Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Torture Debate

It seems that my post about torture has touched off a spirited and yet civil debate about the use of torture in relations to terrorism. In another post, I debated with a someone who thought you had use such methods in order to prevent terror attacks. That brought this response from the same writer:

It is always great to engage in debate, and I thank you for taking the time out to read my comment.

First, quite frankly I don't care about the show. I do not dislike it for very legitimate reasons but have not seen anything on it that attracts me. The underlying issue, I am all for a woman President but think this show is a very shallow effort to portray that possibility.

Moving on to more important things, I am as outraged as anybody by Abu Gharib. I am disgusted by the outright disregard of human rights. I do however recognize that Abu Gharib was not a legitimate exercise in torture. It was not condoned by anyone of any power and was conducted in the secrecy of the night by one very screwed up unit led by an equally idiotic NCO.

Torture that I approve of, and I believe Dick Cheney does as well, is done in a controlled and concentrated manner by those specifically trained to do so. The CIA has such capabilities (to cite sources I would have to wade through various texts) and uses "outsourced" assets as described in various articles. Torture does not and should not happen or be condoned in large military prisons etc etc .

This is what Dick Cheney wants and this is what I see as legitimate means to protect the United States and its forces.

France did do it in its last counter insurgency conflict. Torture is a tool in an effort to protect one's populace. There is no abstract principle that outweighs that. That which is arguably the first major reason for the creation of government. Torture is a tool that has been proven in the French and Israeli Wars. If treating prisoners with respect leads to the murder of one of our citizens... We did something wrong.

And that is why I want to reiterate that I do not support, and do not believe Dick Cheney does either, mass torture. Just someone who can use a tool. And I doubt the CIA will publicly release information about detained, tortured and thereafter killed suspects as you imply in the scenario you painted. Yes this does bring up issues of a deep dark government that is not transparent to the populace. But that is something that has been happening for literally all of our existence.

Also hearing of Muslims being killed in detainee camps also has negative repercussions. Rather than solely driving terrorist recruitment as you state, it may also serve the same purpose as publicized failed attacks, would be terrorists see what happens if you try to fight back and don't join. It's as logical as your argument.

So there it is, and will probably be followed up with a post on my own blog, my argument for Cheney's amendment to McCain's amendment.

That then brought another response, this time from a frequent writer named Mitch/Mike who began his repose by quoting Sholky, the first writer:

Torture is a tool in an effort to protect one's populace. There is no abstract principle that outweighs that.

That abstract principle is clearly laid out in our own constitution, i.e. the inalienable rights of human beings based solely on the fact that they are human beings.

One other thing: Senator McCain was tortured in Vietnam. He didn't give up any info under duress, or even when they offered him medical attention for his severely broken leg. If John McCain tells me torture is wrong, I will tend to defer to him because I, personally have never been subjected to torture. But he has...he knows better than any of us what effect it has.

A frequent writer named Brian picked up in Sholky's thoughts regarding the use of torture by the French:

Sloky is right that the French used it in the last counterinsurgency effort. It's worth recalling that conflict.

Probably one of the most powerful arguments against torture was made by the French Gen. Jacques Massu. Massu was head of French forces in Algeria during the infamous Battle of Algiers (made famous in the film of the same name). French forces practiced torture in the Battle of Algiers and elsewhere during the Algerian War. So he would know as well as anyone the pros and cons of torture.

A few years ago, Massu concluded that the use of torture was not only unnecessary but ultimately destructive both to the French cause and the French troops who were doing the torture... and even those who weren't. Furthermore, he found that information extracted from torture was very unreliable.

"A gagrene at the heart of the republic," is how I think he called the whole mess. Torture debases those who do it and those in whose name it is done... all without a shred of evidence that it provides any benefit, let alone a greater benefit than the terrible cost.

Sholky responds:

Yes but he was talking about torture used as a generic tool and used across the board as "just another tool".
Cheney is talking about a specific sector of the national security apparatus being able to use the tool. It would continue to be banned in the DOD and other sectors of government. In a timebomb scenario, I want the ability to torture whoever necessary in order to prevent planes crashing into buildings.

I will give Sholky credit for actually showing respect in this debate instead of taking the low road. It is good to see people talking instead of shouting at one another.

I will end this post with one more comment, this from Paul in Florida:

There is no justification, EVER, for the use of torture. There are other ways of gathering information, better ways of gathering information. Torture is the work of lazy, self-satisfied bullies who only care about results, no matter the cost and no matter the consequences.
If we allow torture to be condoned in any way shape or form we allow the bullies to win. NEVER.

Thanks to all who commented.


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