Sometimes there are no words — or too many

Right now that’s about how I’m feeling when skimming over this astounding apology for torture from Deroy Murdock over at the National Review. And it appears not to be a joke:

This is all the more reason for President Bush to reinstate waterboarding, proudly and publicly, so America can get the information we need to prevent Muslim-fanatic mass murder and win the Global War on Terror.

Appropriately enough, waterboarding is not used on American citizens suspected of tax evasion, sexual harassment, or bank robbery. Waterboarding is used on foreign Islamic-extremist terrorists, captured abroad, who would love nothing more than to blast innocent men, women, and children into small, bloody pieces. Some of them already have done so.

Waterboarding has worked quickly, causing at least one well-known subject to break down and identify at least six other high-profile, highly bloodthirsty associates before they could commit further mass murder beyond the 3,192 people they already killed and the 7,715 they already wounded.

Though clearly uncomfortable, waterboarding loosens lips without causing permanent physical injuries (and unlikely even temporary ones). If terrorists suffer long-term nightmares about waterboarding, better that than more Americans crying themselves to sleep after their loved ones have been shredded by bombs or baked in skyscrapers.

In short, there is nothing “repugnant” about waterboarding.

I mean, what to say. WHAT to say.

Something needs to be, though. Personally I’ve long felt that any excusing of torture is evidence of barely-concealed sadism, or in some cases open sadism. I’m pleased Mr. Murdock has come out into the open this way, as clearly he wouldn’t want his conscience burdened by not being honest to the world, and that’s all that matters. Meanwhile, the attempt at pushing emotional buttons here is so ham-handed that I almost want to think that given the current writers’ strike the makers of 24 might perhaps have been looking for someone to cover for production for upcoming episodes and have happily found a candidate.

But hey, let’s meet him halfway. I call on Mr. Murdock to publicly embrace waterboarding as his new job. Let’s bring it out into the open. Let’s have him dunk people like this again and again all day as his daily work. Let’s have him ask questions of people who quite clearly in his mind are guilty (is it not odd that apparently no innocent people have been waterboarded — who’d’ve thought!) and share the video of his work out to the world. Hell, put it on YouTube. Let’s have him talk in detail to his family about what he did today. He seems to be all about being ‘open’ about it, why not have him live it?

Or does he think that waterboarding is some sort of automatic process done by self-created machines that just happen to be sitting around?

The ‘chickenhawk’ theme these past few years has been beaten to death, frankly. But this is a step beyond. I don’t recall this type of thing being talked about when it came to being a good citizen when I was growing up. I don’t recall encouraging people to serve their country by doing this nonsense. I don’t recall any of this as a particular ideal.

But no matter, Mr. Murdock has identified a new one for us. Let us see him put it into practice.

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22 Responses to “Sometimes there are no words — or too many”

  1. nicedeb Says:

    Are you nuts?

    KSM is responsible for thousands of civilian deaths and claims that “his blessed hand” sawed of the head of “the Jew” Daniel Pearl.

    He’s one of three hardcore terrorists we’ve used this highly effective technique on, and after only 90 seconds of discomfort, (where not even a scratch was inflicted on him), “he sang like a bird”.

    You should be proud of a country that can manage to successfully interrogate these animals (to obtain information in order to protect you) without hurting them.

    It has nothing to do with sadism, obviously, or we’d actually hurt the guys… you know, like the terrorists would hurt you or me in a New York minute, because they are sadists.

    Yet all your sympathies lie with them.

    I don’t understand such thinking.

  2. Ned Raggett Says:

    Proud of a country that enables torture? No. Proud of its enablers, defenders and the like, even less so. (Definitely NOT proud of someone whose response amounts to regurgitating Murdock’s article back at me. Debating is not restating.)

    The most foolish conclusion that has been drawn by the defenders of this moral compromise is that somehow those of us that find it revolting also sympathize with murderers. (And I will call them that rather than ‘animals’ because, frankly, giving in to the impulse to dehumanize sends one further down the slope.) A murderer, for instance, detonated a bomb in a London tube train back in 2005, killing among others someone who was part of a large circle of friends I happen to know, and whose death caused irretrievable grief to them all, still. Sadists I call them who engage in such mayhem but sadists I call them who think torture is an acceptable response.

    The question should be turned to you, would you operate the machinery itself? Would you rest assured that the person on the board is in fact someone truly worth of your tender ministrations? Do you know his or her background? Is the information provided to you by your superior officer accurate? Is this person already guilty as such just by being there?

    It’s merely the same think I would ask Murdock. If you’re going to defend it, go all the way. Live up to your beliefs, and tell us what you would do.

  3. geoff Says:

    Definitely NOT proud of someone whose response amounts to regurgitating Murdock’s article back at me. Debating is not restating.

    Since your only point was the muddle-headed chickenhawk argument, debating your premise was the only logical recourse. Since you place your faulty premise beyond the bounds of debate, I guess there’s little point in continuing.

    It was nice of Nice Deb to give you the chance, though.

  4. geoff Says:

    …and to answer your silly challenge, most conservatives I know would be willing to be waterboarded, if that were required to justify that form of interrogation. Of course, if a 1:1 correspondence were all that was required to achieve moral parity, only 3 would have had to volunteer.

  5. Ned Raggett Says:

    What debate does Nice Deb offer beyond, as mentioned, a spouting up of what Murdock already said? There is no chance when I hear the kind of tiresome robopost I would expect of either extreme these days, with the names and situations changed as appropriate.

    No, instead I’m supposed to be ‘proud’ of something that in fact doesn’t even actually hurt the ones being dealt with, apparently. Interesting. If it doesn’t hurt them, one could ask why they would be volunteering information. Perhaps Nice Deb should look into that, to see if she’s getting her money’s worth.

    Yet perhaps all the qualms need to remind out of sight, out of mind, questions about them, questions about the abuse of, indeed, abuse rendered unquestionable, dismissed under the usual blather that passes for patriotism. It reminds me of nothing so much as an old Lenny Bruce line about those hiring others to do the dirty work: “Here’s a stick and a gun and you do it. But wait’ll I’m out of the room.” I take it you and she long shut the door.

  6. Ned Raggett Says:

    most conservatives I know would be willing to be waterboarded

    Quite bold. You’ve taken a poll? Arranged the circumstances it would be held under? Been assured in your handlers? Know all the extenuating circumstances? Know that only exactly three people were ever treated this way?

    By all means, do go on. I had thought, however, that conservatives were supposed to distrust the government and the bureaucrats, and to look beyond the face value of what is reported. Perhaps I was mistaken.

  7. nicedeb Says:

    If it doesn’t hurt them, one could ask why they would be volunteering information.

    Holy cow. You’re actually disturbed that it worked???

    And sorry, I’m “regurgitating” stuff I’ve read. For some of us, the learning process starts with studying an issue through the written word, so you can speak intelligently on the subject. Since nothing you’ve said thus far makes a damn bit of sense, I’m betting you’re going on primarily sheer emotion, and BDS.

    Quite bold. You’ve taken a poll? Arranged the circumstances it would be held under? Been assured in your handlers? Know all the extenuating circumstances? Know that only exactly three people were ever treated this way?

    Actually, reporters have been known to have it done to them:

    http://ace.mu.nu/archives/245617.php

    Now, I wonder why they only volunteer for U.S. style “torture”, and not the terrorist variety, i.e. rape, dismemberment, severe beating, etc.

    And yeah, thus far, only three have been waterboarded:

    http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/11/exclusive-only-.html

    What type of interrogation technique would you recommend to prevent say, a Breslan type attack on a school?

    http://clipmarks.com/clipmark/765BA39E-FB20-4DB3-8758-A83F3743C23C/

    Pretty please with sugar on top?

  8. Ned Raggett Says:

    Holy cow. You’re actually disturbed that it worked???

    I am disturbed it is being used at all.

    I’m “regurgitating” stuff I’ve read.

    In a plummy spew.

    For some of us, the learning process starts with studying an issue through the written word, so you can speak intelligently on the subject.

    And then restating all you read from the approved sources you find in the hopes that you never have to have it questioned, it seems. Or lacking any context beyond that which you have already concluded. I fail to get a sense that your worldview submits to challenge and review, frankly.

    I’m betting you’re going on primarily sheer emotion, and BDS.

    BDS as a get out of jail free card is an amusing concept, more so when it is used as an excuse. You are of course aware that the President will be out of office in 2009. I will protest this kind of idiocy regardless of who is in office, Republican or Democrat. But I will not be surprised if it continues, sadly. I fear it is already entrenched. This was the fear to start with, that it would, and now we see people defending it in all seriousness. Charming indeed.

    I wonder why they only volunteer for U.S. style “torture”

    I wonder why you think that reporters would actually go through something that prisoners would go through. How odd…you’re not saying you believe the media, are you? Shocking stuff.

    What type of interrogation technique would you recommend to prevent say, a Breslan type attack on a school?

    You mean the one carried out that brought into account the historical tensions between the Russian state and the various Muslim states and regions it slowly absorbed, the tangled history between various cultural groups in the wake of Communism’s victory in the Civil War leading to the creation of various supposedly autonomous regions, the resultant Stalinist attempts to reestablish a monoculture throughout the Soviet Union, the atrophying and/or complete failure of any kind of ethos in encouraging coexistence not imposed from above in the final years of the Soviet Union, the perhaps inevitable wave of initial violence upon the collapse of that structure in 1991 and following, the decade-plus long comic opera black comedy of Chechnya and the thousands of deaths there, and the fact that the Russian government’s idea of a subtle approach involves putting a velvet covering on the mallet?

    Then again perhaps that kind of approach takes too long in the end. But don’t worry, it’s not very emotional.

  9. geoff Says:

    Quite bold. You’ve taken a poll?

    Believe it or not, we actually have discussed these sorts of issues amongst ourselves, trying to decide whether they are appropriate or not. I stand by my statement, which was not bold at all.

    You mean the one carried out that…

    Yawn. Just another lib resorting to the fallacy that any sort of injustice could possibly be used rationalize a horrific event like killing school children. Not that your litany had anything to do with it, anyway. You might as well have gone back to the time of the Mongol hordes. Or perhaps to the time of the Sumerians. At least that would have led you to the topic of beer.

  10. geoff Says:

    I wonder why you think that reporters would actually go through something that prisoners would go through.

    Perhaps because the number of Americans who have been waterboarded as part of training or experiments greatly exceeds the number of terrorists who have been waterboarded. An ordinary claim doesn’t require extraordinary proof.

    I had thought, however, that conservatives were supposed to distrust the government and the bureaucrats, and to look beyond the face value of what is reported.

    You should work on your assumptions. They are crude and unhelpful.

  11. Ned Raggett Says:

    You should work on your assumptions. They are crude and unhelpful.

    Excellent advice all around.

    There is something to step back a bit on, and it needs to happen. If you have, in fact, and in all seriousness, debated this issue with your colleagues down the line, then that is something indisputably necessary. If I am suspicious it is *precisely* because essays like Murdock’s are the type of things that get play, and these are the crude rah-rah follies help nobody. If you can provide for much better, then it must be heard.

    Quite obviously we do not see eye-to-eye at base. I do not believe in the efficacy of torture. I do not condone excuses for it. Above all, however, I do not believe that those who are defending its use can make the case that there is such a thing as ‘regulated’ torture, or however it wants to be described, where the very mechanisms of something which is designed to cause abuse cannot ever be used for further abuse. Where are those guarantees and how are we aware they are being followed, beyond question? You are not making an ordinary claim, but an extraordinary one, and it is not an extraordinary question to ask, as ever, who watches the watchmen.

    You are also arguing for something that is presumably meant to last beyond the current presidency, as I noted in my last response to NiceDeb. Murdock only seems to care about Bush’s actions; I would hope we are caring about something far greater.

  12. Ned Raggett Says:

    (As for my litany being a fallacy — it is not fallacious to note that history has its place. Excuse Breslan? It is inexcusable. Explain it? All too clearly. Those interrogating anyone, those negotiating, those fighting, they need to know their history, be honest with themselves, see the failures as well as the successes. The rose-colored glasses are the luxury of the single-minded.)

  13. geoff Says:

    Quite obviously we do not see eye-to-eye at base. I do not believe in the efficacy of torture.

    Even more fundamental is the semantic discontinuity between the right and the left. Some time ago I tried to analyze the differences between conservative and liberal conceptions of torture. As a first cut, I came up with this post, which was meant to serve as a launching point for further discussion. Simply put, conservatives don’t place psychological duress or physical discomfort in the category of “torture.” Waterboarding is borderline, but still falls on the not-torture side for conservatives.

    As far as efficacy goes, the techniques we have used have worked. Period.

    Explain it? All too clearly.

    I think you place too much value on your historical interpretation, which completely neglects the roots of Islamofacism and Islamic expansionism.

  14. Ned Raggett Says:

    Even more fundamental is the semantic discontinuity between the right and the left.

    You are absolutely correct. If this cannot be bridged, we will not be able to address each other in a way that satisfies either of us. But it will not remove nor explain away the issue, any more so than, say, the acknowledgment of the unbridgeable difference between ‘choice’ and ‘murder’ at the heart of the debate on abortion means that debate is removed or explained away. It remains.

    As far as efficacy goes, the techniques we have used have worked. Period.

    A conclusion based on the assumption that it was the sole required element necessary for success. I do not accept this, and neither do I think that a claim of past success automatically guarantees future success. It is a poor model.

    I think you place too much value on your historical interpretation, which completely neglects the roots of Islamofacism and Islamic expansionism.

    These roots are claimed as immutable by those who want them to be immutable. They are handy precisely because they are designed to cause fear, rather than to explain. They are the conclusions of the paranoid.

  15. geoff Says:

    But it will not remove nor explain away the issue, any more so than, say, the acknowledgment of the unbridgeable difference between ‘choice’ and ‘murder’ at the heart of the debate on abortion means that debate is removed or explained away.

    True. But in the meantime, one can expect that abortion advocates will ignore the cries of “murder,” because they don’t think the word applies, just as conservatives will ignore the word “torture,” because they don’t believe that any of the techniques used constitute torture.

    We are all caught in the Lakoffian vise of our moral structures: moral empathy on the liberal side, and moral strength on the conservative side. The only difference is that conservatives acknowledge the need for moral empathy to temper moral strength, while liberals believe moral empathy is sufficient.

    A conclusion based on the assumption that it was the sole required element necessary for success.

    More a conclusion based on it being a last resort before success, as it certainly was in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

    I do not accept this,

    Yeah, whatever.

    and neither do I think that a claim of past success automatically guarantees future success.

    There are no automatic guarantees of any success. That’s why conservatives are reluctant to arbitrarily reduce the options available to interrogators.

  16. geoff Says:

    These roots are claimed as immutable by those who want them to be immutable. They are handy precisely because they are designed to cause fear, rather than to explain. They are the conclusions of the paranoid.

    Beyond being a multi-layered strawman, this completely ignores the vast literature that accompanies the Islamofascist movement.

  17. Ned Raggett Says:

    There are no automatic guarantees of any success.

    On this we are all fully agreed!

    We could go on. But I must concentrate on other things in life for the remainder of the day, though I might return to this tonight depending.

  18. Madam Miaow Says:

    Aside from the moral issues, there is considerable doubt as to whether torture (inflicting physical and mental pain and threat of loss of life) is actually effective.

    The victims are more often suspects and not convicted of anything so you are going to have to trawl through a welter of useless (dis)information that has been thrown up in the attempt to escape pain.

    If we continue to spiral downwards in this rush to reach rock-bottom it begs the question as to what civilisation it is we’re supposed to be defending.

  19. Madam Miaow Says:

    From someone who seems to know whereof he speaks:

    “Waterboarding is not a simulation. … the lungs are actually filling with water. … from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral…. slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board.”

    “If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives. … Now American use of the waterboard as an interrogation tool has assuredly guaranteed that our service members and agents who are captured or detained by future enemies will be subject to it as part of the most routine interrogations. … Waterboarding will be one our future enemy’s go-to techniques because we took the gloves off to brutal interrogation. Now our enemies will take the gloves off and thank us for it.”

    ” In torture, he confessed to being a hermaphrodite, a CIA spy, a Buddhist Monk, a Catholic Bishop and the son of the king of Cambodia. He was actually just a school teacher whose crime was that he once spoke French. ”

    “… the administration has selectively leaked supposed successes of the water board such as the alleged Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessions. However, in the same breath the CIA sources for the Washington Post noted that in Mohammed’s case they got information but “not all of it reliable.” Of course, when you waterboard you get all the magic answers you want -because remember, the subject will talk. They all talk! Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop. Torture. Does. Not. Work.”

    ” If you want consistent, accurate and reliable intelligence, be inquisitive, analytical, patient but most of all professional, amiable and compassionate.”

    http://freedom4um.com/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=65003

  20. J.D. Says:

    Since, as the last poster noted, torture is quite obviously an ineffective method of getting the truth out of anyone, it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that right-wingers who support torture just support the idea of bad guys getting tortured.

    Clearly Lincoln would have been a much better president if he had had all the Confederate leaders hanged on the White House lawn, instead of calling for “malice toward none” and “charity for all” and other such pansy-assed liberal notions.

  21. Some less torturous thoughts — and some more amusing ones « Ned Raggett Ponders It All Says:

    […] torturous thoughts — and some more amusing ones November 8th, 2007 — Ned Raggett My post on Deroy Murdock’s straight-faced apology for outrage garnered a couple of interesting reactions — and you know who you are, of course. As it […]

  22. geoff Says:

    It is clear that J.D. isn’t interested in any sort of serious dialog. The clear point of contention is whether or not waterboarding and imposition of physical/mental stress states constitutes torture. Waterboarding is at the border of acceptability for conservatives: many renounce it, many support it. Those who support it do so in the senses that they don’t believe that it constitutes torture, and that they trust the interrogators to make an appropriate decision concerning its use. Nobody wants to see these techniques used: supporters merely feel that if the professionals who are conducting interrogations feel that this is necessary, then we should let them do their job.

    BTW, conservatives do not support the use of these techniques with prisoners who comply with the Geneva conventions.

    As far as Madam Miaow’s cites and claims, I’ll make a few obvious points:

    1) Despite his unfounded insinuations, Malcolm Nance has no idea whether or not waterboarding has served as an effective interrogation tool. Faced with the evidence that it has worked, he resorts to innuendo and obfuscation. The simple fact is, it wouldn’t be used if the intelligence community didn’t find it useful. And conservatives wouldn’t support it if the intelligence community didn’t find it useful.

    2) Nance and other liberals are fond of the “waterboarding can’t replace other forms of interrogation” strawman. Nobody has ever suggested that it would replace other forms of interrogation. As with all information derived in interrogation, information given during waterboarding is cross-checked against previous statements, statements of other detainees, and other intelligence evidence. It is one more tool, and hopefully a tool of last resort.

    3) Given the happy rarity of use, and that it hasn’t been used in 4 years, Nance is tilting at windmills.


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