Thursday, November 1, 2007

Torture

Senate Democrats seem inclined to try to block Michael Mukasey's nomination as attorney general. Of course, given the Democrat's success in investigating Bush, ending the Iraq war, and "solving" the immigration problem, Mukasey is presumably shaking hands with his supporters and choosing the color scheme for his office.

The Democrats primary problem with Mukasey is the fact he was nominated by Bush, but that doesn't play well with anyone, even the Daily Kos, so they accuse him of being pro-torture, torture being defined as waterboarding. There is no doubt that the US does employ waterboarding as an interrogation tool- the Army has admitting using it against select prisoners in Gitmo. The only question is: is waterboarding permissible?

Against Al-Qeada, it clearly is permissible under the Geneva Conventions, as Al-Qeaeda fighters are not technically prisoners of war. The criteria for being considered a war prisoner are:
a)that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates.
b)that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance.
c)that of carrying arms openly.
d)that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
Al-Qeada doesn't meet any of these criteria. Theoretically, the US could do whatever it wanted to these prisoners- drill through the kneecap, acid, broken bones, starvation- and still not violate any international prisoner of war rules. So a better question probably is: what interrogation techniques are morally justifiable?

While I suppose some people would disagree, I don't think torture is justifiable. The end does not justify the means, and torturing even manifestly guilty prisoners can set undesirable precedents. However, torture is not easily defined. Dictionary.com defines it as "the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty."

This pretty vague. "Excruciating pain" is a vague term- people can see that in radically different ways. However, excruciating, in my opinion, implies truly agonizing, often permanent damage. While waterboarding is presumably not enjoyable, it is not permanent, and nowhere near as painful as many other "enhanced interrogation" techniques. By any reasonable standards, waterboarding is not torture.

Another obstacle to the confirmation of Mukasey (or maybe its just a beef with Republicans in general, its hard to tell) is the alleged spying on innocent Americans and secret CIA prisons presumably filled with innocent Americans.

As a conservative libertarian, I am uncomfortable with parts of the Patriot Act. But I still recognize that it is impossible to get a warrant and still efficiently track phone calls from suspicious foreigners. To my knowledge, the warentless wiretap regulations only tap phone calls from out of the United States from terrorist suspects. This does not exactly go with the image liberals try to project of a innocent, hardworking Americans being spied on by the Shadow Government run by Chimpy McBushitler.

I am not sure how liberals know so much about these secret prisons. (They're secret, aren't they?) They rarely back up their hysterical talk with any concrete evidence- they merely state that it is clearly unconstitutional to hold a confessed Al-Qeada operative (Jose Padilla) indefinitely. Given that Padilla is a prisoner of war, being held indefinitely is about what he should expect.

I would also add that there seem to have been few complaints by anyone who claims to have been improperly wiretaped. You would expect a flood of complaints if the Bush Administration was routinely violating civil rights. Instead we get... nothing. Likewise with our "secret" prisons- unless we are keeping them packed with political prisoners, you would expect at least a few horror stories to leak out. But again... nothing.

The far left fringe (that is to say, the entire Democrat Internet presence) simply respond that any such stories are being buried by the sinister media. They will recite the revealing fact that the entire media is controlled by four major corporations!!! (It's actually five, but still). Wow, what an amazing stat. Imagine, the whole media (they presumably mean just TV), controlled by four (five) companies. I mean, considering there are five news networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FNC, and CNN), who could have imagined that five companies would control them? (It's thinking like this that makes people wonder if maybe the Daily Kos isn't the best source for news).

The Bush Administrations stand on torture is correct, and Bush is to commended for standing behind Mukasey. Bush has made a number of awful mistakes in his Presidency, but on this issue at least, he is demonstrating real courage and judgement.

8 Comments:

At November 1, 2007 at 7:09 PM , Blogger MTHorvat said...

If we were to follow the Democratic rants, we would have no means of eliciting necessary, even crucial, information from terrorists, information that could save thousands of lives. They are playing on sentimentality, not examining justice in war. That was a good analysis on torture, Daniel.
However, I don't know why you would be so astounded to think that a handful of corporations today could control at least a high percentage of all the media.

 
At November 2, 2007 at 5:00 AM , Blogger Beth said...

With torture, I think it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of thing. McCain says don't use torture and they won't use it against our men (do you really think the terrorists live by the same thoughtful rules we do??) If we don't use some means to extract info from terrorists, we are losing potentially life saving opportunities (I think attacks have been avoided due to this intelligence being discovered). I for one would give the benefit of the doubt in our favor to get the info.

 
At November 2, 2007 at 1:31 PM , Blogger Marie's Two Cents said...

Well I dont think waterboarding is torture.

And at this point in time I say we have another Kalik Sheik Mohammed on our hands, with Vital information on an upcoming attack on the US, and they only have a little bit of time to get this information, I say WHATEVER IT TAKES!!

 
At November 7, 2007 at 8:47 AM , Blogger Greg said...

In the aftermath of World War II we convicted several Japanese soldiers and officers for war crimes because they took part in waterboarding. There was no debate about whether or not the 'technique' was considered torture or not. We knew that it was and we put people in prison for doing it.

Having said that, if subjecting a terrorist to waterboarding could prevent another 9/11 only a fool would object to it. If torturing 1 person saves 3000 lives I'm all for it. That doesn't mean torture is a good thing, but lets keep it in perspective...and be honest about what we are doing.

Here's the problem - study after study has shown that information gained as a result of torture is wildly unreliable. When you torture someone they don't confess what they know, they tell you whatever it is you want to hear. They'll tell you that they're Santa Claus if they think that will make you stop. Sen. McCain who, sadly, knows first hand more about torture than all of us combined confirms this (incidentally, his position isn't we shouldn't do it because we don't want it done to us, it's his belief that torture doesn't yeild useful information and demonizes us in the process).

 
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