It’s almost 100 days of torture and we can’t take it anymore.
Any doubt that torture works has been removed. Torture works – and it hurts, it hurts.
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It is torture to be subjected to so many supposedly intelligent people poring over so many words and events and miss the obvious.
Let’s solve one major mystery immediately before addressing the issue of torture and whether the United States should engage in it. Why did Obama reverse what he and his flacks have been saying for so long? Simple answer: no TelePrompter.
The New York Times could not divine that simple answer. They were stumped at the Grey Lady:
President Obama on Tuesday left open the door to creating a bipartisan commission that would investigate the Bush administration’s use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects, and he did not rule out taking action against the lawyers who fashioned the legal guidelines for the interrogations.
Mr. Obama, who has been saying that the nation should look ahead rather than focusing on the past, said he is “not suggesting” that a commission be established.
But in response to questions from reporters in the Oval Office, he said, “if and when there needs to be a further accounting,” he hoped that Congress would examine ways to obtain one “in a bipartisan fashion,” from people who are independent and therefore can build credibility with the public.
Get it? The Obama flacks were stating policy but Obama himself is such a dimwit eager to please boob he made a mess of things. Answering questions without a TelePrompter and without preparation Obama bungled his answer.
Earlier in the week, Obama had ordered release of memoranda on the justifications for “harsh interrogations” prepared by the George W. Bush administration. That led to calls by former Vice President Dick Cheney for release of additional memos which supposedly would prove the “harsh interrogations” had extracted valuable information and had made the nation safe from more 9/11 style attacks. That increased the hubbub even more and all sorts of elected officials started saying all sorts of things.
Jane Harman became involved in a mess of what did she know and what did she promise to whom. Nancy Pelosi and Dimocrats all over the place denied they knew about the torture even as evidence increased that they indeed had been informed of the torture and even protested about whether the agency was doing enough.
Old stories resurfaced about Democrats Pelosi and Jane Harman and Bob Graham and Jay Rockefeller and their C.I.A. tours through detention sites and the “harsh techniques“. It became torture just to try to keep the stories straight. It was torture to try to figure out what was what. (It promises to get messier as the Justice Department, because of an ACLU lawsuit, will release lots more photographs of abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq.)
The mess forced Obama to visit the Central Intelligence Agency to assure them he was going to “protect” them. C.I.A. officials soon learned Obama can’t be trusted.
Mr. Obama tried to calm the situation on Monday with his first visit to C.I.A. headquarters since taking office. Concerned about alienating the agency, Mr. Obama went out of his way to lavish praise on intelligence officers, using words like “indispensable,” “courage” and “remarkable” and promising his “support and appreciation.”
Past Directors of the C.I.A. and Leon Panetta, had told Obama not to release the memoranda. Obama however released the memoranda in order to continue his “blame Bush” justifications.
Most importantly, Obama knows better than to mess with people who know the secrets. It wasn’t morale Obama was worried about when he visited the C.I.A. Aides said Mr. Obama worried about damaging morale at the C.I.A. and his own relationship with the agency. That’s right B.O. – don’t mess with the people who know the secrets and can expose your own dirty deeds.
The C.I.A. immediately fought back against Obama. The Agency stood by a May 30, 2005 memorandum which stated that “waterboarding” had extracted information from Al Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad which helped thwart another hijacked airliner attack on Los Angeles. Waterboarding was employed on Sheik Mohammad and two others.
This was because the CIA imposed very tight restrictions on the use of waterboarding. “The ‘waterboard,’ which is the most intense of the CIA interrogation techniques, is subject to additional limits,” explained the May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo. “It may be used on a High Value Detainee only if the CIA has ‘credible intelligence that a terrorist attack is imminent’; ‘substantial and credible indicators that the subject has actionable intelligence that can prevent, disrupt or deny this attack’; and ‘[o]ther interrogation methods have failed to elicit this information within the perceived time limit for preventing the attack.’”
And there are a lot of dirty deeds to expose. Dimocrats originally thought it would be Bush administration officials who would be burned by the memoranda and therefore yelled for investigations of the torture and the torturers. Bushies like John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury, the lawyers who prepared the “torture” memoranda were the original targets of the proposed investigations. When it became apparent that Pelosi and her fellow Dimocrats were complicit in the torture, the idea of investigations became less tasty.
The torture will eventually be investigated but not with regard to what Dimocrats knew and when Dimocrats knew it. The Senate Armed Services Committee will release a report and the House and Senate Judiciary Committees think they want some sort of “Truth Commission”. If laws were broken, and there is sufficient evidence to suggest laws were broken, the executive branch of government must investigate. But Obama is not one to care about illegal activity nor its prosecution.
Obama will huff n’ puff about lost moral bearings. But the law? Pish-posh. For Chicago politicians like Obama, the law is something to be evaded not enforced.
Obama’s mistake was to answer questions without a TelePrompter nor an aide around to slap down his stupid answers. In Big Media world, that simple explanation never was suspected. Big Media scratched it’s collective head and wracked it’s collective “brain” to try and figure out why boob Obama had done such a stupid thing.
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Torture works. What “works” means is open to a lot of questions. But torture “works”. Schoolyard bullies know torture works and that they can force their victims to denounce mothers as combat boot wearing horrors and themselves as whatever the bully wants.
Torture works. Torture anyone who denies that torture works and you will force them to say torture works.
The schoolyard bully who tortures and torments victims is a less developed practitioner of the grisly arts perfected by “intelligence” agencies around the world. But that schoolyard bully is an everyday manifestation of the hidden arts practiced by grown ups in secret agencies and for pay.
Torture works. The current debate on torture has to start off from that simple premise. If torture does not work then we merely have a simple argument about governments and their “intelligence” agencies doing something stupid which they can stop doing without harm to the national interests. But the reason “torture” is torture to figure out is because it does work. Here is a good explanation by Gary Kamiya who invokes the categorical imperative and explains the issue better than he answers it:
Torture is wrong. It is condemned by every civilized nation and by international law. There is, however, one situation in which torture might theoretically be morally justified. This is the so-called “ticking bomb” scenario, which in one form or another has been debated by philosophers and ethicists for hundreds of years. Suppose we know that a captive has planted a bomb in a school, which is due to explode in a few hours. The captive refuses to say in what school he planted the bomb. Are we justified in torturing one depraved individual to save the lives of hundreds of innocent children?
In their response, philosophers divide into two camps. The Kantians, those who believe that human beings have a categorical imperative to treat other humans as ends, not as means, say we are never justified in torturing, no matter how legitimate the goal. The Benthamites or utilitarians say that we are justified, because in this case torture is the lesser of two evils. [snip]
Obama’s intelligence director, Dennis Blair, echoed this argument in a memo, writing, “High-value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the Al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.” Former Bush intelligence chief Michael Hayden said, “The use of these techniques against these terrorists really did make us safer, it really did work.”
The argument that torture works cannot simply be dismissed. During World War II, for example, the Gestapo used torture with considerable effectiveness on captured agents working for Britain’s Special Operations Executive, the top-secret organization dedicated to sabotage and subversion behind Axis lines. A number of agents, unable to withstand the pain or, in some cases, even the prospect of pain, told their captors everything they knew, including the identity of other agents, the arrival time of flights, and the location of safe houses. During France’s brutal war in Algeria, the colonial power used torture effectively. As historian Alistair Horne, the author of the classic analysis of the French-Algerian war, “A Savage War of Peace,” told me in a 2007 interview, “In Algeria, the French used torture — as opposed to abuse — very effectively as an instrument of war.
Torture works. We knew torture works as children, either by stories of schoolyard bullies, or after watching World War II Gestapo potboilers (such as the James Cagney film 13 Rue Madelaine in which secret agent Jimmy is a target of an air raid. Jimmy must be killed by his own friends because he knows important secret information and is being tortured by the Gestapo for that information. The good guys know it is only a matter of time before good ol’ Jimmy “breaks” and they sadly order his death by air raid. As the bombs fall Jimmy happily sneers that his secrets will be kept safe.)
Gary Kamiya explains the philosophical arguments well but wimps out by stating that the “ticking bomb scenario” is not a genuine one just a schoolroom discussion subject.
Readers of Big Pink will remember the “ticking bomb scenario” from our September 27, 2007 article Hillary Clinton and American Voters Lied To By Tim Russert. Remember that article?
Russert posed a question premised on a discussion with Bill Clinton on Meet The Press last September 25, 2006. Russert kept hidden that the discussion was with Bill Clinton. Hillary objected to the Russert hypothetical as “dangerous” because it opens “a great big hole in what should be an attitude that our country and our president takes toward the appropriate treatment of everyone”. Russert then, trap baited, went in for the “gotcha” kill.
Russert finally disclosed that “The guest who laid out this scenario for me with that proposed solution was William Jefferson Clinton last year. So he disagrees with you.”
Russert lied. Here is the “gotcha” question transcript which includes the “ticking bomb” scenario:
RUSSERT: I want to move to another subject, and this involves a comment that a guest on “Meet the Press” made, and I want to read it, as follows: “Imagine the following scenario. We get lucky. We get the number three guy in Al Qaida. We know there’s a big bomb going off in America in three days and we know this guy knows where it is. Don’t we have the right and responsibility to beat it out of him? You could set up a law where the president could make a finding or could guarantee a pardon.”
[snip – other candidate answers]
CLINTON: As a matter of policy it cannot be American policy period.
I met with those same three- and four-star retired generals, and their principal point — in addition to the values that are so important for our country to exhibit — is that there is very little evidence that it works.
Now, there are a lot of other things that we need to be doing that I wish we were: better intelligence; making, you know, our country better respected around the world; working to have more allies.
But these hypotheticals are very dangerous because they open a great big hole in what should be an attitude that our country and our president takes toward the appropriate treatment of everyone. And I think it’s dangerous to go down this path.
RUSSERT: The guest who laid out this scenario for me with that proposed solution was William Jefferson Clinton last year. So he disagrees with you.
Russert lied. Bill Clinton did not disagree with Hillary Clinton. Hillary did not have the transcript of the Bill Clinton interview to smack Russert with but she nevertheless slapped Russert down hard. Russert never recovered and NBC never stopped attacking Hillary. We posted then the transcript of the Bill Clinton appearance Russert had referenced and lied about – which is very relevant today:
MR. RUSSERT: What did you think when Colin Powell said, “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism”?
MR. CLINTON: I think he was referring to the, the questions that have been raised about the original evidence, which plagues him and in which he was, I think, unwittingly complicit. I don’t think—I think it’s pretty clear, based on what all the people that worked for him have said. I think he was most worried about the question of torture and the conduct of the prisons at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. And of course, he weighed in in this debate about the extent to which the CIA or others could engage in conduct which clearly violates the Geneva Convention.
Now, we—as you and I talk, and we hear that they’ve reached an agreement, the senators and the White House, and I hope they have. But Colin pointed out that, you know, we’ve got soldiers all over the world. If we get a reputation for torturing people, the following bad things are going to happen: We’re as likely going to get bad information is good, just for people to just quit getting beat on; two, we’re likely to create two or three or five enemies for every one we break; and three, we make our own soldiers much more vulnerable to conduct which violates the Geneva Convention. That is, we can’t expect our friends, much less our enemies, to accept the fact that because we’re the good guys, we get to have a different standard of conduct. And most people think the definition of a good guy is someone who voluntarily observes a different standard of conduct, not someone who claims the right to do things others can’t do.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you outlaw waterboarding and sleep deprivation, loud music, all those kinds of tactics?
MR. CLINTON: Well, I—here’s what I would do. I would figure out what the, what the generally accepted definitions of the Geneva Convention are, and I would honor them. I would also talk to people who do this kind of work about what is generally most effective, and they will—they’re almost always not advocate of torture, and I wouldn’t do anything that would put our own people at risk.
Now, the thing that drives—that, that gives the president’s position a little edge is that every one of us can imagine the following scenario: We get lucky, we get the number three guy in al-Qaeda, and we know there’s a big bomb going off in America in three days and we know this guy knows where it is. Don’t we have the right and the responsibility to beat it out of him? But keep in mind, in 99 percent of the interrogations, you don’t know those things.
Now, it happens like even in the military regulations, in a case like that, they do have the power to use extreme force because there is an imminent threat to the United States, and then to live with the consequences. The president—they could set up a law where the president could make a finding or could guarantee a pardon or could guarantee the submission of that sort of thing ex post facto to the intelligence court, just like we do now with wire taps.
So I, I don’t think that hard case justifies the sweeping authority for waterboarding and all the other stuff that, that was sought in this legislation. And I think, you know, if that circumstance comes up—we all know what we’d do to keep our country from going through another 9/11 if we could. But to—but to claim in advance the right to do this whenever someone takes a notion to engage in conduct that plainly violates the Geneva Convention, that, I think, is a mistake.
We wrote at the time:
Bill Clinton on Meet The Press told Tim Russert that it “is a mistake” to have an advance policy of torture. Hillary said about torture “As a matter of policy it cannot be American policy period.” There is no difference between Bill and Hillary Clinton on torture policy, contrary to Russert’s assertions. In fact, Hillary seemed to track closely Bill Clinton on the mistake that is torture. Hillary noted her conversations with various military generals (as did Obama), all of whom stated to her that regarding torture “there is very little evidence that it works”.
Are Hillary and Bill Clinton in disagreement with us? Does torture not work? Are Hillary and Bill Clinton wrong? Are we wrong?
NO to all the above.
Torture “works” if the definition is a limited one. Yes, torture does work, even friendly “good cop” persuasion “works”, to get false confessions – that is something even the drowsiest police department knows. The difficulty is not in forcing a statement out of a suspect or a schoolyard victim – the problem is getting the truth – and then figuring out whether the suspect knows the truth.
For instance, if you want a great outfit for opening night at the Metropolitan or Paris Opera, you can torture Michelle Obama in order to get the name of her “designer” and all her style tips. However, once you get that information it will do you no good because Michelle Obama’s clothing knowledge is not worth much.
Likewise, a terrorist suspect might provide information regarding bombings but it is possible that the terrorist suspect has been misinformed by his compatriots or does not have the information sought and therefore will either make it up or lie. The trick is to get the truth from someone that knows the truth in a timely manner.
What Hillary and Bill Clinton both understood is that torture as national policy is not a good idea. As a policy torture does generally not work. The extremely ugly truth that Bill and Hillary Clinton understand is that the United States should be absolutely against torture as a policy, but in case of that 1% emergency, all bets are off, and everything must be considered. Bill Clinton put it this way: And I think, you know, if that circumstance comes up—we all know what we’d do to keep our country from going through another 9/11 if we could.
Yes, it is a nod and a wink understanding that torture is to be rejected in 99% of cases, but that in a “ticking bomb” scenario, the options remain open to consideration. It is not an absolutist, egghead, philosophical answer. It is a real life scenario answer with all the real life complexities.
Hillary and Bill Clinton distinguish between the ugly garbage that occurred at Abu Ghraib prison and the “ticking bomb” scenario. At Abu Gharib, and in similar cases the “torture” was really just abuse. Obama politically conflates the disgusting Abu Gharib abuse with the genuine philosophical and practical problem of a modern democratic society which employs “torture” in the Jeremy Bentham Utilitarian lesser of two evils sense – at the risk of losing its “soul”.
After 9/11 we thought there should have been a massive investigation into the massive intelligence failure which resulted in the destruction of the World Trade Center towers and a hit on the Pentagon. George W. Bush however, opposed such an investigation.
After the Titanic disaster, while clothes were still moist there was investigation of the oceanic disaster. After Pearl Harbor while the alerts were fresh, there was an investigation of that disaster.
We like investigations. We want to know the truth. But we want the full truth, not a fake investigation which protects Dimocrats and is a political vendetta to harm Republicans and burnish boob Obama.
Paul Krugman and others today are calling for an investigation on torture. But any investigation cannot be a victory for hypocrites like Pelosi. An investigation cannot be a hding place for hypocrites like Obama who “want to be on both sides of every debate…”
Let’s have an investigation and let’s get everyone on the record.
Let’s have a Truth Commission and let’s get to the bottom of all the rot.
Barack Obama opened the doors but now he wants to shut down an investigation for the “truth”.
The last thing Obama wants is an investigation into the truth. When the hunt for the “truth” commences it is Obama who fears the hounds the most.
For Obama and his Dimocrats, the truth is torture.