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McCain passes amendment to end torture of detainees; Bush threatens veto (Politics)

By mcc
Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 01:52:52 AM EST

News

If you look at the Army Field Manual's section on interrogation techniques, you will find an enlightening little passage on the subject of "coercive" interrogation, which says in part:

The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor condoned by the US Government. Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.
Here is the short version of the article which follows from this point: Early in the "War on Terror", the Bush Administration made a decision that the U.S. military would not be bound by the Geneva Convention in the fights that were to come. When the fights came, the "detainees" that the military picked up were met with treatment that some supporters of the Bush Administration called "coercive" and some other persons called "torture".

Yesterday evening, John McCain passed an amendment to the next military appropriations bill which if followed would end such practices by simply requiring the treatment of detainees to be held to the standards in the Army field manual. Bush claims he's going to veto it. This would mean the first, and so far only, veto of Bush's entire presidency would be performed in support of torture.


In 1967, a naval aviator named John McCain serving in Vietnam was shot down and captured by the Viet Cong, at which point he was held as a prisoner of war for five and a half years. During this time, according to his captors, John McCain was not in fact a prisoner of war, but (as the confession they extracted from him by force put it) a "black criminal" and "air pirate"; the government of Vietnam still maintains that the "Hanoi Hilton" where McCain was for some time imprisoned was "a prison for criminals, not POWs, and that those held in the Hanoi Hilton were 'pirates' and 'bandits' who had attacked Vietnam without authority". Because they had classified their prisoners as "criminals" rather than POWs, the Viet Cong was of the opinion that these prisoners were not covered or protected by the Geneva Convention. And because the Viet Cong did not feel themselves obligated to follow the Geneva Convention, McCain received regular torture and beatings at their hands that were so intense he still suffers a degree of physical handicap from them today. John McCain, as you may have noticed, is now a Republican Senator from Arizona.

On August 1, 2002, a White House lawyer named Alberto R. Gonzales, asked to find legal justifications for "more aggressive" interrogations of terrorist suspects, wrote a memo which said, in part:

We conclude that, under the current circumstances, necessity or self-defense may justify interrogation methods that might violate Section 2340A. Section 2340A makes it a criminal offense for any person "outside the United States [to] commit or attempt to commit torture".
Though this memo is occasionally alleged to be the basis of unethical practices regarding detainees, by the time this memo was written the U.S. government had long since reached the conclusion that they were not obligated to follow the rules of the Geneva Convention in the "War On Terror", on the grounds that the prisoners from the wars were not actually Prisoners of War, but "unlawful combatants", criminals to whom the Geneva Convention did not apply. (Though of course that would only be the third Geneva Convention, the one concerning prisoners of war; for some reason the Bush Administration has never explained why the Fourth Geneva Convention, the one concerning the treatment of civilians in occupied territories, does not apply.) Alberto R. Gonzales, as you also may have noticed, is now the head of the United States Justice Department.

So, what exactly is an "unlawful combatant"? Nobody seems to know. The Red Cross doesn't seem to believe any such category exists. The military under the Bush Administration has applied the category to persons as diverse as American Citizens in the United States plotting terrorist attacks, and Iraqis fighting in the Iraq war in Iraq who happened to take up arms while "not wearing uniforms". The only certain thing about "unlawful combatants" is that they aren't governed by the rules of the Geneva convention, and unless they're American citizens they aren't governed by the rules by which the American government normally treats criminals. What rules are they governed by? Well, again, no one seems to be quite sure. And therein lies a bit of a problem.

Ever since the first prisoners-- I'm sorry, "detainees"-- arrived at Guantanamo Bay, a very public debate has raged over exactly what their status should be, why, and what should be done with them. But beneath this a somewhat quieter, decidedly less public debate has been simultaneously going on, on a subject that some people feel really just should not have to even be debated in the first place: Is it acceptable for the U.S. to engage in the practice of torture? And is chaining someone immobile and naked in a fetal position to the floor of an unheated cell until they defecate on themselves torture, or just "coercive"?

The debate over the U.S. policy on interrogation is made extremely difficult by the aforementioned fact that nobody seems to know what the U.S. policy is. There is some kind of general spirit reported to have been made clear within the military that soldiers may now be "more aggressive" with their treatment of "detainees", but exactly how they are to be treated, who is to be treated that way and when, and where the limits on all this stand seems to be entirely ambiguous. At least one White House memo of "approved" interrogation tactics did circulate at some point, but no one outside the military got to see these until quite recently and it seems quite certain that most of the low-level troops performing interrogations hadn't seen them either. One memo issued by Donald Rumsfeld himself in late 2002 outlined 17 techniques approved for use in Guantanamo Bay interrogations, including threatening prisoners with dogs, forcing them to wear hoods, leashes and/or women's underwear, or the use of interrogations that last for up to 20 hours at a time. This memo was rescinded a month later, but then later replaced with a list of 24 approved techniques; the contents of this list are still classified. The clearest idea of exactly what the policy might be comes from statements by FBI observers at Guantanamo Bay, obtained by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act; one assumes the best way to find out what the policy is would be to watch it being enacted.

Or not. Because the problem is, the Bush Administration line nearly from the beginning has been to wave off nearly all reports of abuse as unauthorized behavior, claiming they can't be held responsible for that which they didn't approve. The Bush Administration has not attempted to hide its support of "coercive" or "psychological torture" methods (though whichever title you choose to call them by, these techniques are unambiguously banned by the third and fourth geneva conventions as well as the U.N. Convention Against Torture) such as those approved in Rumsfeld's aforementioned memo. But the worst abuses, officially, are unsanctioned and unapproved. These abuses somehow have managed to happen with striking consistency, in nearly every different area of the military from GTMO to Iraqi detention centers, all the way through all the Bush Administration's wars, with no one stopping them. But officially they're unapproved. So if we hear about a single instance of prisoner abuse-- say, we're told that the FBI witnessed treatment of prisoners that "included strangulation, beatings, placement of lit cigarettes into the detainees ear openings"-- how do we interpret it? In the "approved" psychological torture, or the "unapproved" normal torture? And does this make a difference in whether or not these actions reflect badly on the Bush Administration?

One frequent allegation is that no, there really isn't a difference. Since the military certainly knew these things were happening and did nothing as they continued, this could be seen as a tacit approval, with the "sanctioned" lists being just a flimsy layer of plausible deniability. Some people go further and even point out that it may be an awfully funny coincidence that many of these "unauthorized" and supposedly untrained torture methods seem both extremely sophisticated and extremely similar to formal methods of torture developed by the CIA and then banned in the 80s. Either way, nowhere are these allegations of complicity through unofficial approval more clear than in the case of the Abu Ghraib prison; the place that has come to symbolize the entire problem of "detainee" abuse, both because of the extreme and poignant nature of the abuse there and because supporters of the Bush Administration have been trying so incredibly hard to pretend it's the only place where any kind of prisoner abuse happened ever.

The nature of the abuse at Abu Ghraib-- clearly violent, obscenely sexual, and clearly wrong by any conceivable moral code-- probably doesn't need any kind of introduction whatsoever, due to the large amount of media coverage it received, and the fact that the photos are all over the internet anyway. What hasn't been covered quite as well, and may require stressing, is the quiet insistence by the now-crucified individual troops perpetrating the abuse at Abu Ghraib that their superiors knew what was happening and were if anything encouraging it the entire time. This claim has been disputed, but what isn't in dispute is that absolutely nobody higher up the chain was placing any limits or official guidance whatsoever on the treatment of those prisoners. An internal Army investigation into the Army prison system in the wake of Ghraib going public-- despite being criticized in some corners for not looking into some of the cases where the worst abuse was alleged-- managed to find 94 incidents of confirmed or probable prison abuse at 16 different facilities in multiple countries, and concluded that "soldiers were inadequately trained and lacked proper supervision and clear orders"; based on this they concluded the problem was not "systemic" and "should be viewed as what they are -- unauthorized actions taken by a few individuals".

Meanwhile back at Abu Ghraib, Lyndie England, the most infamous of the abusers (probably because she wound up looking creepiest in the photos), claimed for months that "all of us who have been charged, we all agree that we don't feel like we were doing things that we weren't supposed to, because we were told to do them"; and claimed she was ordered to pose for some of those photos, and felt "kind of weird" doing so. Meanwhile documentation kept by the operators of the prisons as well as Army investigations showed that these operators were untrained and lacked credentials for the job they'd been handed, were given no resources on the proper interrogation and handling of prisoners either by superiors or the "Other Governmental Agency" interrogators frequently passing through, were never told to hold back in future on anything, and were constantly begging for resources just to keep the prison running; and other soldiers testified that while the abuse was happening higher-ups constantly "told us to keep it up, we were doing a good job''.

It is easy here to just claim that the Abu Ghraib guards were The Most Evil Americans Ever and so all these claims they make must clearly be a lie, but in doing so we risk missing something terribly important about what exactly we are doing to the soldiers fighting these new wars. People are very interested in focusing on what monsters the soldiers at Ghraib were, but terribly disinterested in trying to figure out how they got that way. America's troops in Iraq are all in a horribly difficult position. Untrained troops running a prison in a war zone mostly staffed by mercenaries-- whoops, I mean "security contractors"-- are in a position difficult to the point where it would break most normal minds. The Ghraib guards didn't enter Iraq as evil people; the capacity to do evil was brought out in them by the circumstances they were placed in. When you consider the extent to which those exact same circumstances are replicated all over the zone of anarchy that is post-"Mission Accomplished" Iraq, one begins to wonder how we are expected to be so stupid as to seriously believe Abu Ghraib was the only place where these circumstances produced abuse.

We're persistently told over and over to "support our troops", but this only seems to last insofar as it means supporting the war; none of that support seems to really be getting through to the individuals on the ground. Certainly the troops in the Abu Ghraib scandal weren't being supported by anyone in the entire world either before or after the scandal broke, and after the scandal broke the people most vehement about denouncing the troops at Abu Ghraib while absolving the military structure that put them there seem to have been the same people who normally yell "support our troops" loudest. Meanwhile the military structure does get absolved; the plausible deniability of the system where physical torture is "unapproved" yet encouraged neatly shields the Bush Administration in the press from anything they can claim to be beyond the military's guidelines, and Abu Ghraib would seem to be outside any conceivable guidelines. But considering that (despite the "FEW BAD APPLES" screaming) several of the things that had people seriously upset in the Abu Ghraib photos were specifically listed in Rumsfeld's original 17 Things You Can Do To Prisoners memo from 2002-- and considering that claims and evidence that Abu Ghraib wasn't the only unsupervised or abusive prison in Iraq or even the only one where photos were taken for fun (just the only one where the media got hold of evidence) are abundant, yet receive little attention or investigation-- you kind of have to wonder what good these guidelines are. And in a situation where nothing is clearly prohibited and the only thing that is known is that interrogators are allowed or expected to be "more aggressive" than what normal moral guidelines like the U.S. Army Field Manual or the Geneva Convention would normally demand, can we really say anything at all is a violation of the guidelines?

Well, there's certainly one easy way to answer that question: Come up with some guidelines, put "legal" and "illegal" combatants alike under their protection, and then you won't have that problem.

Which brings us to yesterday.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defying President George W. Bush, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to regulate the Pentagon's treatment of military detainees in the wake of abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere.

The Senate voted 90-9 for a bipartisan amendment to establish rules for detainee interrogation and treatment, even though the Republican administration said the measure would tie its hands as it fights terrorism and threatened to veto a $440 billion bill to fund the Pentagon if it contained them.

The amendment from Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, would establish the U.S. Army field manual as the standard for interrogations and bar degrading and inhumane treatment of anyone in U.S. military custody.

Another amendment to the defense bill the Senate was expected to consider this week would clarify the legal status of enemy combatants at the Guantanamo Bay military prison and increase congressional oversight of their detention and release.

McCain said the rules would help U.S. soldiers, who are under intense pressure to extract intelligence from prisoners but blamed when there are excesses. ...

Jabbing at the administration in which he served, retired four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell backed McCain's amendment, which he said in a letter would "help deal with the terrible public diplomacy crisis created by Abu Ghraib."

This can't undo the problems we've seen so far, but it could really more or less end them in future. This simple amendment would both bar the psychological torture-- or if you like, "coercive"-- methods now on the Bush Administration approved list, and end the situation of unclear guidelines that have been claimed by some-- well, including me above-- to have caused the situation at Abu Ghraib. We cannot guarantee good interrogation practices unless actual training is done, but at least under this amendment a clear and humane statement of "this is where the line is, this is what you should do" would supplant the old "go as far as you need to, if you cross the line we'll arrest you" logic.

The Bush Administration and its supporters have all along walked a funny line of simultaneously defending unsavory interrogation practices as necessary while denying that the same practices are actually happening, and so the Bush Administration is pretty unhappy about this amendment. In fact, as of yesterday morning, Bush was threatening that he would veto McCain's amendment if it passed, even though it's attached to a huge and crucial military appropriations bill, and even though in his five years in office Bush hasn't vetoed a single bill yet. (Bush is, in fact, the first president since James A. Garfield not to veto anything, and Garfield spent over three years of his one term in office dead.) Considering that the show of support for McCain's amendment turned out considerably higher than the estimates yesterday were pegging it at-- 91 senators out of 100 is easily more than one would need to override a veto-- it seems extremely improbable that Bush would actually follow through on this threat now, since at this point there seems to be nothing to gain from doing so except bad publicity. So what does Bush do next? So far the amendment has only been accepted by the Senate, not yet the House; can the administration bully the House into rejecting something 91 senators voted for? And once the amendment goes through, with or without Bush's support, does Bush's military implement it?

Well, in any case, we'll see what happens next.

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McCain passes amendment to end torture of detainees; Bush threatens veto | 106 comments (64 topical, 42 editorial, 2 hidden)
The really depressing thing (none / 0) (#106)
by shinshin on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 03:51:19 PM EST
(shinshin)

is that the While House knew it would pass overwhelmingly, and still went on record saying they would veto it. Which can only mean that they want to send a message to their "Jacksonian America" constituency they they aren't going to let a bunch of panty-waist cry-baby liberal activists like McCain stop them from knocking around a few towelheads when they feel like it. There are a lot more Americans who are shamelessly pro-torture than any of us would like to admit.
________
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
  To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
  Pro patria mori. --Owen

Two thoughts. (none / 1) (#93)
by jd on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 02:28:14 PM EST

First, the practices are awfully similar to banned CIA practices because they were developed by the same person. The Men Who Stare At Goats is not the best piece of investagtative journalism out there, but it does cover this specific issue and does describe how America got to where it is today.

Second, the President's veto power is overriden at a 67% majority. Here, we have a 90% majority. It is hard to imagine President Bush being so stupid, but he may decide to disregard Congress on this matter. Should he do so, then it will matter little whether he is right or wrong. What will matter is that he would have given himself totalitarian powers, Congress being relegated to mere advisors that he can ignore if he doesn't like the advice.

Actually, this made me laugh (none / 1) (#88)
by t1ber on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 01:19:29 PM EST
(josh_at_knarrnia_dot_com) http://www.knarrnia.com

Let's face it, you're in their country, if you don't like their rules, get the fuck out of it.

OK, ok, so we're supposed to treat them with the Geneva Convention provisions, but they get to play by their own rules? Is it because they didn't sign the Geneva Convention? Shouldn't that mean that they don't get to enjoy it's provisions? Or is it a local thing: Like the Geneva Convention applies to some countries, but not others, but we should be really careful where we have our wars?

If the US fought by their rules, there would simply be indiscriminant bombing until the country was sand and glass. After all, there's some bad guys in that square mile! Damn the civilians and innocents, we're going to kill some bad guys!

Not to make the comparison argument... (2.00 / 2) (#78)
by t1ber on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 12:00:30 PM EST
(josh_at_knarrnia_dot_com) http://www.knarrnia.com

But I'll make the comparison argument.  We treat people a lot better then others treat us.  McCain of all people should know this.

Secondly, the Geneva Convention is a straw man.  With most of the insurgency imported (IE:  I seriously doubt that Iraqi voter turnout would be so high if it were purely local -- I doubt these people go vote and then pick up an RPG and go shoot at the people who enabled them to vote), that means that the current insurgency is coming to Iraq with the intent to fight.  Now, even Hamas is decent enough to fly a flag and wear lime-green tunics when Hamas fights.  The current Iraq insurgency is the living human scum of the Earth.  These people come to fight -- without wearing uniforms or obeying the laws of combat -- and then fade into the crowd.  The worst part about it is that this effectively uses the noncombatants as cover.  Then they try to use the Geneva Convention or whatever such bullshit when they themselves won't honor it.  If you tried to tell the cop that he couldn't arrest you because "You were speeding also, Officer, how am I supposed to honor your authority when you did it too?", you would be lucky if he didn't punch you in the mouth for being so stupid AND write you a ticket.  

Seriously:  The insurgency needs to grow a fucking spine.  I'll be worried about Abu Gharib when there's a beheading of a detainee.  You realize some people pay to wear used womens underwear, right?

McCain shouldn't pass new laws when existing ones arn't being enforced.  He should call for reformation of enforcement.

The Fishback letter (none / 1) (#72)
by The Diary Section on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 09:47:07 AM EST

I think its worth reading this little nugget if you haven't already. I said to mcc in an editorial comment that perhaps reading this explains why the "few bad apples" argument is almost entirely without merit. Indeed, Fishback himself is very quick to defend his position against many of the usual criticisms thrown in the direction of those who are against torture of prisoners.

So don't threaten or dictate to us until you're marching up Whitehall! And even then we won't listen.

Missing the point by a mile (1.20 / 5) (#65)
by A Bore on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 07:25:15 AM EST

So much of the criticism of Bush's coercive technique policy is based on the fact that torture doesn't produce reliable information. But let's face facts: the Army knows this. Bush knows this. Cheney et al. knows this. So the coercsion isn't aimed at producing reliable intelligence.

What these techniques DO help with, however is Army morale. In fact, I'd go so far as to say they are essential for the morale of the troops. Face facts, our soldiers over there are outnumbered, outgunned and fighting a intensely frustrating and dangerous guerilla campaign. They need to let off some steam from time to time.

These coercive techniques are like a safety valve, moreover one that can occassionally serve a useful purpose. And anyway, I'm with Coulter on this, handcuffing some terrorist, making him wear underwear, getting a dog to bark at him - all these are hardly what John McCain experienced in Hanoi. John McCain is the very last person to be listened to on torture - his own treatment has left him with deep psychological scars - he is made inherently biased by his history.

No, this low grade so called torture is a useful tool. The real stuff is left over to the Iraqis anyway, who have much better and more recent experience in this. You have nothing to worry about - they are the professionals, and no American soldier will be called upon to do that sort of extreme nastiness. Trust your government.
Request: CYOA: The Life of Baldrson
Why have soldiers do this kind of job? (2.87 / 8) (#63)
by the77x42 on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 03:56:12 AM EST
(d@ve.smells)

I'm a guard at a prison. No, seriously -- it's a youth prison for kids aged 12 - 18.

Due to local government policy limiting violent offenders as the only youth sent to jail, I've dealt with the absolute SCUM of society. As far as beatings go though, the worst thing I've seen is a wedgie, and it wasn't out of abuse, more like when friends do it to each other. Having said that, it's dead simple and highly tempting to pummel a kid. Thing is, NOBODY does it. No matter how much they are getting under your skin, you NEVER touch an inmate in a violent way -- even when they are threatening to kill your family (this happens daily).

How it is that torture systematically happens around the world to helpless victims, performed by people who have no real gain out of it?

There must some military torture-training that goes on, but, that training must be put in place by someone. People are not pulling these techniques out of their asses -- and how can the higher-ups (assuming they are human) let this behaviour slide?

Maybe the guards get some pleasure out of torturing prisoners. I'll grant you that there might be a few people like this, but looking at WWII, Vietnam, Rwanda, Guatemala, and Iraq -- there must be hundreds if not thousands of people who derive this pleasure.

I'm willing to bet though, that this amusement is transcends from the overall military training attitude of "kill, kill, kill". Essentially the government is training efficient killers. It's naive to think that when people are in this mindset that torture won't happen to perceived 'enemies'.

I'm not suggesting training soldiers to "love, love, love", but at least when you are setting up a long-term facility (like Guantanamo), have qualified people looking after prisoners. Believe it or not, you don't simply lock them in a cell and bring them food.


This is not a lie... or is it...yes, it is...? ־‮־

A lot has changed... (2.62 / 8) (#62)
by megid on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 03:34:54 AM EST

In Germany, after World War II, most soldiers were glad to be in american prisons instead of russian ones. Currently I guess it wouldnt make much of a difference. Good thing to see that this is at least partially changing now.

There would still be the problem of "outsourcing torture" to nations which are less intensely monitored, though.

Btw, is it normal that no one fucking cares about the prisoners? It is all about "damaging to our reputation", "bad for our soldiers", etc. Compassion is out of fashion or what? ("they are still humans" et. al.)

--
"think first, write second, speak third."

here are my opinions . . . (none / 0) (#60)
by yonyonson on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 02:23:22 AM EST
(yonyonson@gmail.com)

i loved the flow of the intro and body.  deeper in the main body i was really hoping you'd wrap things up with something regarding the amendment and you succeeded.  =)  However i have would say the conclusion to this article was mediocre at best.  

The leading sentence after the news article is far from insightful and just reiterates an already stressed and saturated point.  Also the final paragraph really has nothing better to say than to rally a shit-on-Bush sentiment.  Why have this in there?  Grab the big picture(tm) and express YOUR ideas.

Thank you for the article.  I enjoyed it and learned a lot.

Yon. Y.

uber mega +1 FP (3.00 / 6) (#55)
by kalokagathos on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 12:29:16 AM EST
(james dot gray at gmail dot com)

Well-written, comprehensively referenced and linked, insightful.

On a side note, I find it rather disappointing that an article four or five printed pages long is considered by some readers to be excessively verbose. If most Americans of voting age are taxed horrendously by reading continuously for more than thirty seconds, I suppose that a second Bush term makes sense, under the circumstances.

"About who we are" (3.00 / 9) (#51)
by Benny Cemoli on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 11:22:41 PM EST
(obiwan_cemoliatyahoodotcom)

McCain: "Mr. President, let me just close by noting that I hold no brief for the prisoners. I do hold a brief for the reputation of the United States of America. We are Americans, and we hold ourselves to humane standards of treatment of people no matter how evil or terrible they may be. To do otherwise undermines our security, but it also undermines our greatness as a nation. We are not simply any other country. We stand for something more in the world - a moral mission, one of freedom and democracy and human rights at home and abroad. We are better than these terrorists, and we will we win. The enemy we fight has no respect for human life or human rights. They don't deserve our sympathy. But this isn't about who they are. This is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies."

"the fabric of space quivers at the touch of even a microbe."

You sure about that first veto? (2.66 / 3) (#49)
by mtrisk on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 11:08:29 PM EST
(mtrisk at gmail dot com)

I distinctly recall Bush threatening to veto a bill overruling his requirements per federal funding for stem cell research. But now 91 Senators opposing him? Heh, it's good to see the Executive and Legislative at odds with one another again. Reminds me of the Clinton years.

---
"The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within." - Gandhi
Bush won't be happy (2.85 / 7) (#42)
by Chewbacca Uncircumsized on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 09:07:34 PM EST
(somebody@someplace.corp)

Until that day he gets to torture McCain himself. Heh heh heh, just like the Hanoi Hilton, eh John? I wouldn't know!

No (1.50 / 10) (#39)
by nailgun on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 08:41:48 PM EST

Throughout the ages, humans have used torture as a useful adjunct to more restrained practices of punishment and interrogation. Torture is really nothing more than an amplification of the natural human urge to inflict pain, which manifests itself in forms of behavior from children's teasing to S&M Sex games.

It is therefore undeniable that attempts to abolish torture will be no more successful than efforts to ban alcoholic beverage consumption, online file-sharing, or violent video games.

Like the drive to kill, the natural human tendency to cause suffering in others cannot be eliminated, only directed toward constructive goals, like averting terrorist attacks.

It is one of the conclusions of the empricicst world view that the "morality" which motivates today's reformers seek to ban torture is an artificial construct of the human imagination, like woodland spirits or Santa Claus. It is in fact this very notion of "morality" that brought about the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, and the Bush adminsitration's ill-advised, horrendously mismanaged attempt to subjugate Iraq.

It is indeed no accident that posturing moralist John McCain, sponsor of oh-so-virtuous anti-torture amendments, was and remains a major supporter of the fighting in Iraq.

Next I suppose McCain will recommend the use of magical divining rods as a solution to dwindling fresh water supplies. The history of mankind is just one continuous lesson in how to be a bunch of useless bickering fuckwits.

It's a good start (3.00 / 4) (#36)
by Hung Fu on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 07:56:39 PM EST
http://www.thyla.com/

This bill will certainly improve America's tarnished image when it comes to human rights and garner respect from the world community.

However, we shouldn't be breaking out the champagne just yet. The CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program still sends American prisoners to authoritarian governments known to use torture against dissidents. The recipient states include Uzbekistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt where the prisoners may be beaten, boiled alive, have their nails plucked out or be electoshocked. The sale of Western torture equipment to these regimes ensures they have the latest technology at their disposal.

And although the bill prohibits psychological torture, there are subtle but highly effective methods that don't leave a mark - for instance, sleep deprivation, which the Pentagon has publicly admitted to using, will often drive people psychotic. Given how easy it is to torture, we can't really be sure it's not going on unless there is more transparency and accountability for those in command instead of scapegoating a few "bad apples". It would also help if America wasn't indefinitely holding so many people without charge.
__

Kill the Terrorists! Spruce up Jesus!

Congratulations, yanks (2.71 / 7) (#23)
by ksandstr on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 02:26:35 PM EST
(ksandstr@gmail.com)

You now have a president who has gone on record threatening to personally veto an anti-torture bill. Guess how much every civilized nation will just simply plain love you for voting him in, once this hits the international newswires?

On the other hand, I guess this explains a lot of the western TV stuff from a couple of years ago. You know, the Alias and Shield episodes where main characters basically torture bad guys.

If Bush vetos it (none / 1) (#15)
by wiredog on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 10:02:24 AM EST
(my username at gmail dot com)

Assuming it doesn't get removed by the conference committee and he has an opportunity to veto, if he vetos, it will be the first bill he has ever vetoed.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

The US didn't learn? (3.00 / 10) (#14)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 09:47:53 AM EST
(contact via diary only)

Operation Phoenix was set up to assassinate and torture Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, and from what I've heard about the Operation is that the people who oversaw it learned two things about torture: It is a great way to A. get confessions (regardless of guilt) and B. to hear what you want to hear. ie. torture is not very effective way to gather intelligence. Compounded with the many problems you cite with torture, even when we disregard the ethical implications (which I think we should), torture is something we should avoid.

Why aren't these lessons heeded, or what has changed (are Al-Qaeda insurgents more susceptible to talk than the Vietnamese?)?

--
"What's next, sigging a k5er quote about sigging someone on k5?"


on the subject of enemy combatants (3.00 / 4) (#2)
by krkrbt on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 05:16:13 AM EST
(krackrabbit at yahoo dot com)

... There was a news report last week stating that the United States spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined.  So if you want to fight the modern United States Military, abiding by "laws of war" set up for essentially equally powerful nation-states (e.g., 1910's france vs. germany vs. britain) is just plain suicide.  

Hence, gorilla warfare is the only thing these "rebels" (or rather, "freedom-fighters" - I'm currently reading John Perkin's Confessions of an Economic Hitman, and it seems that there's really no other label that's more appropriate) can do to have a chance at throwing off the empire that's intent on ruining their traditional way of life..

It's now bed time, so nothing more tonight.. :)

McCain passes amendment to end torture of detainees; Bush threatens veto | 106 comments (64 topical, 42 editorial, 2 hidden)
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