Well duh. But I still think that, despite your attempts to ignore it, there is and should be a difference between coercive interrogation and torture.But of course, like everything else Shea says on this topic, this bold stuff simply isn't true. Let's go the film ... no, wait ... there's actually a fresh batch of footage today. Shea writes (emphases mine; Barnett's words in red; Shea's in green):
Duh nothing! I've said about 1000 times that there is a difference. You know that. It is bullshit to say that Barnett was just making a plea for normal coercive techniques. He wasn't even making a plea for mere *torture*. He was making a plea for Dresden, for the fire bombing of Tokyo, for the glory of deliberate mass murder of millions and millions of innocents and for doing what it takes, no matter what, because it's our side and we can do as we want!
Syd, I am unbelievably tired of this sort of shit. If you can't be honest about the fact that I have, literally hundreds of times, acknowledged that there is a real distinction between legitimate and illegitimate coercion, that I have--hundreds of times--offered definitions, not just of torture, but (more important) "humane treatment" then please do me the kindness of just shutting your mouth.
Dean Barnett, in his execrable defense of Salvation Through Leviathan by Means of War Crimes writes:There is no way to read what Shea actually writes other than "coercive interrogation techniques are a war crime." And it's hard to imagine what "war crime" Shea could be thinking of, if not torture.That’s not the case. The people who support coercive interrogation techniques, and I am one of them, do so sadly. Unfortunately, given the nature of the war we’re in, certain moral compromises are a necessity. Using coercive interrogation techniques is one of them.
Additionally, that same Shea post immediately thereafter removed all doubt about the lie he yelled at Sydney. He approvingly ("perfectly right") cited the following from Daniel Larison.
And Daniel Larison tartly replies:But if you follow the link to Larison, you find the following interesting juxtaposition (Larison, much as I disagree with him, has the intellectual integrity to actually quote people, rather than paraphrase in the form of a Shavian Straw Man™). Here is part of what Barnett says, as cited by Larison:Oh, Barnett is sad about torturing people–so at least there’s some hope for him yet! ... Doesn’t Barnett realise that it is far worse to be a relatively sane person who nonetheless rationally and knowingly justifies the use of torture and insists upon using the propagandistic euphemism “coercive interrogation techniques”? ... he thinks he is showing how reasonable and decent the friends of torture are!He's perfectly right.
THE TORTURE DEBATE brings out a similar absolutism from torture opponents. They tend to casually assume that people who support “coercive interrogation techniques” do so because they’re congenital sadists who have just been waiting for this moment in history so they could begin water-boarding Muslims with impunity.Note that in this excerpt, Barnett never uses the word "torture" except in constructions like "torture debate," which as good a form of shorthand as any other. But when actually describing his own position, he consistently calls it "coercive interrogation." In fact, you can read through the whole Barnett column in vain for any use of the term "torture" as a noun in a construction that says or implies Barnett approves of it or backs its use. Larison (and Shea) quoted the "best" part, and it relies on the "torture-coercion distinction" quite fastidiously. (In fact, so fastidiously that, though this is only my opinion as an editor and writer, it reads to me as if Barnett was consciously keeping this distinction in the forefront of his mind.)
That’s not the case. The people who support coercive interrogation techniques, and I am one of them, do so sadly. Unfortunately, given the nature of the war we’re in, certain moral compromises are a necessity. Using coercive interrogation techniques is one of them.
But note how "coercive interrogation techniques" becomes "torture" in Larison's ridiculing, ranting paraphrase.
Oh, Barnett is sad about torturing people–so at least there’s some hope for him yet! ... Doesn’t Barnett realise that it is far worse to be a relatively sane person who nonetheless rationally and knowingly justifies the use of torture and insists upon using the propagandistic euphemism “coercive interrogation techniques”? ... he thinks he is showing how reasonable and decent the friends of torture are!And again to remove this latest "lie" charge to the category of "beyond all doubt," Larison doesn't simply say "Barnett is advocating something that will put us on a slippery slope" or "this distinction will be washed over in practice" or "Barnett doesn't realize where he's going." Nor does he touch on the more-esoteric questions of soldier culpability and inculpability for evils committed.
No. Larison says Barnett "rationally and knowingly justifies the use of torture" and ridicules the distinction, one that Shea says he has acknowledged thousands of times and tells people to shut up for thinking he doesn't acknowledge, as "a propagandistic euphemism."
As I say, there was more game film from previous days, like this, where Shea indicates that from the very beginning he (a) never understood Barnett's column and (b) ignored the distinction between the coercion and torture.
In fact, these were his very first words:
Time was when torture supporters played the game of "Nobody's talking about supporting *torture*. No, we're just in favor of "coercive interrogation"." Happily, the days of euphemism and fog are passing in some quarters and torture supporters are clearly and unequivocally saying "I support torture".For someone who acknowledges a torture-coercion distinction, these are very strange words to describe a column which never says "I support torture" or anything that can be paraphrased thus without reading "coercive interrogation" as "torture."
Shea even did the same thing Larison does, quoting "coercive interrogation" and then not even pausing for a breath before paraphrasing "torture." (First paragraph in red is Barnett; second in green is Shea.)
In the blink of an eye, "people who support coercive interrogation" becomes "people ... support torture" without even the semblance of an attempt at the appearance of the most-cursory efforts at reasoning. It's just fiated. "Coercion" becomes "torture."THE TORTURE DEBATE brings out a similar absolutism from torture opponents. They tend to casually assume that people who support “coercive interrogation techniques” do so because they’re congenital sadists who have just been waiting for this moment in history so they could begin water-boarding Muslims with impunity.Nice straw man. But of course, it's not true. The reality is that people generally support torture because they think ... (what follows doesn't matter for the point here, VJM)
Further aggravating Shea's initial misreading of the Barnett column was the emphatic way he said this was the end of euphemism. That's a a 24-karat falsehood. Even from his perspective, the worst you could say was that the column perpetuated a bad euphemism. Shea's post was slanderous. And culpable. Thus a lie. Morally speaking, it was libel when he says Barnett "gets in touch with his inner abortionist," a point that isn't even misreadable (the whole rhetorical point Barnett was making depended on his NOT supporting abortion).
Even apart from these fresh cites, for someone who thinks there is a legitimate distinction between coercive interrogation and torture, Shea has been going about it rather oddly for years. His longstanding ridiculing with terms like "torture-lite" and "just a teeny bit of torture" would be double-plus-unhelpful if he actually thought this was a difference that matters between coercive interrogation and torture.
The real reason that, in Rod's words, "Shea's head exploded" at Barnett's column? Perhaps this line:
The anti-torture argument sits on a fragile branch of moral vanity.As a description of the political debate in the US, circa 2004-7 ... nothing truer has been written.
UPDATE: More at Rod's. Predictable posturing and false attribution.