is not a true Catholic".

Phillip said...

"Who’s your friend the Americans are looking for?” the interrogation began.

“I don’t know.”

“You think this is a joke? What do you think I’ll do?”

“Torture me.”
Heather McDonald


So now I understand his fear, Martin recollects.

The interrogation continued: “You’ll stand here until you tell me your friend.”

“No, sir, he’s not my friend.”

Martin picked up a book and started reading. Several hours later, the young Taliban was losing his balance and was clearly terrified. Moreover, he’s got two “big hillbilly guards staring at him who want to kill him,” the interrogator recalls.

“You think THIS is bad?!” the questioning starts up again.

“No, sir.”

The prisoner starts to fall; the guards stand him back up. If he falls again, and can’t get back up, Martin can do nothing further. “I have no rack,” he says matter-of-factly. The interrogator’s power is an illusion; if a detainee refuses to obey a stress order, an American interrogator has no recourse.

Martin risks a final display of his imaginary authority. “I get in his face, ‘What do you think I will do next?’ ” he barks. In the captive’s mind, days have passed, and he has no idea what awaits him. He discloses where he planted bombs on a road and where to find his associate. “The price?” Martin asks. “I made a man stand up. Is this unlawful coercion?”


"Finally, at 4 am—after an 18-hour, occasionally loud, interrogation, during which Kahtani head-butted his interrogators—he started giving up information, convinced that he was being sold out by his buddies. The entire process had been conducted under the watchful eyes of a medic, a psychiatrist, and lawyers, to make sure that no harm was done. Kahtani provided detailed information on his meetings with Usama bin Ladin, on Jose Padilla and Richard Reid, and on Adnan El Shukrijumah, one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists, believed to be wandering between South and North America."
Heather McDonald

"Er, no. MacDonald says that interrogators were not able to get any information Kahtani through traditional methods, but that they were able to get valuable information from him using tougher (though still fairly mild)* tactics."

Josiah,

I don't know if the methods quoted from McDonald above constitute mild treatment. At least in the second she reports that Kahtani was interrogated for 18 straight hours. Perhaps that is mild for you. I don't think that would be for most people.

People say that a person being tortured will say anything. The truth is part of anything. As has been pointed out, there is no reason to believe that someone undergoing harsh and coercive treatment will necessarily tell lies. Just as there is no reason that someone under mild treatment will necessarily tell the truth.

As seen above as McDonald documents, a person under harsh treatment told the truth.

Phillip said...

Also this from Tom Connolly's link:

"I must congratulate Heather Mac Donald. As an army interrogator who worked at Gitmo, I know what went on there—and she got it exactly right. I hand out her article to all the people who ask me about what it was like to live and work there.

Finally, a journalist who gets it.

SSG Lara Scarpato
Fayetteville, NC"

Coming from someone who was there, this carries more weight than the Time article.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

More weight than the actual interrogation log? Why?

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Oh, and as for the story MacDonald tells about Afghanistan, I think the maxim "falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus" applies.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

One more thing and then I'll quit. I don't know how many times I have to say it, but yes, torture will occasionally produce accurate information. So will magic eight-balls. The police sometimes use psychics to help them solve crimes. If you search the internet, I'm sure you could find cases where this has "worked" particularly if you're willing to be credulous about any claimed success made by a psychic. Nevertheless, I'm going to go out on a limb and say no one on this blog thinks that the methods described in The Men Who Stare At Goats should be part of our counter-terrorism strategy.

Phillip said...

"I don't know how many times I have to say it, but yes, torture will occasionally produce accurate information. So will magic eight-balls."

Q: Magic eight-ball, where is the bomb planted?

Magic eight-ball: Definitely.

Q: When will it go off?

Magic eight-ball: Ask again tomorrow.

Q: Who are you working with?

Magic eight-ball: My sources say no.

Actual answers from the Magic Eight-ball website. I'll have to wait until later to see what my psychic says.

Anonymous said...

JOSEPH D'HIPPOLITO SAYS...

Taken that way, Mark Adams, you're right. My comment, though true, could have been reserved for a more appropriate context.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

If the psychic gives you any trouble, Phil, you might try waterboarding him. I hear that's a great way to get information.

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Phillip said...

Josiah,

I talked to my psychic. He said waterboard is wrong as I have said in the past. Oh, by the way, he also said you are wrong.

P.S. I would trust him because he said "...young horses will overcome ursus if it rains."

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