Tuesday, March 18, 2008

But We're Still The Good Guys, Right?

I'd been musin' about tryin' to summarize what I think about the U.S. government using waterboarding and other hobby skills in some attempt to extract information. Now I find I don't have to, 'cos J. R. Shirley already has.

Yeah. What he said. Go read it if you haven't already. Gorrammit,* the good guys aren't supposed to endorse or use torture.

Update:

--I understand this is a contentious topic, about which reasonable persons can and will disagree. Fine by me; most of us are, AFAIK, only indirectly in the waterboarding business.

In response to questioning from readers, I posted this in the comment thread:

My objection to such actions undertaken by agents of a nation-state against any person is twofold: first, this is not the behavior of civilized associations and must never be encouraged; the government that abuses "enemy combatants" today will do so to its own citizens tomorrow. (I'm perfectly okay with simply shootin' aforesaid "partisans," BTW, preferably in the act). Second, it has a severely deleterious effect upon the torturers. You cannot reduce another human being to a quivering lump of abject submission without making indelible changes to your own relationship to yourself and to the rest of the species. Once you've internalized that other folks are just so much meat, their spirits rather easily bent and broken, you are no longer fit for civilization; you have become an enemy to all free persons. And, being human, you will justify your actions.

I have known too many bad predators in my life. If our government keeps on makin' 'em, pattin' 'em on the head an' sayin' "nice doggie," we're in for bad times. Lon who?
___________________________
* Yes, I am a Browncoat.

13 comments:

The Earth Bound Misfit said...

"Gorramit"??

{smooch}

Firefly rules!

"I mean to misbehave."

staghounds said...

`There is a great deal of laziness in it. It is far pleasanter to sit comfortably in the shade rubbing red pepper into a poor devil's eyes than to go about in the sun hunting up evidence.'

- Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, Viceroy's Commission on the Indian Law of Evidence, 1872.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Waterboarding isn't torture, and I'll tell you why.

My liberal friends tell me torture NEVER works.

They waterboarded 4 times (they say) in the recent unpleasantness and it worked 4 times (they say)

Ergo...

Plus it was on my training schedule to be done to me while I was in Navy.

====

Lt. Col. Charles R. Codman: You know General, sometimes the men don't know when you're acting.

Patton: It's not important for them to know. It's only important for me to know.

Roberta X said...

NJT: We'll have to disagree on this. --Heavens, not only was the USN fixin' to do it to you, you can probably find, at least in the larger cities, people who get waterboarded for fun and kink, too; neither one of those is the same thing as doing it to a prisoner in a supposed attempt to gain information.

Such behavior is (in my opinion) both lazy (see Staghounds' quote above) and barbaric. It's not what the good guys do. It's what neolithic, sheep-herding religious fanatics do.

If you become your enemy, you lose. Even if you win.

HTRN said...

Like NJT mentioned, Waterboarding works.

I also don't think of it as "torture" in the sense that it causes pain or permanent damage, but rather is just extremely unpleasant. It falls into the same catergory as sleep deprivation and auditory harassment, both of which have been proven to be effective at extracting information.

There is a difference between the two techniques, and why disoreintation methodology works and why torture doesn't. Torture doesn't work because the victim will say anything to stop the pain. Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, etc work by breaking down mental barriers - the subject becomes disoriented and it becomes easy to get information out of them. It's hard to resist telling the interogator the truth.


As for the whole "but it cheapens us" arguement, well, considering that they hide among the general populace, don't wear a recognized uniform, attack civilian populations, etc, they fall into the general category of "partisan". Which the Hague and Geneva conventions explicitly deny any protections of such individuals. We could, execute any captured combatants that aren't in a uniform. The Third Reich certainly did so with French Partisans, and we generally shot any german caught out of uniform attempting to sneak behind our lines to cause mischief during WW2

Roberta X said...

'...they hide among the general populace, don't wear a recognized uniform, attack civilian populations, etc, they fall into the general category of "partisan".'

Wasn't that in one of General Gage's letters to the Crown?

A) I don't care if it works.
B) I don't care if "they" won't play by The Rules -- guess what, they ain't signatory to the Geneva Convention, neither; they are not even agents of a nation-state. They're effing barbarians. That's not the question. Question is, are we?
C) If you're having to debate if a behavior constitues "torture," odds are good that it is.

Caligula's callin', and we should not be too great a hurry to make the Legions cyncial and jaded about their government. In the long term and likely short-term as well, I think we are a far greater danger to ourselves than any jacked-up bunch of religious nutballs to us.

og said...

Let's say my child is in harms way. Waterboarding is not sufficient. At all. If they don't want to be waterboarded, don't do shit that requires it.

And apparently it DOES work, from everything I have discovered about it. So agree to disagree here.

HTRN said...

Roberta, I had a huge long post written out, but decided to cut it. Instead I decided to make it short if pithy reply.

War is not Waterpolo. It's goal is the utter destruction of the enemy's ability to fight back. When your enemy shows a complete unwillingness to play by what few rules there are, do you think it unfair to protect yourself by whatever means necessary from such predations?

Let me put it another way, at what point would you condone waterboarding? Would you allow it if it could have stopped the WTC attack?

Roberta X said...

No. --"9-11" is not a trump card.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

"If you become your enemy, you lose."

So if I become a naive hoplophobic Collectivist, I lose?

I can go along with that.

Roberta X said...

'Zackly, NJT.

I will digress to point out that the GWOT is not, in fact, a "war" as wars are known. It;'s a police action against enemies of civilization that is being prosecuted as a war. We may be tryin' to hammer nails with a screwdriver in so doing. [/digression]

Og, I do not think a father protecting his child is the same thing as even the noblest of soldiers waterboarding a "partisan" for information; further, I submit that you would probably accept being brought before a Grand Jury for your actions if you did, in fact, waterboard some kidnapping lowlife in an effort to rescue your child. You would be unlikely to claim prima facie justification for your actions. --And yeah, the Grand Jury's liable to send you home, free but you'd be well aware of havin' transgressed the norms; you'd be unlikely to take it up for fun or profit.

My objection to such actions undertaken by agents of a nation-state against any person is twofold: first, this is not the behavior of civilized associations and must never be encouraged; the government that abuses "enemy combatants" today will do so to its own citizens tomorrow. (I'm perfectly okay with simply shootin' aforesaid "partisans," BTW, preferably in the act). Second, it has a severly deleterious effect upon the torturers. You cannot reduce another human being to a quivering lump of abject submission without making indelible changes to your own relationshiop to yourself and to the rest of the species. Once you've internalized that other folks are just so much meat, their spirits rather easily bent and broken, you are no longer fit for civilization; you have become an enemy to all free persons. And, being human, you will justify your actions.

I have known too many bad predators in my life. If our government keeps on makin' 'em, pattin' 'em on the head an' sayin' "nice doggie," we're in for bad times. Lon who?

Joe said...

Bravo!! Roberta Its not about how the baddies act, its about how we act, our beliefs, and our souls, both as a nation and individuals!

og said...

Beyond the (perhaps mythical) Adam and Eve, everyone has a navel.