June 25, 2007

German Newspaper: Threats are Torture

I guess guys from a country that killed 12 million in ethnic cleansing campaigns and the occasional beastly human "medical experiments" in World War II would be experts on the subject, right?

A German newsmagazine reported Sunday that two of its journalists embedded with troops from the North Carolina-based 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan witnessed Afghan and American soldiers involved in abusing prisoners.

The weekly Focus reported that, while on patrol with troops this month southwest of Kabul, reporter Wolfgang Bauer and photographer Karsten Schoene witnessed an incident they said amounted to torture.

And what, precisely, did they see that amounted to torture?

When the suspect refused to talk, the magazine said, the platoon leader tied one end of a rope to the suspect's foot and the other end to a vehicle, then threatened to drag the man unless he told the truth.

Focus reported that the platoon leader then had an American soldier start the motor. The magazine printed a picture of what it said was the prisoner tied to the vehicle, with a soldier standing nearby.

After idling for two minutes, the vehicle's motor was shut off. The man was not dragged, the magazine reported, and the suspect was set free.

In other words, there was no torture, and it appears the suspect was set free without a scratch on him. But, as the world media continues to lower the bar on what amounts to torture to include empty threats as torture, this journalist sees evidence of a "fake execution."

Funny, how tying a rope around a guy's foot is now equated with drilling kneecaps, amputating limbs, beheadings, and gouging out eyes, which incidentally, is not uncommon at all among Islamic extremists.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 25, 2007 11:04 AM

I think that threatening people with death--especially death by dragging--a form of torture. I would not have permitted any of my soldiers to behave this way, and would have refused an order to do so by a platoon leader or other superior.

Colonel Martin Schweitzer agrees. "So ein Verhalten steht im Widerspruch zu all dem, für das die US-Armee steht und an das sie glaubt," he says in this article: If you can't read German, he says, "Such behavior goes against everything the US Army stands for and believes."

This is *not* the behavior of professional soldiers, and it's no surprise to me that the "leader" here was an Afghan. No US NCO should have stood by and watched without stopping this. It is morally wrong, and even if no actual pain or damage was inflicted on the apprehended person, it does not help our standing among the local population there, nor among Americans here at home, who now may have a lower opinion of our brave troops.

If you cannot see the moral problems--not to mention the lack of professionalism shown by the US soldiers involved--then you need to take another look at the Gospels and US Army training manuals on treatment of prisoners.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at June 25, 2007 11:44 AM


I agree with you that this was unprofessional and reprehensible behavior if true, but calling it "torture" or a "mock execution" is hysteria, and nothing more, which was the point of my post.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at June 25, 2007 11:56 AM

How, exactly, would you define "torture?" 18 U.S.C. § 2340A defines torture as an “act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control.” I think threatening to kill someone, setting up the execution, and making a tied-up prisoner believe that death is imminent counts as "intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering." Alas, sadly, all too many people--including many "Christians"--buy into this out of personal fear of and loathing for a particular group of people.

And even given, for the sake of argument, that this is not torture, it certainly fits any logical definition of "mock execution." They threatened to kill the man if he didn't follow their instructions. What else would you call it--a hazing at Phi Kappa Limbaugh?

At any rate, using these terms to describe what these soldiers did is defensible enough so that doing so is hardly "hysterical." These actions arguably constitute torture under US--not international--law, and it is therefore in no way "hysterical" to say so--even if someone who celebrates a culture built on owning human beings disagrees. More hysterical is your jerking knees reaction, which amounts to "mental torture isn't really torture--you need physical pain and marks on the skin for it to be torture--and besides, these foreign reporters are probably lying if they report that US soldiers are staging mock executions."

Of course, neither of us knows what went on there that day--innocent until proven guilty, and all that. But I for one am very familiar with this publication, and I doubt very seriously that they faked the photo. Either way, we'll know soon enough. In the meantime, I am willing to wager not only that this report is accurate, but that this sort of thing happens all the time--but most GIs are savvy enough to wait until reporters aren't around.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at June 25, 2007 12:53 PM


According to the very regulations you cite, torture is an "act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control."

Clearly, there was nothing even remotely approaching a definition of physical torture, and from my perspective, I don't think I agree that this amounts to "severe" mental pain or suffering, either. He was scared for several minutes, tops, according to even the German media account. Does several minutes of being tied to a truck, even one where the engine gets revved, amount to torture? I'd suggest that while it may amount to abuse, it does not amount to torture.

Nor do I see any indication in the account that anyone claimed he would be dragged "to death," as you conflate, and calling this a "fake execution" strongly pushes the bounds of reality.

I defy you to provide evidence that I celebrate "a culture built on owning human beings." I've clearly explained why my blog was named as it was, which stemmed from comments made by friends in New York teasing me about being a "Confederate Yankee" for being a Southerner living in New York at the time this site was founded, among other reasons.

I realize that you feel it is necessary to stoop to personal attacks for reasons I could, quite frankly, care less about, but if you continue to make such libelous statements devoid of fact, I will ban you from commenting on this blog again.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at June 25, 2007 01:17 PM

Parse definitions of torture and mock execution all you want. At least three people believe that it was or at least may have been, and one of them is a US Army Colonel, who began an investigation. At any rate, whatever your “perspective,” the debatable nature of the terms and the act make using one to apply to the other less than “hysterical,” and remain well within the “bounds of reality.”

You can also claim that the title of your blog and your use of the Confederate Battle Flag in your design mean nothing. I don’t believe it—I think you do celebrate the cultural heritage of the South, even if I can’t prove it. I’m not the only one who feels this way, as you surely know--you provide circumstantial evidence with your title and imagery. If you really don’t think that the Southern states were morally right when they seceded to protect the right to own human beings, you might want to distance yourself a bit more from Southern heraldry. You may also want to state your thoughts on the matter, just to clear the air.

The whining about personal attacks is getting pretty rich. As I have suggested before, you seem more capable of dishing it out than of taking it. Personal attacks are a staple of your blog, and you know it. "Persistent vegetative state," anyone?

A cursory search of your site produces multiple examples of more specific insulting language directed at liberals. Perhaps it is because you live in NC, but you seem particularly rude to John and Elizabeth Edwards, from the “Silky Pony” appellation to directly calling Ms. Edwards an “idiot” (4.26.07). Doesn’t get more personal than that. If you want to toss insults at others, you should try to be a bit more thick-skinned.

As I've said before, ban away—it’s your blog. I challenge you, however, to live up to your own occasional reprimands to stick to facts and reasoned arguments, and make your tone less insulting to liberals. Crying because I accused you of celebrating a culture based on slavery while you run a blog based on routine name-calling and unproven claims of media fraud is hypocritical and pathetic.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at June 25, 2007 03:55 PM

100% illegal and the guy has no business questioning prisoners. This is how real trained interrogators get a bad name. He should and probably will be charged under the UCMJ. If you are going to do something stupid, don't have it witnessed and recorded for posterity. 'Tard.

Posted by: Homer at June 25, 2007 04:10 PM

I wish that they WOULD have dragged the guy around. I am sick to death of this hobbling our troops and playing this damned moral-one-upmanship game. You damn cry-babies would do anything to see our people lose the fight over there.
Better yet, give the prisoner to the Iraqi army guys to let them 'interrogate him.

Posted by: Greg at June 25, 2007 05:29 PM

It's always nice to see folks who claim they support the troops treat the launching of an investigation like an indictment, or even a conviction. Tell me: does the Ilario Pantano acquital fill you with a Sullivanesque "heartache?"

I also find it quie amusing when your fellow liberals claim I'm racist, (and even you admit that there is no "there," there) even as you (collectively) seemed to share such delight when liberal blogger Steve Gilliard painted Michael Steele in blackface, and time and again, attack Michelle Malkin and any other conservatives-of-color as race traitors.

As for the flags in my masthead, you'll note that the topmost flag is an American flag, and not by accident. I further suggest you study your heraldry a bit; that is not a Confederate battle flag.

As for personal attacks, you seem to once again simply prefer to conflate separate things together. If you can't tell the difference between attacking a political figure or ideological movement, and empty, scurrilous personal attacks that you admit have no merit based on anything other than your own "knowing," then I suggest you might want to find another venue where that kind of conflation is accepted... Daily Kos or Americablog just might be your cup of tea.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at June 25, 2007 05:30 PM
[W]hich incidentally, is not uncommon at all among Islamic extremists.

Let's not even go there. When we start excusing our own ugliness by rationalizing that it's less ugly than someone else's ugliness, then the bad guys have won.

Greg: what you call "hobbling the troops," others call "trying to live up to what we're supposed to stand for as a nation." I thought that whole idea was that "they hate us for our (fill in the blank)." Are you suggesting that you want them to hate and envy us for our ruthlessness? That would stink, buddy.

Posted by: Doc Washboard at June 25, 2007 06:26 PM

We have brought this on ourselves.

When the administration refuses to outlaw what anyone not in the thrall of some Jack Bauer fantasy would call torture, we lose all credibility.

And, the fact that torture doesn't work should make even armchair warriors think twice before abandoning the Geneva Accords.

When I read men like Max Boot talk about Abu Ghraib as nothing worse than what happens to trainees in basic, especially when Max Boot has never been through basic, I get angry.

What we went through in basic training is not even a close cousin to the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and this post and every one like it is a disgrace to all of those who have served honorably as MI interrogators and got better, faster, more reliable results than all the closet sadists out there.

What have we become? Why are we codifying barbarity?

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 25, 2007 07:52 PM

I don't think an investigation equals an indictment--hence the "innocent until proven guilty" comment, which you don't believe applies to the folks held without due process at Guantanamo.

I did not call you a racist, I have nothing to do with Steven Gilliard, and I have only acted collectively with liberal bloggers in trying to protect the US and its Constitution against those who would create an imperial Presidency, complete with Vice Presidents who claim executive privilege when trying to hide meetings with energy company CEOs but want to be in the legislature when a Presidential EO requires them to make sure their electronic correspondence is secure from our enemies.

The image in the first two letters of "Yankee" in the title of your blog is the "Stars and Bars," which is one of the battle flags used by Confederate Armies. At least it looks that way from the snippet you used.

And whether or not directed against a political figure or ideological opponent, "I don't know whether Chris Matthews or Elizabeth Edwards is the bigger idiot here per se, be as Edwards is trying to escort Silky Pony into the White House stable, I'd say it is probably her" when directed against Elizabeth Edwards is no less empty and scurrilous a personal attack than "you celebrate a culture based on owning human beings" when directed against the writer of a blog titled "Confederate Yankee" who uses Confederate flags in the design of that blog.

I will say it again: You think it is fine to call names and insult people you don't agree with when they do things you don't agree with, but you want to ban people from your blog who do the same to you. This is the behavior of a ten year old. It is hypocritical and pathetic.

Ban me. And tomorrow morning, while you are shaving, look into your own eyes and try to convince yourself that the behavior you support with this post is moral. Jesus is watching.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at June 25, 2007 09:25 PM

Hello dere, R. Stanton! Just wanted to chime in to say that I'm not Southern by any stretch of the imagination, born and raised and lived well north of U.S. 40. And also glad that my dad and other WWII vets never lived to see the day when the Germans dared to raise their heads to lecture us about anything.

Posted by: Cappy at June 25, 2007 09:29 PM

You guys think thats torture? According to your logic, pointing a gun at someone is torture. Honestly whats the difference? Isnt that the same thing?

Lets start an investigation into every soldier in the military who ever pointed a gun at someone. Honestly I've seen you guys make some good points about torture, but this is completely ridiculous.

Posted by: jbiccum at June 25, 2007 09:33 PM

"Why are we codifying barbarity?"

Do you dispute the fact that war and our enemy is barbaric?

Posted by: jbiccum at June 25, 2007 09:35 PM
Ban me. And tomorrow morning, while you are shaving, look into your own eyes and try to convince yourself that the behavior you support with this post is moral. Jesus is watching.


Oh, I'm sorry... you're actually serious, aren't you?

It must be painful, up there on that cross. Funny, as I never recall their having made one in a tandem model...

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at June 25, 2007 09:42 PM


War and our enemy are indeed barbaric. That's a sad fact. I wish we as a species could evolve beyond this stupid violence, but I know that's not happening in my lifetime. It's one reason I keep a loaded .45 in the house. I'm not going without a fight.

However, as a people we have gotten together with other civilized nations and tried to place some limitations on human barbarity. We know what man is capable of and we try to regulate it. That we're not always successful doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

We make rape and murder illegal, and yet it still occurs.

The difference here is that, as a society, for the first time thanks to the Bush administration's curious reading or the Geneva Accords, we have said that torture is legal.

Most of our allies have reacted in horror to what this administration is doing and they're right. Hence, this article in a German paper.

Do I think tying this guy's ankle to a truck and threatening to drag him is torture? No, I don't. I've seen much worse. But we have set ourselves up as people willing to torture, so as the joke goes, we've determined what we are, now we're just haggling over the price.

And the thing I keep coming back to is that this is completely unnecessary. We don't get good intel through torture because a man will say anything to make it stop.

People who have studied this and interrogated POWs have found that humane behavior, and smart interrogation techniques reveal more reliable intel and does so without sacrificing our principles as a civilized people.

So, with that knowledge I ask again, why are we codifying barbarity? What has become of us?

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 25, 2007 10:14 PM

Funny, how tying a rope around a guy's foot is now equated with drilling kneecaps, amputating limbs, beheadings, and gouging out eyes

Or waterboarding.

Oh wait, we do that one!

Posted by: Random Guy at June 25, 2007 11:30 PM

"In other words, there was no torture, and it appears the suspect was set free without a scratch on him. "

Would you consider it torture if you had found out that Iranians had done this to the captured British sailors? How about if they had locked them in rooms and repeatedly subjected them to freezing temperatures? Prevented them from sleeping? Waterboarded them?

Or would you consider this acceptable behaviour?

Posted by: Rafar at June 26, 2007 03:27 AM

"I'd suggest that while it may amount to abuse, it does not amount to torture."

I honestly cannot believe that this sort of distinction is even being discussed in this day and age.

Posted by: Rafar at June 26, 2007 03:32 AM

"According to your logic, pointing a gun at someone is torture."

Pointing a gun at a prisoner and threatening to kill them unless they give you information *is* torture. It is commonly refered to as a "mock execution" and, if you remember, was one of the things that caused the most suffering to the American hostages that Iran took from your embassy during their revolution.

Posted by: Rafar at June 26, 2007 03:37 AM

Ouch. I think Rafar scored a hit with that one. Over the years, mock executions, when they were carried out with captives, have always been cited as examples of enhanced interrogation or X-treme Mistreatment or whatever the responsibility-dodging euphemism is now.

Posted by: Doc Washboard at June 26, 2007 08:47 AM

Pointing a gun at a prisoner and threatening to kill them unless they give you information *is* torture. It is commonly refered to as a "mock execution"

Wrong. Just pointing a gun at a prisoner and threatening to shoot is NOT a mock execution. Pointing a gun, then pulling the trigger on an empty chamber is.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at June 26, 2007 08:48 AM

"Pointing a gun, then pulling the trigger on an empty chamber is. "

You make an excellent point. Of such fine split hairs is good moral judgement made.

Would you say that revving the engine is equivalent to pulling the trigger on an empty chamber or not?

Why are we even talking about how much of this sort of crap is acceptable? Surely the only civilized answer is "none of it".

In fact it seems that the golden rule is the sensible guide here as in so many things. Maybe something like;

"If you consider an action, when performed on your own troops, countrymen or self, as a form of torture then it is torture."

Posted by: Rafar at June 26, 2007 09:58 AM

Torture? Yea right.

We used to do this sort of thing for fun at the drop zone when it was too windy for drops. The only rough part was plowing through the fire ant mounds out in the landing area.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at June 26, 2007 10:05 AM

Well put, Rafar.

And I'll keep repeating this until someone gives me a decent answer:

People who have interrogated POWs say torture does not work. The intel is not reliable. They do say that humane treatment and proven interrogation techniques do work.

So why are we, as a nation, squandering our principles for barbaric behavior that does not work?

I don't get it. I don't get it at all.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 26, 2007 10:09 AM

"We used to do this sort of thing for fun at the drop zone when it was too windy for drops."

What, to prisoners?

How would you feel if you watched a bunch of hollering Iranians doing it to a captured US marine? Comfortable with it?

Posted by: Rafar at June 26, 2007 10:10 AM

"Would you say that revving the engine is equivalent to pulling the trigger on an empty chamber or not?"

"Of such fine split hairs is good moral judgement made."

To split another hair, does dragging by a vehicle equate with getting shot in the head? I would say that death is assured when putting a bullet in someone's brain while death is only a possibility when getting dragged by a Humvee. Is there a difference between the mental anguish of "This guy is not careful, he might kill me" and "This guy is definitely going to kill right now"?

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at June 26, 2007 10:42 AM

Is it only me who finds it ironic that when it comes to 'torture' its the liberals who see things as black and white while conservatives find room for nuance?

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at June 26, 2007 10:48 AM

"Is there a difference between the mental anguish of "This guy is not careful, he might kill me" and "This guy is definitely going to kill right now"?"

Dunno. Like I ask above, if an Iranian soldier was doing it to, say, your wife, to get her to reveal your location, would you consider it torture?

"Is it only me who finds it ironic that when it comes to 'torture' its the liberals who see things as black and white while conservatives find room for nuance?"

No fair, I've offered an equation based entirely on situational ethics. The Golden Rule is the very epitomy of shades-of-gray thinking.

(I don't have a very nuanced view on subjects like paedophilia either. Some subjects are simply beyond the pale.)

Posted by: Rafar at June 26, 2007 11:03 AM

Is it only me who finds it ironic that when it comes to 'torture' its the liberals who see things as black and white while conservatives find room for nuance?

You misunderstand my take on this. I'm coming from a purely pragmatic position, my feelings about the morality of such things aside.

If torture (as defined by almost everyone in the world except Bush, Cheney, Gonzales and Addington), was effective, I could make an argument for it.

But it is not. So we engage in behavior that makes us a pariah in the eyes of most, corrupts our own people and we get nothing in return.

Practically speaking, this makes no sense.

But black and white? No, I see it more as win/lose, and you and I are not winning a thing.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 26, 2007 11:55 AM

To paraphrase the master of liberal nuance, I think it all depends on what your definition of what torture is. As far as I am concerned, torture is bad m'kay, you shouldn't do torture. But what exactly is torture? Is gouging out eyes torture? Yes. Are drafty prison cells torture? No. Using power drills on people? Yes. Using Eminem? No (well, probably not). Are mock executions torture? Yes. Was this an example of a mock torture? No.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at June 26, 2007 02:18 PM


OK, let's get down to it.

Would you call having your huevos fried by a jolt from a field phone? I wasn't in the room, but I was close enough to hear it.

Would you call standing a child on a frag's spoon, pin pulled, and questioning the parents? I wasn't there, but I know the men who had it done.

Would you call waterboarding torture? Other countries do, but Dick Cheney doesn't.

Would you call beatings torture? We've snatched up at least two innocent people so far, one Canadian and one German, renditioned (don't you just love that euphemism for kidnapping?) them to third countries and had them beaten. I'd call that torture, wouldn't you?

Doesn't it give you pause to know that the only GOP candidate to be against torture is John McCain? Now ask yourself what John McCain might know about torture that Mitt Romney does not.

And I keep coming back to my main question. We know these techniques do not work as well as humane treatment. This has been proven in WWII and most recently in Iraq when Task Force 145 caught Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - without using "enhanced" interrogation.

So, I'll keep asking until someone gives me a good answer: If these techniques don't work as well as humane treatment, why are we making them part of US law and making the US a pariah in the world? What are we getting for all that we've lost?

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 26, 2007 03:10 PM

Is electro-shock torture? I would say yes.

OK, standing a kid on a grenade is not only torture, its incredibly stupid to the point of disbelief. That friend of yours would happen to be John Kerry?

Waterboarding is a pretty broad term that at this point has been so overused as to poison any discussion.

As for the effectiveness of torture, I think no one here has enough information or experience to comment.

Now here is my question. Is the THREAT of physical violence torture? That's really what we are dealing with here.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at June 26, 2007 03:52 PM

Is the threat enough? Ask the VC who stood in the door of the Huey at 800 feet.

Yes, it can be, if the interrogator is imaginative. Interrogators who are into this stuff will tell you that it's not the pain so much as the threat of pain.

Those parents whose little girl was standing on that spoon weren't hurt physically, but it was torture (and it was in Guatemala, not Vietnam.)

I think we do know enough to know that torture doesn't work. There are two articles I'd point you to: one is a paper written by Major Sherwood Moran, a WWII interrogator of Japanese. Here's a quote from the report:

“...successful interrogators all had one thing in common in the way they approached their subject. They were nice to them.”

Here's a guy questioning Japanese POWs during war and those are his conclusions. His report, by the way, is required reading for he Marine intel.

Then there's Bowden's piece in a recent Atlantic that detailed how they caught Zarqawi without torture and what the PR disaster at Abu Ghraib cost us.

So here are peope who do have experience, sixty years apart, and their conclusions are the same. Torture does not work.

Here's another piece from from Mark Bowden:

Then there are methods that, some people argue, fall short of torture. Called "torture lite," these include sleep deprivation, exposure to heat or cold, the use of drugs to cause confusion, rough treatment (slapping, shoving, or shaking), forcing a prisoner to stand for days at a time or to sit in uncomfortable positions, and playing on his fears for himself and his family. Although excruciating for the victim, these tactics generally leave no permanent marks and do no lasting physical harm.

The Geneva Convention makes no distinction: it bans any mistreatment of prisoners.

But we find the Geneva Convention "quaint." When we separate ourselves from the rest of the civilized world, we make ourselves suspect. When other nations believe the US has no principles, how are they to trust our foreign policy.

David Petraeus said that these techniques "violated American values."

And here's a quote from John McCain:

" of the things that sustained us as we underwent torture is the knowledge that, if we had our positions reversed, we would not impose that kind of treatment on them. It's not about the terrorists, it's about us. It's about what kind of country we are. The more physical pain you inflict on someone, the more they're going to tell you what they think you want to know...and if we agree to torture people, we will do ourselves great harm in the world."

So maybe you and I don't have the experience to judge torture, but I think Moran, the members of Task Force 145 and John McCain do.

Until I hear otherwise, I'm going to conclude that torture not only doesn't work, it's also counterproductive to our nation's security.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 26, 2007 04:40 PM

Terrenoire, if torture doesn't work, at least in the right circumstances/situations:

1) Let me strap you into a chair, take your ATM card (credit card, etc), and try to get your PIN number(s) from you. Explain how torture will not work on you.

2) I'm afraid that in Sen. McCain's case, if I understand correctly, torture appears to have worked at one point. I do believe that at least briefly, he complied with their wishes in response. He didn't convert or defect or have his brain washed, but he answered questions and, I think, confessed to something. This would matter more if the Vietnamese torture weren't more ideological in nature.

I doubt much important information - actionable intelligence - was gotten or expected to be gotten through this method. The Soviets did not grind out all those confessions at those show trials because they knew e.g. Kirov to be guilty but could not prove it. It was, broadly, a method of social control.

The US is not interested in massive networked frame-ups to cover up their own defalcations. They want to know where they guy is, where the bomb is, when the attack is. Tell 'em and they'll leave you alone.

3) The US, unlike al Queda, is not interested in torture as a terror tactic. "Kill one to terrify ten thousand!" is I think Sun Tzu or of like vintage. Insofar as we do whatever coercive method, even if we were doing horrible things far outside even your imagination, we are not trumpeting it; we are not dropping off dismembered bodies in Baathist hotbeds, showing decapitations on the Internet. Perhaps we do torture, but aren't really good at it.

4) To extend the premise of 3), if torture does not work, why do the entities who really practice torture (i.e., AQ, Baathists, Sunnis, Shiites, etc., etc., etc.) not seem to be clearly losing or being ineffective? Why is it not ineffective for them? Does it mean two different things for us and for them? Do they seek different objectives from it?

Or, Heaven forfend, is there a double standard in the coverage? (Or, if you like, is one lacking?) When the Japs and the Nazis in WWII committed their atrocities or brutalities - to the extent that it was covered - was it felt obligatory to illustrate that in some fashion we were just as bad?

Yes, Unit 731 performed biowar experiments on countless Chinese and even some American POWs, but the Marines used flamethrowers to clear out those island bunkers in the Pacific. Probably didn't rush over to give them first aid either, even though it might have been possible. Moral equivalence!

Yes, the SS lined up Allied POWs at Malmedy and shot them down. But we shot the guys that did it. Moral equivalence!

Right? How were we not just as bad as the Axis? After all, we beat them, so we must have been even more violent!

I'm just sayin'... a) you would never have done this to FDR; b) if you had tried, he woulda shut you up good.

This whole no-limits-on-the-media thing may be good, subjectively, for advancing morality or what you think is right, but it objectively sucks for getting the US what we want done in this war.

If I believe that the best thing isn't for total media control - to include anything up to and including censorship, detention, interrogation, torture and even summary execution of any uncooperative journalists at will - over the battlespace, it is an entirely theoretical and idealistic belief with no evidence supporting it. Worse than any theism you can decry.

The UK has an Official Secrets Act. The British have D-notices. To emulate them wouldn't be emulating barbarians. How useful would those tools be?

Don't blame yourself if you don't know what I'm talking about, btw. My Media and Society prof at NYU didn't know what a D-notice was either; and from the greasy little bugger's accent, if he didn't learn English in Scotland (or the North of England) he learned it from a Scot (or a Northerner).

You know how there aeem to be no taboos, no limits anymore? Well, there's one, it would appear. You can no longer say "Shut up!" Especially to a newscritter.

Posted by: nichevo at June 26, 2007 09:23 PM

"Is the threat enough? Ask the VC who stood in the door of the Huey at 800 feet."

Sorry thats more than a threat. It has to do physics. 800 feet in the air and you alot of potential energy, which can very easily be turned into kinetic energy. A rope tied to your foot and a running truck has no potential energy at all.

Posted by: jbiccum at June 26, 2007 09:49 PM

Even better, nichevo:

Let's strap David to a chair and ask him for an ATM number he doesn't remember, but that we think he probably does.

Or for an ATM number when he doesn't have an ATM card.

Or for some information that he really, really doesn't want to tell you, but that you can't check as easily as trying out his PIN number, so there's more incentive to simply end the torture by making something up instead of actually giving up the goods.

Hey, let's strap him to a chair and interrogate him until he dies, thereby negating immediate information and all future information.

Let's torture him until his little brother decides to join the jihad.

Let's continue to torture him even after several years have passed and any information he might once have had is irrelevant.

Are those the effective uses of torture you're talking about?

Posted by: Doc Washboard at June 26, 2007 11:00 PM

Your question answers itself. I said *in some cases* it is potentially effective.

I certainly have no reason to think that you, for instance, have any sort of character capable of getting you to keep your mouth shut under sufficient coercion. I could probably get you to sell your mother by switching your coffee for decaf.

However, a better person than you (oh, I don't mean me, let's not get huffy - look into Solzhenitsyn, thousands of examples) might indeed be able to endure pain, humiliation, death, the infliction of same on loved ones, etc. This is enough to demonstrate that torture should not be used in a broad-brush approach.

Which I have said, if you had been listening.

As for the rest:

I am not unconvinceable. Neither are the interrogators.

But if the wallet was found in your hip pocket, and the pictures are all of you, and the curve of it fits your ass, then I bet the Visa in it, with the same name as the driver's license, is yours.

If the card is yours, then either you have the PIN or you know the SSN, mother's maiden name, favorite color, etc., needed to retrieve it. (If you have amnesia or brain damage, then there are probably other tipoffs to that.) These things can be checked - where did your mother go to college? What year? Let's get a yearbook. SSN? I bet somewhere there is a database of those. Etc., etc.

If it is not yours, then where did you get it? Where does he live? Where do we find him? Etc., etc.

If there is something he really wants to hold onto - well then, he ain't innocent, is he? That's what really turns your stomach, right? The idea that we might be hurting some little lamb in the wrong place in the wrong time, or denounced by a vengeful ex, or some such?

Once we have established guilt, a la "Yeah I know, and I ain't telling," then your conscience can rest easy on this score. Doesn't mean we get the intel, but at least you can quit whining.

As for killing him prematurely - yes a danger, and yes to be avoided, but if he's so resistant, perhaps he was never going to give it up. But by all means if it might do some good, save him to work on some more later...think up a psyop...find relatives, pretend you're going to hand him over to the Mossad or the Mukharabat or the Savak.

Incidentally, I have no problem with some attempts at bribery, bamboozlement, religious conversion, dialogue of all sorts. They all have their place. However none are universally effective any more than torture is universally effective.

As for his little brother? Gee, let's announce his detention in all the papers so that little brother can know this has happened. What a good idea! Hey, maybe the little brother would like to visit. Hey...maybe the little brother, suitably displayed (e.g. wired for electroshock), would be convincing to the big brother.

Or for the little bro to watch, or to receive the mutilated body and then the family to be billed for the electricity, the bullets, etc. - it might inspire him to anger; it might frighten him into submission.

Hey, it worked for Saddam, didn't it?

That's the point - if torture didn't work, how did Saddam hold power? Love?

As for information getting never know; some things never change.

Torture isn't a panacea - it's a tool in the toolbox. Is that the straw man you've been beating on all night? Let's set that mother ablaze right now. Don't expect certainty. Who told you that you could expect certainty? You can't even expect that Burger King can get your order right every time!

Posted by: nichevo at June 26, 2007 11:30 PM

"Is the threat enough? Ask the VC who stood in the door of the Huey at 800 feet."

That is not a threat of violence, that is a threat of death.

This is turning into a pointless straw man battle. To me we are talking about 'interrogation techniques' like the 'belly slap', the peroneal strike(aka the dead leg), and obnoxious music. To other this is about 'torture techniques' like drowning, electroshock and shoving people out of helicopters.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at June 27, 2007 06:35 AM


I'd say tying a man's ankle to the bumper of a truck and threatening to drag him is a threat of death. So the VC in the Huey and the man in Afhanistan are not dissimilar.

You can disgaree with me. You can refute my conclusions, but don't accuse me of using straw man tactics because that's calling me dishonest and I've been nothing but respectful to you and your position. I just think you're wrong.

You seem to think interrogation techniques are benign. I'm here to tell you that they are not. I've given you examples from personal experience that you casually dismiss. These are techniques we, and our allies, have used for decades in Latin America. These are not straw man arguments. These are real world examples and they're more than a belly slap.

These enhanced interrogation techniques you embrace are counterproductive and reprehensible. McCain says they're wrong. Petraeus says they're wrong. Moran says they're wrong. The rest of the civilized world says they're wrong. So how, in the face of such testimony, can you keep insisting that you know better?

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 27, 2007 12:29 PM

Oh please.

If you can get over it with a long nap and a good cry, it isn't torture.

Posted by: bkw at June 27, 2007 04:21 PM

I hate to be legalistic instead of emotional but "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering" would seem to fit the bill here. That doesn't rank it alongside connecting a car battery to a guy's testicles but it doesn't have to. I will also say this: Doing it in front of the media was just plain stupid and I'd punish the soldiers for that alone. When the hell are we going to realize that these wars will be won or lost in the media as much or more than on the battlefield?

Posted by: Michael Fumento at June 27, 2007 05:28 PM

How would you feel if you watched a bunch of hollering Iranians doing it to a captured US marine? Comfortable with it?

I was gassed with CS at Ft. Dix and the guys who do SERE are water boarded. So yea, I'm OK with it.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at June 27, 2007 07:28 PM

"So yea, I'm OK with it."

We'll remember that then. When dealing with captured US personel, you think that waterboarding them is OK.

Posted by: Rafar at June 28, 2007 01:15 AM

Its a Straw Man because you are lumping in things that happened decades ago. I don't know when exactly those things happened in Guatamala, but I am guessing sometime in the 80s. We should be talking about what specifically happened here, not actions that happened in Vietnam as military we have now has almost nothing in common with the military back then. If you want to believe that threatening to drag someone with a car is a mock execution, that's fine, but why don't we leave the Viet Cong out of the equation, m'kay?

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at June 28, 2007 10:43 AM