Torture? G’head.

Wednesday, March 5th, 2003

So what should we do if the captured Sheik Jeremy doesn’t talk? And let’s face it, he ain’t gonna’ talk.

Should we torture him?

I think so. He’s not an American citizen. He wasn’t born here, or captured here. He’s “an enemy combatant,” if ever there was a time to use the phrase.

An interesting debate broke out on MSNBC last night (that’s one sentence I thought I’d never write). And Pat Buchanan made a great point (that’s another).

Buchanan was interviewing syndicated columnist Mona Charen, who supports the war with Iraq, but opposes torture.

How is it, Buchanan asked, that a smart person could support a war that will certainly kill hundreds, probably thousands of innocent Iraqis — and a good number of Americans — in the name of preventing another 9/11, but not support torturing a man who has made no bones about his desire to murder as many Americans as possible, if doing so might prevent another 9/11?

I say do whatever is necessary to extract from this bozo what he’s already planned, what he’s planning, and where we need to look to find the guys who are still planning.

If my government needs to pry off a few al-Qaeda fingernails to prevent another catastrophe, I’ll sleep just fine, thankyouverymuch.

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66 Responses to “Torture? G’head.”

  1. #1 |  Frank N | 

    Why do think there is no talk of extradition?



  2. #2 |  Eric | 

    It isn’t as if we haven’t let some of our allies do this stuff before. In fact, I think some interrogators in the Phillipines once got some Muslim extremists to start talking when they threatened them with being handed over to the Mossad.

  3. #3 |  Matt | 

    Tell me you’re kidding. Please? How long is it until some one decides that some John Q Dissenter is an “enemy combatant”? Is it ok to torture him, if he were a US citizen? No? Then your argument falls down, by your own logic: both men in question are a possible danger, both are human, ergo they should have the same rights. “All men are created equal,” or at least that is the idea our government is founded on. The idea that US citizenship makes a person better than the rest of the world is laughable. And to answer Buchananâ??s argument: on a battlefield, the opponent has at least the opportunity to surrender, if not to win. There is an equality, on the level of individual soldiers- both sides have guns, both have knives, and both have some kind of training in how to use them. Interrogation rooms, on the other hand, especially torture rooms, are inherently unequal- the prisoner has no choice but to be tortured, and cannot fight back. There is no hope for a man in a room like that. We used to be above this sort of barbarism. Why start again?

  4. #4 |  matt | 

    I should have said, I oppose the war, as well. But that doesn’t change the fact that Buchanan’s argument was flawed and overly simplistic (read: stupid) of him to make.

  5. #5 |  Andrew | 

    Physical torture no, mental torture…go right ahead!

  6. #6 |  Frank N | 

    Matt- Congrats on taking the high road. Care for a job on the observation deck of the Empire State building?

  7. #7 |  Terry | 

    I have second thoughts about torture, but am reminded of this example. Your three year old child has been kidnapped and is locked away where only the kidnapper knows and time is precious. You have the kidnapper in hand—how do you question him?

  8. #8 |  W. James Antle III | 

    I have serious reservations about torture myself. I have trouble reconciling it with our values, as I understand them, and I do have concerns about what precedents it might set for the treatment of American citizens labeled “enemy combatants” under expansive readings of anti-terrorism legislation. I am also troubled by the lack of accompanying due process. My biggest problem is more pragmatic – I’m not sure how reliable the information will be, since some studies have shown that people will say or confess to anything when tortured if they think it will make the pain stop.

    Nevertheless, I must disagree with Matt. First, while he is correct to note that all human beings are morally equal regardless of what country they are a citizen of, it does not follow that a government is equally obligated to protect and serve all of them. I would argue that the U.S. government has a primary obligation to U.S. citizens. This doesn’t justify wantonly violating the human rights of foreign nationals, but it does mean that our legal procedures for citizens and noncitizens do not have to be identical.

    Secondly, and here is where my disagreement is even stronger, I think Matt is defining war a little too idealistically. The reality is that in any war, and certainly in the coming war with Iraq, there will be colateral damage. In waging this war, we are in effect saying that we are willing to accept the deaths (and injuries) of possibly thousands of innocent Iraqis – not just Iraqi and American soldiers – as the price for avoiding another 9/11. This death and destruction of innocents is justified, but somehow it is unseemly to torture a brutal terrorist mass murderer if by doing so we might avoid another 9/11?

    I’m not sure that torture is the right answer and I know I am presupposing both the guilt of the accused and that torture will gain us relevant and accurate information in framing the above argument. But I think there is more to the point Radley and Pat bring up than Matt acknowledges. The fact is, not everybody who is hurt or dies in a war is going to be a soldier fighting on something like equal terms with the opposing side. Some will be innocent civilians. Is the suffering of terrorists to be accorded a higher value than their suffering?

  9. #9 |  matt | 

    About the empire state job, sure, I’m all for it. But seriously, to James’ first point- you imply that not torturing a suspect is a service or a protection, and in that I must disagree. But I don’t know how to explain it, so i’ll let it go. I do agree with your second point; I was thinking, more or less, of a battlefield in the desert. My apologies; it was late. However, the death of a non-combatant in a war (let’s say a just war for arguments’ sake, even though I don’t think this is a just war) is still different from intentionally torturing somone. It is in the intent- you can never really say that you aren’t torturing that person because of your own hate. Sure, you can say that it’s all for the information, but in the end there has to be some malice in the process, or nobody but a complete psychopath (or would it be sociopath? I always get those two mixed up) could do it. In going to war and accepting collateral damage, you are doing so in hopes of improving the lives of the people in that country- to remove a dictator, or to protect other free nations. I suppose that’s why I oppose the war with Iraq- its neighbors can more or less defend themselves, and the people are on the verge of revolution, according to some sources. later
    Matt Mills

  10. #10 |  Scared Stiff | 

    A further difference between torturing people and collateral damage deaths is that the torture is totally intentional, and that collateral deaths are avoided to the greatest extent possible. Our generals are telling us now that avoiding Iraqi civilian casualties is a high priority, and as much as I distrust/fear our government, I actually believe them when they say this. I seriously doubt the well-being of the tortured is anywhere on the list of concerns.

  11. #11 |  Deoxy | 

    It is completely possible to torture someone without being a complete psychopath (or sociopath); consider this scenario (which, while still unlikely, is much more conceivable than it was a mere 2 years ago):

    We have strong and reliable intelligence that Al Qaeda has a nuke

    We have radiological evidence that it has been successfully smuggled into New england (and ‘hot’ corgo container, for instance).

    We believe we know the man in charge.

    That man turns himself in in New York City, saying that he has planted the bomb, and that it will go off in 4 hours somewhere in New York.

    He is, of course, EXPECTING to die – 72 virgins sounds nice, etc. He turned himself in to gloat and to make sure the world knew who did it.

    Since he has probably put the nuke in a VERY well-shielded place before turning himself in, the odds of finding this thing in the next 4 hours are ridiculously small, and the possiblility of any meaningful evacuation of New York City is zero.

    Those of you saying that torture is always and forever wrong and evil let this man get away with his crime without trying the last resort of the desperate – torture.

    The rest of us would do our utmost to prevent the murder of millions.

    Which of those positions is morally superior? By the way, “not turturing him” also means “letting millions be murdered”.

    I’m not suggesting widespread use of torture, and I’m not suggesting the use of torture in a situation where the information needed is specific and the suspect is known to have it (or has an EXCEEDINGLY high chance of knowing).

    I’m just saying that, in cases that satisfy extreme criteria, torture is the most humane thing to do, and it wouldn’t take a sociopath to do it.

    In fact, the easiest criteria is the one used by the police all the time – they shoot someone to prevent that person from hurting or killing someone else.

    The idea is that the criminal is expendable if it will prevent the crime (or some aspect of it).

    If the “crime” (the murder of millions would kind of surpass that word, wouldn’t it?) has not yet been completed, the criminal is expendable.

    Reasonable assurance of guilt is necessary.

    But back to that scenario – can anyone honestly say they wouldn’t resort to torutre? or even that they SHOULDn’t?

  12. #12 |  russell harris | 

    torture a a towel head for info? why not and why wasn’t it done earlier to the waste of tax dollars sitting in cages at Guantanamo?

  13. #13 |  Funmurphys: the Blog | 


    What is torture? Is it simply inflicting pain? What about discomfort? Is torture, like one judge’s definition of obscenity something you recognize when you see it? If we want to discuss torture, don’t we have to agree what it is…

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  63. #63 |  The Agitator | 

    Torture? Not So Much.

    The trend in the blogosphere for the last few weeks leading up to the fourth anniversary of the war in…