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ALPB => Your Turn => Topic started by: Jim_Krauser on May 05, 2009, 02:32:34 PM

Title: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 05, 2009, 02:32:34 PM
The headlines regarding a corrolation between church attendance and support for torture were eye-popping.  Apparently the correlation isn't so strong for us mainline denomination types but I don't hold out much hope.  It may be that we're not really supportive, but our quietist tendencies keep us from making too much of a fuss.

Coincidentally, I wrote the following for my congregational newsletter before the survey was published.  I'm expecting some flack.

We Have Sinned

Torture is wrong.  Our government has consistently affirmed this.  This idea lies behind the rejection of “cruel and unusual punishment” in our Bill of Rights.  Where we lost our way was when we tried to draw a line as to “how far one can go” in the use of “aggressive” or “enhanced” interrogation methods.  These terms themselves are cynical euphemisms.  The rule should be quite simple.  If it would even look like torture to the average person, if you would be ashamed to have a video of it put on national television, the line is crossed.
Some will undoubtedly disapprove of this column as political.  It is not.  Indeed, therein lies the problem.  Those who advocated the use of these “brutal” methods, as the New York Times called them, looked only to the legal limitations, not the larger principles.  Simply because something may be legal, and the legal justifications in this instance are far from certain, does not mean it is moral.

It is shocking that there has not been a greater sense of moral outrage.  It is understandable, I suppose, on one level.  These things were done to (most certainly) bad and evil men.  In the mind of most, they deserve no pity, no mercy.  And of course, humanly speaking, they do not.  But righteousness is not measured only by how one treats one’s friends or how one benefits one’s own, but Jesus teaches us that it reaches to how we treat our neighbors, whether they be near or far, countrymen or strangers, friends or, yes, enemies.

The question of our morality or righteousness is one which is most effectively analyzed when we are tempted to lose control.  It is when we are anxious or enraged that our moral character is supposed to kick in and overrule our baser thoughts and desires.  It is supposed to stop us from “taking the gloves off” and applying the “whatever it takes” standard.  A “whatever it takes” standard is a frightening notion in the hands of individuals, let alone in the hands of a government as powerful as our own.  It suggests there is no overriding moral judgment or moral compass other than results—to guide us and that the real standard in place is that the ends justify the means.  But such a strategy, if it can be called that, does not take into account the real and long term costs,  not only the legal costs or political costs, but the costs to our very own souls.

Bishop Hanson, along with the leaders of many denominations in the US, signed on to a statement by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.  It states the argument against torture with unambiguous moral clarity.


Torture is a Moral Issue
Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved — policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished values. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.
Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed? Let America abolish torture now without exceptions.


The materials revealed in the last few weeks should remove all doubt as to the moral quicksand surrounding the defense of these tactics.  The claims of efficiency and effectiveness in defense of these or other “harsh” methods are mocked by the disclosure that two men were water-boarded more than 250 times in one month.  In the past, our government sought to assuage our pricked consciences by assuring us that these “special methods” were only used against two “detainess” and the impression was given that these events were limited.  Well, yes and no.  The water-boarding all took place in the span of a month.  But, as we now know, at a high level of repetition.  Exactly how this is calculated — whether by the number of times water was poured over the face of the individual or the number of sessions involved — it betokens a level of sadism and savagery, most of us would not have thought possible at the hands of the American government, which is to say, at our hands.

And there is the worst of it.  In a democracy we cannot simply denounce government actions and turn our backs.  If the government did it and those responsible for it are not held accountable or punished for it by the American people, then we have acquiesced to, approved of and abetted in this disgraceful episode.  We must and should expect accountability in some form.  The legal consequences, if any, for those who devised and authorized this policy the courts will have to sort out.  But the judgment of the conscience of the nation should be harsh and severe.  We have sinned. 


Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Michael Slusser on May 05, 2009, 04:46:01 PM
Those statistics are a challenge, all right. The RC Bishops' teaching statement before the last elections, "Faithful Citizenship," made the same point about the iniquity of torture, which gets put on the same plane of moral condemnation as abortion:

23. Similarly, direct threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life, such as
human cloning and destructive research on human embryos, are also intrinsically
evil. These must always be opposed. Other direct assaults on innocent human
life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the
targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified.

The high degree of acceptance of torture by Roman Catholics is an indication of how little the bishops are heeded, or else of how reluctant the bishops are to teach on this topic.

It will be interesting to see if any bishops react with dismay to this finding.

Peace,
Michael
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Matt Staneck on May 05, 2009, 04:59:47 PM
I'm not down with the ELCA on a lot of things by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm down with them on this (as well as the Roman Catholics who signed on), torture is nonsensical.  And Christians should not be behind it.

M. Staneck
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Iowegian on May 05, 2009, 05:28:36 PM
The high degree of acceptance of torture by Roman Catholics is an indication of how little the bishops are heeded, or else of how reluctant the bishops are to teach on this topic.

I missed the actual survey/data itself - are you citing a survey? [EDIT:  Here's the survey link.  (http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=156)]

There was also another article on this issue by a familiar voice around these parts:  http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1397 (http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1397)
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 05, 2009, 05:56:35 PM
Trying to put the best construction on both sides of this, let me say, first of all, that I tend not to buy into the many equivocations on this point among conservatives for the simple reason that I learned how to be a prisoner as part of basic training. I'm quite certain that if any U.S. citizens were being treated this way by, say, China, we would recognize it as torture (even if the U.S. citizens in question really were seeking to overthrow the Chinese government). However, I also think that many people are not for torture but are for measures like waterboarding, with the idea that the difference in degree between that and the sort of torture one reads about in other contexts is so great as to be a difference in kind. Also, I think some conservatives end up defending a position out of desperation with the fact that so many people have lost a sense of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. In their effort to be objective, some people who cry foul about torture lose all judgment and can't see the difference these (still inexcusable) violent acts done in the name of preserving humanity, freedom, and Western Civilization and similar acts done in the name of destroying all those things. I watched "Life is Beautiful" again last night, and one refreshing thing about it amid the p-c-ness of most movies as that the triumph involves the presense of an American tank. The American tank is designed to blow people up, as were the Nazi tanks. But American tanks blowing up Nazis is a different thing than Nazi tanks blowing up Americans because of the difference in what they stood for. The inability of many people who complain about GITMO to understand that about the prisoners in GITMO-- that they are a force for evil like the Nazis, that they are not victims, or misunderstood, or whatever, but that they hate America, freedom, Christianity, Jews, and are willing to die to watch all those things burn-- tempts many conservative to defend things they wouldn't otherwise defend just to somehow try to get it across that these distinctions are important. So on one hand, I agree that we should not be doing anything to enemies in our custody that we would cry foul about if our enemies did them to our soldiers. But in agreeing with that statement as a conservative in this context I sadly admit that I am giving aid and comfort to the wrong side of the culture wars in the U.S. and to the people who were dancing the streets on 9/11, who are in the end the same people, the one seeking to deconstruct Western Civilization in one way, the other seeking to deconstruct it more bluntly.  
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Erme Wolf on May 05, 2009, 06:06:54 PM
     Waterboarding is torture.  It was torture when the Japanese army used it on prisoners of war during WWII, and when the Chinese used it on prisoners of war during the Korean conflict.  If we are doing that, it is torture.  Period.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Dave_Poedel on May 05, 2009, 06:21:40 PM
Even as a veteran (OK, an honorary one since I was a medic) I find the use of torture abhorrent and totally out of place in a country that holds the sanctity of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As a Christian of the clergy type,I believe torture of another human being violates the dignity of both tortured and torturer.  As a human being who suffered physical and emotional abuse as a child, I know the long-term damage that physical and psychological abuse designed to degrade does to a person.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 05, 2009, 06:36:27 PM
     Waterboarding is torture.  It was torture when the Japanese army used it on prisoners of war during WWII, and when the Chinese used it on prisoners of war during the Korean conflict.  If we are doing that, it is torture.  Period.
Understanding that such black-and-white certainty on this point necessarily means that it has been the policy (I think) of the U.S. military under both Democrat and Republican commanders-in-chief to torture its own trainees. Before offering blanket statements as to what is and is not torture, I would want to see a working definition of the term and test it in various scenarios. I'm sure many armies have used it against U.S. presonnel, but to hear those U.S. personnel tell it, waterboarding was not high on their list of worries as POW's of those regimes. Is any and every attempt to break down a prisoner's resistance to get them to talk automatically torture? If so, should we not bother seeking information from them? And if not, what could we theoretically do to them? It is easy to look at photos and say, "That's bad." But apart from a workable suggestion it doesn't amount to much.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 05, 2009, 06:51:39 PM
Even as a veteran (OK, an honorary one since I was a medic) I find the use of torture abhorrent and totally out of place in a country that holds the sanctity of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As a Christian of the clergy type,I believe torture of another human being violates the dignity of both tortured and torturer.  As a human being who suffered physical and emotional abuse as a child, I know the long-term damage that physical and psychological abuse designed to degrade does to a person.

I'm with you, Dave, about torture. But is all emotional abuse torture? I think what one suffers as a child is entirely different from what one suffers as a captive fighter. It seems to me that if we start defining everything that someone could take as emotionally traumatizing as torture, then we must get rid of all prisons, penalties, and consequences. Again, I want a working definition of torture that all parties can agree about before I think a conversation on the topic can be fruitful. Torture has become a word like rape. Nobody is for rape, per se, but when people (and they are out there, and influential) define it as rape whenever a girlfriend says she felt pressured to have sex with her boyfriend, then suddenly a lot of scoundrels are suddenly not just scoundrels but rapists. I am against waterboarding, but hesitant to say that the U.S. military is full of torturers. So until someone gives me a working definition of torture that holds up to scrutiny, I won't define U.S. policies as such.   
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 05, 2009, 07:01:09 PM
And if not, what could we theoretically do to them? It is easy to look at photos and say, "That's bad." But apart from a workable suggestion it doesn't amount to much.

My suggestion was simple.  If it would look like torture to a reasonable person, we've crossed the line. 
The danger here, as you suggest, is that a blanket statement gives no specificity; the danger of specifiity is the ingenious ways the human mind finds to violate the spirit but not the letter of the law.  What we have to recognize is that to authorize the use of physical or mental violence to coerce another captive human being is to stand at the edge of an abyss whose rim is unstable. 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: RevSteve on May 05, 2009, 07:04:02 PM
Even as a veteran (OK, an honorary one since I was a medic) I find the use of torture abhorrent and totally out of place in a country that holds the sanctity of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Fisrt of all, as a former US Navy Dental Tech who considers myself every bit the veteran that a former Marine Corps grunt might be I take umbrage with your designation of "honorary" based on the fact that you were a medic.

Now that I've got that off my chest I must say it is because of the sanctity of life that you mention that indeed all people, but most certainly all Christians should hold sacred that Bishop Hanson's name being on this rings hollow and opportunistic.

I am not nearly informed enough on this issue to say whether or not waterboarding is torture so for the sake of argument I will assume it is. That said, I know enough and have spoken to enough Marines and Navy Seals to know that sometimes, whats the phrase that is being used, "escessive interrogation" methods are necessary and we have benefitted from using them. But that really has nothing to do with my point I am just clarifying where my knowledge of what constitutes torture is.

Now back to Bishop Hanson. While, on one hand I commend him for speaking out on this issue, on the other hand I can't help but be extremely dissapointed and even confused at how he can see the biblical case against torture and yet be so ambiguous when it comes to abortion. I know I am beating a dead horse here, but every time he makes one of these public declarations on social issues, I am always left asking that same question.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 05, 2009, 07:21:16 PM
What we have to recognize is that to authorize the use of physical or mental violence to coerce another captive human being is to stand at the edge of an abyss whose rim is unstable. 
I agree. And to lable fellow Americans torturers apart from any definition of the term because what they were doing looked like torture seems to many reasonable people like an act of betrayal. So while we're on the unstable rim of an abyss, it is an abyss no matter which way we fall off.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 05, 2009, 07:57:54 PM
What we have to recognize is that to authorize the use of physical or mental violence to coerce another captive human being is to stand at the edge of an abyss whose rim is unstable. 
I agree. And to lable fellow Americans torturers apart from any definition of the term because what they were doing looked like torture seems to many reasonable people like an act of betrayal. So while we're on the unstable rim of an abyss, it is an abyss no matter which way we fall off.

Lacking any other information I still think it is fair and necessary to ask the person in authority or doing the interrogation, "Just what do you think you're doing there!?"  It's not betrayal when our standard is "we do not torture" and what they are doing gives every appearance of exactly that.  The burden is, and should be, on them to justify their actions.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Dave_Poedel on May 05, 2009, 08:00:06 PM
Even as a veteran (OK, an honorary one since I was a medic) I find the use of torture abhorrent and totally out of place in a country that holds the sanctity of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Fisrt of all, as a former US Navy Hospital Corpsman/Dental Tech who considers myself every bit the veteran that a former Marine Corps grunt might be I take umbrage with your designation of "honorary" based on the fact that you were a medic.

Now that I've got that off my chest I must say it is because of the sanctity of life that you mention that indeed all people, but most certainly all Christians should hold sacred that Bishop Hanson's name being on this rings hollow and opportunistic.

I am not nearly informed enough on this issue to say whether or not waterboarding is torture so for the sake of argument I will assume it is. That said, I know enough and have spoken to enough Marines and Navy Seals to know that sometimes, whats the phrase that is being used, "escessive interrogation" methods are necessary and we have benefitted from using them. But that really has nothing to do with my point I am just clarifying where my knowledge of what constitutes torture is.

Now back to Bishop Hanson. While, on one hand I commend him for speaking out on this issue, on the other hand I can't help but be extremely dissapointed and even confused at how he can see the biblical case against torture and yet be so ambiguous when it comes to abortion. I know I am beating a dead horse here, but every time he makes one of these public declarations on social issues, I am always left asking that same question.

Steve:

My "honorary" designation to the Medical Service is because we always represent something that was "in, but not always of" the mission of the military.  Our service was to provide care to the troops, and if necessary to captured enemy prisoners.  As an NCO and commissioned officer, I am very proud of my service to my country.  Having served on active duty during the Vietnam era (though not in-country) there was a distinct cultural difference between the "hospital" guys and the line guys (they were mostly guys then).  The exception was the FMF medic (I spent a couple of years drilling for points in the Naval Reserve as a HM2).

To show the cultural difference, I know that I would stand by to "evaluate" the "interviewee" during what is now being referred to as "enhanced" interrogation techniques only under direct order, and under protest.  I also grant that the torture that our current enemy uses on those whom they capture, often their own neighbors, makes our techniques seem very pale.  That being said, I do not agree with the use of any of these techniques by our military or intelligence services.  If that means we lose some information,  then so be it.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on May 05, 2009, 08:20:48 PM
Peter's request for some definition should not be left to seem unreasonable.  Laws always define and there has to be laws in regard to torture.  Having said that, and also saying that I do feel betrayed by what seems to have been our interrogation methods like water boarding and demeaning of others (even non-Christian faiths).... 

Would it be helpful to ask the question in this context:

A team of terrorists has a US school with several hundred of our kids held not only at gun point but also set up with explosives enough to level the building...  can/should those police/military dealing with the situation tell lies or untruths to the terrorist if they feel it might somehow end the situation without harm to the children?  Same answer if the police/military person doing the negotiating is a Christian?

Add to the example the fact that one of terrorists is captured and is able to be interrogated for information or plans.  To what extent can/should the authorities become rough/torturous in their interrogation if that seems to be the only way to possibly free the children.

What is the difference between lying and torturing in terms of sin?  What is the difference between the possible destruction of lives somewhere and the almost certain death of several hundred children?

Thoughts, theology?   Harvey Mozolak
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Dan Fienen on May 05, 2009, 08:25:06 PM
Dave,

I understand your point.  But I am a contrarian at times.  You say "If that means we lose some information,  then so be it."  Would you be willing to say that to the widows, widowers, orphans and parents of those who died in another 9/11 that could have been prevented if better intel had been gathered?  Sorry for your loss, but we could not push harder to get information.  Would those be martyrs to American morality?

Granted, it would be very hard to prove that the information was available but not obtained because we did not push hard enough.  But provable or not, it is a real possibility.

It makes for a a difficult moral dilema.  But anyone who finds the line too easy to draw, or too easy to cross, has not adequately considered the consequences of becoming savages in the name of protecting one's country and her people, or adequately considered the consequences of becoming too timid in their defense.

I do not see how anyone who must make these decision can keep their hands clean.  On the one hand they may well be stained with the blood and suffering of those captives in their power.  On the other they may well be stained with the blood and suffering of those at home who may be lost because you did not find out the threat in time to save them.

There is a certain moral cowardice in easily justifying the means of torture by the possible good it may do in providing information needed to protect others.  But is there not also a certain moral cowardice in not recognizing the lives that may be destroyed by those who have chosen to be our enemies.

Dan
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Erme Wolf on May 05, 2009, 09:04:12 PM
     Peter, all I am saying is call a thing what it is.  Let's not pussy-foot around and say, well, since we didn't push it to this extent, or cause this technical harm, or because we made sure medical personel were present to keep us from actually killing the prisoner, it didn't rise to the level of torture.  Waterboarding prisoners is torture.  If our government wants to make a case for using it under certain circumstances, it can and should do so.  The world may be able to find ways to make exceptions, or allowances, for its use. 

    But call it what it is.  It is torture.  Then, whether it is justifiable or not is the issue.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 05, 2009, 09:05:38 PM
Add to the example the fact that one of terrorists is captured and is able to be interrogated for information or plans.  To what extent can/should the authorities become rough/torturous in their interrogation if that seems to be the only way to possibly free the children.

Since you can have no assurance that what they tell you is in fact the truth and by your scenario you have not the time to verify the information, it is probably worthless and a waste of time in itself.
Quote

What is the difference between lying and torturing in terms of sin?  What is the difference between the possible destruction of lives somewhere and the almost certain death of several hundred children?

Thoughts, theology?   Harvey Mozolak

I would argue that the difference is that one does violence to another person which falls under the 5th commandment; the other does not do violence to a person but is, as the RC Catechism would say, a sin against the truth falling under the 8th commandment.  The question would the be, Does either violation does harm to another?  And that is the distinction one should probably make.  One could argue in either case that it might prevent harm to other, but one cannot be certain of that.  We can only be certain of what we do, not what the outcomes of our actions will be.  And therein lies the fault with morale reasoning through hypotheticals such as these.  All of them are predicated on a large and presumptive "might" for their justification.
  
Lying in such an instance raises the question whether or not, under such circumstances, the hostage takers are entitled to the truth, since they would be using it to do harm.  Some would regard that as a dangerous slippery slope.  Some people don't like morality in those kinds of shades of gray.  For me, it is a question worth pondering.  
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: RevSteve on May 05, 2009, 09:07:28 PM
Even as a veteran (OK, an honorary one since I was a medic) I find the use of torture abhorrent and totally out of place in a country that holds the sanctity of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Fisrt of all, as a former US Navy Hospital Corpsman/Dental Tech who considers myself every bit the veteran that a former Marine Corps grunt might be I take umbrage with your designation of "honorary" based on the fact that you were a medic.

Now that I've got that off my chest I must say it is because of the sanctity of life that you mention that indeed all people, but most certainly all Christians should hold sacred that Bishop Hanson's name being on this rings hollow and opportunistic.

I am not nearly informed enough on this issue to say whether or not waterboarding is torture so for the sake of argument I will assume it is. That said, I know enough and have spoken to enough Marines and Navy Seals to know that sometimes, whats the phrase that is being used, "escessive interrogation" methods are necessary and we have benefitted from using them. But that really has nothing to do with my point I am just clarifying where my knowledge of what constitutes torture is.

Now back to Bishop Hanson. While, on one hand I commend him for speaking out on this issue, on the other hand I can't help but be extremely dissapointed and even confused at how he can see the biblical case against torture and yet be so ambiguous when it comes to abortion. I know I am beating a dead horse here, but every time he makes one of these public declarations on social issues, I am always left asking that same question.

Steve:

My "honorary" designation to the Medical Service is because we always represent something that was "in, but not always of" the mission of the military.  Our service was to provide care to the troops, and if necessary to captured enemy prisoners.  As an NCO and commissioned officer, I am very proud of my service to my country.  Having served on active duty during the Vietnam era (though not in-country) there was a distinct cultural difference between the "hospital" guys and the line guys (they were mostly guys then).  The exception was the FMF medic (I spent a couple of years drilling for points in the Naval Reserve as a HM2).

Dave
I was mainly being facetious. I was FMF and so I was well aware of the unique position that medical, dental and religious personell were in, particularly in the FMF since we were Navy personell serving in Marine units. That said, in my situation I actually was something of a "line guy." Although technically not front lines as in serving as "Doc" to a Mar. Div. infantry unit, I was in country during the Gulf-War and served at a Batallion Aid Station where I was frequently within 5 miles of the front-lines. And I knew Marine grunts who served with corpsmen who did go to the front-lines with Mar Div units who would tell you that their "Doc" was every bit the Marine that anyone else they served with was. I understand what you're saying, but I just don't think I draw as bold a line as you. I never saw myself as being "in, but not of."  Maybe the military culture was different at the times we served. For me it was emphasized that the mission of the military is "preserving the peace" (an ironic description undeniably) and all military played a part in it.  

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 05, 2009, 09:23:38 PM
I do not see how anyone who must make these decision can keep their hands clean.  On the one hand they may well be stained with the blood and suffering of those captives in their power.  On the other they may well be stained with the blood and suffering of those at home who may be lost because you did not find out the threat in time to save them.[/b]There is a certain moral cowardice in easily justifying the means of torture by the possible good it may do in providing information needed to protect others.  But is there not also a certain moral cowardice in not recognizing the lives that may be destroyed by those who have chosen to be our enemies.

Dan

I am not moved by the argument that "if we did not find out in time" there would "be blood on our hands."  Whose hands?  The government, the interregators, society in general?  Nonsense.  If evil people accomplish their evil purposes the blood is on thier hands alone.  

Yes, we can and do talk of negligence and dereliction of duty, but that is when people fail to take the most basic, reasonable, and prudent actions to prevent a harm that is forseeable.  In such cases we may rightly seek to assign blame; but certainly not because they failed to take every conceivable (or extreme measure) to prevent it.  That is expecting too much of others and/or ourselves.  It is foolish and unreasonable to expect that of our leaders; and probably megalomanical on their part if they think can do so.

Is there not a certain moral bravery that is willing to stand for principles even if they cost us dearly?  It is a difficult question, because as public policy, the decision belongs to all, whether each individual has that courage or not.  I do ask myself though, why should I consent to sending our young men and women to die in defense of our principles on foreign soil, if I am not willing to risk my life by living by them at home?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: MaddogLutheran on May 05, 2009, 09:29:16 PM
     Peter, all I am saying is call a thing what it is.  Let's not pussy-foot around and say, well, since we didn't push it to this extent, or cause this technical harm, or because we made sure medical personel were present to keep us from actually killing the prisoner, it didn't rise to the level of torture.  Waterboarding prisoners is torture.  If our government wants to make a case for using it under certain circumstances, it can and should do so.  The world may be able to find ways to make exceptions, or allowances, for its use. 

    But call it what it is.  It is torture.  Then, whether it is justifiable or not is the issue.
Except, Pr. Wolf, in this case, because potentially the people involved are in legal jeopardy, there is a very specific definition of torture.  I believe the secret torture legal brief referenced a European Court of Human Rights opinion from the 80's that said similar tactics by the British in Northern Ireland did not constitute torture.   All this talk in the public square is potentially prejudicing the jury, as the lawyers might say. I don't think anyone would quibble that in laymen's terms, there was torture going on.  You are quite right about the idea of exceptions or allowances, similar to a just war line of thinking.

For myself, I am disappointed that "enhanced interrogation" was being used as much as it was.  I think there are a very narrow set of circumstances when it should be used, as Alan Dershowitz has opined, but it needs to be approved by the man in the Oval Office.  I don't think George W. Bush would disagree that the buck stopped with him on this.  But the congressional leaders of both parties were in this loop on this, and it's only 6 years removed that they are raising any objections, now that it appears public opinion has shifted.  (I'm not sure it has, but they seem to see political advantage by the pivot.)

Whatever else, the United States didn't "torture" because we thought God wanted us to do, or because we were angry at Muslims.  We did it to get information to help fight terrorism.  Now maybe much of that was misguided or mistaken.  But it certainly was not ordered from of the Oval Office or the vice president's office out of malice or revenge.  Doesn't excuse the excesses, but it's not equivalent to beheading an American journalist.  And I'm not addressing all this at you, Pr. Wolf, just my jumping off point.  Much of the political witch-hunting now makes having a public discussion of when such extreme measures might be justifiable all but impossible, especially since politicians in the loop back then seemed to have made a decision on that years ago.  I lament the demonization and criminalization of political differences in our public discourse over the past 30 years.

Sterling Spatz
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: MaddogLutheran on May 05, 2009, 09:44:18 PM
I am not moved by the argument that "if we did not find out in time" there would "be blood on our hands."  Whose hands?  The government, the interregators, society in general?  Nonsense.  If evil people accomplish their evil purposes the blood is on thier hands alone.  

Yes, we can and do talk of negligence and dereliction of duty, but that is when people fail to take the most basic, reasonable, and prudent actions to prevent a harm that is forseeable.  In such cases we may rightly seek to assign blame; but certainly not because they failed to take every conceivable (or extreme measure) to prevent it.  That is expecting too much of others and/or ourselves.  It is foolish and unreasonable to expect that of our leaders; and probably megalomanical on their part if they think can do so.
What you say is not unreasonable.  But I'd have more faith in it if not so many people, including those in the chattering classes, hadn't accused George W. Bush of negligence for not connecting the dots on 9/11, as if he was somehow responsible and not the evil men who committed the heinous act.  Because if they had arrested the hijackers before they carried out their mission, certainly there would have been cries of racial profiling and lack of evidence of wrong-doing intent.  If Bill Clinton had authorized the Killing of Osama bin Laden in 1998, when apparently a team had him within their sights, would that have been wrong?  Maybe 9/11 would have been prevented, or maybe not.  My point is not to try and catch you in a logic inconsistency, merely that things are not always so morally black and white as people such as yourself would make it sound.  Let's not kid ourselves, I think the way the war on terrorism has been prosecuted has certainly been influenced by the backbiting on the failure to prevent 9/11.  All actions have consequences, even the newspaper editorial or the political speech.

Sterling Spatz
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: jpetty on May 05, 2009, 10:10:02 PM
So far, Bill Clinton is the only American to have fired a shot in anger at Osama bin Laden--missed him by about half an hour.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Michael Slusser on May 05, 2009, 10:45:48 PM
Back to the stimulus for Jim Krauser's initial post: why are churchgoers so much less critical of torture than non-churchgoers? Do we inculcate a tolerance for mistreating people as part of our preaching of Law and Gospel?

Why the differential?

Peace,
Michael
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 05, 2009, 10:53:51 PM
Except, Pr. Wolf, in this case, because potentially the people involved are in legal jeopardy, there is a very specific definition of torture.  I believe the secret torture legal brief referenced a European Court of Human Rights opinion from the 80's that said similar tactics by the British in Northern Ireland did not constitute torture.   All this talk in the public square is potentially prejudicing the jury, as the lawyers might say. I don't think anyone would quibble that in laymen's terms, there was torture going on.  You are quite right about the idea of exceptions or allowances, similar to a just war line of thinking.
Sterling nails it here. It would be all fine and dandy to call a thing what it is without a definition of that thing if people's lives and reputations were not on the line. Pornography, like torture, is another thing that has a definition of "I know it when I see it." And I think that is true. But if the photographer who shot the Victoria's Secret catalogue were up on porn charges that called for severe penalties, don't you think he'd be entitled at least to know the definition of the law he violated? Lots of people would look at his catalogue and conclude it was obviously pornography. Others would call it erotic art, and others effective advertising, or all three. By calling waterboarding torture with such matter-of-fact certainty, you're saying that people who volunteered to defend you with their lives and who in good faith carried out their duties according to established policy are essentially war criminals. I'm not willing to say that and can't imagine anyone in any other profession facing such severe penalties on such subjective criteria.  
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Erme Wolf on May 05, 2009, 11:20:50 PM
By calling waterboarding torture with such matter-of-fact certainty, you're saying that people who volunteered to defend you with their lives and who in good faith carried out their duties according to established policy are essentially war criminals.  

    I'm saying nothing of the sort.  And I agree with the decision made by the President not to go back and prosecute those who conducted these interrogations, believing that they were legal and did not constitute torture.  Also, because of my own age and life experience, I have a great deal of respect for those who have served this nation, particularly in the armed forces (volunteer or otherwise), and who have borne the responsibility of defending this democracy with their lives if called upon. 

    Waterboarding is not new.  It's definition is well established.  When it has been used on our own armed forces personnel when they have been taken prisoner, it has been seen as torture.  Why is it different if it is done by our side?  It is what it is.  I can see that my plainspoken take on this is offensive to you.  That is not my intention, but it is the case.  And as I said, our government has and might again make a case for its use, under certain circumstances.  I am one who disagrees with the argument in favor of using it.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: jpetty on May 05, 2009, 11:50:48 PM
By calling waterboarding torture with such matter-of-fact certainty, you're saying that people who volunteered to defend you with their lives and who in good faith carried out their duties according to established policy are essentially war criminals.  

    I'm saying nothing of the sort.  And I agree with the decision made by the President not to go back and prosecute those who conducted these interrogations, believing that they were legal and did not constitute torture.  Also, because of my own age and life experience, I have a great deal of respect for those who have served this nation, particularly in the armed forces (volunteer or otherwise), and who have borne the responsibility of defending this democracy with their lives if called upon. 

    Waterboarding is not new.  It's definition is well established.  When it has been used on our own armed forces personnel when they have been taken prisoner, it has been seen as torture.  Why is it different if it is done by our side?  It is what it is.  I can see that my plainspoken take on this is offensive to you.  That is not my intention, but it is the case.  And as I said, our government has and might again make a case for its use, under certain circumstances.  I am one who disagrees with the argument in favor of using it.

Waterboarding was used during the Spanish Inquisition, so, yes, it's been around for awhile.  If I remember correctly, waterboarding is specifically defined as torture by the Convention on Torture, recommended by Ronald Reagan and passed in 1988.

I do think those responsible should be prosecuted.  I can't believe we're even having a discussion about it.   Torture is against the law, waterboarding is torture, and those who directed it should be tried, and, if found guilty, they should do time.  At the time, Pres. Reagan said, any nation signing the convention "is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution."

Besides, it doesn't even work, as most of the military brass readily admits.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: rcephd on May 06, 2009, 12:42:04 AM
The UN treaty on Torture etc.  signed in 1988 did not specify any single technique or practice. It defined torture as "severe pain or suffering whether physical or mental." Waterboarding is ambiguous as it does no physical pain or harm, and "mental suffering" is a highly subjective term. Personal opinions on what constitutes "torture" are mildly interesting but irrelevant and useless for any deliberative purpose. When issued under color of official position as by certain functionaries of the Obama regime they can be downright damaging to the discourse. Opining is a lot of fun but I'm surprised no one has bothered to put up an official definition by now. It isn't hard to find.

Oh and BTW, in case anyone wonders, the letter from Dennis Blair, National Director of Intelligence, released by the White House on April16, asserted that "high value information came from interrogations in which the methods were used." Waterboarding, which is functionally harmless, thus apparently may have saved numerous innocent lives. Just thought some of you would like to know.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 06, 2009, 12:45:22 AM
By calling waterboarding torture with such matter-of-fact certainty, you're saying that people who volunteered to defend you with their lives and who in good faith carried out their duties according to established policy are essentially war criminals. I'm not willing to say that and can't imagine anyone in any other profession facing such severe penalties on such subjective criteria.  

You words seem to suggest that waterboarding is or was, before this espisode, a longstanding option available to agents of our governemnt or that its use is a matter of a close call, a method that was once standard operating procedure but mothballed until needed.  Established policy?  Who was making such arguments before 9/11?  If it was so clearly not a war crime, why did the Justice Department memos have to parse their terms so closely and why after all the outrage hit the fan were the memos withdrawn?  The answer: because the practice is legally and morally indefensible.

If waterboarding is not torture, I don't see how the word torture has any meaning at all.  Waterboarding is the current term for it...when I was in elementary school 40 years ago it had a different name:  Chinese Water TORTURE!



Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 06, 2009, 01:01:33 AM
Back to the stimulus for Jim Krauser's initial post: why are churchgoers so much less critical of torture than non-churchgoers? Do we inculcate a tolerance for mistreating people as part of our preaching of Law and Gospel?

Why the differential?

Peace,
Michael

Looking at the bar graphs it is at least hearting that the number of persons who felt that torture was never or only rarely justified was the highest 53% among the white mainline Protestants (including Lutherans, I would guess).   62% of White Evangelical Protestants thought it could be often or sometimes justified.
Among those who attend regularly (weekly) 54% were more inclined to see torture as justifed.  It probably reflects that Evangelical go to church more than mainliners.

It's only a hunch, but my suspicion is that there is a somewhat higher degree of civil religion and authority figues in Evangelical Christianity (though this shouldn't be confused with support for any particular administration) and as such they would be more sympathetic to national interests.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on May 06, 2009, 05:50:32 AM
Interesting that while we do not have a definition of torture, we have this as a definiton of sinning against the Fifth Comm:  "God forbids us to hurt or harm our neighbor physically, that is, to do or say anything which may destroy, shorten, or make his or her life bitter."   How is waterboarding, "helping and supporting our neighbor in every physical need?"   A pretty broad understanding of torture: bitterness.     (quotes CPH, 91 SC w Answers)  Harvey Mozolak
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on May 06, 2009, 05:56:51 AM
One last issue.  We seem to have accepted as a working concept, that torture or induced bitterness does not yield correct or useful answers.   That's nice to believe, from my point of view but it is not a proven fact, is it?  At the very least it depends on who is to be embittered, aka tortured, doesn't it?   And whether they possess any useful, truthful information.  Waterboard a Navy Seal and you may statistically find it difficult to get helpful intel and maybe they don't all know the full story, on purpose.  Waterboard me or even Bush or Obama and you have  a higher chance of learning everything we know albeit in my case its not too helpful intel and in theirs much greater.   All terrorists or good people are not of equal value and rank when it comes to offering a bitter pill, right?     Harvey Mozolak
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: edoughty on May 06, 2009, 07:14:03 AM
I agree with Erma and jpetty-- and I believe torture in any form is both injustifiable and pragmatically less-than-useful.

Did any of the rest of you hear NPR's "Midmorning" show yesterday?  Here are some paragraphs of the transcript.

Details on what interrogators actually got from techniques like waterboarding are sketchy. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden has said that the first man the U.S. waterboarded, an al-Qaida operative named Abu Zubaydah, was unhelpful until the rough stuff began.

The FBI remembers it differently. The bureau says it took just two weeks for Zubaydah to provide information on Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, without the use of aggressive tactics. Rohan Guaratna agrees. He's an al-Qaida expert who has worked with both the CIA and the FBI and is very familiar with Zubaydah's case.

"Abu Zabaydah told the name of KSM before the enhanced techniques were used," says Guaratna.

The CIA took over Zubaydah's interrogation a short time later. And while he provided some more intelligence after he was waterboarded, it is impossible to know if he might have done so anyway.

Consider another case, the interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He was waterboarded six times a day for a month. He provided information, but he certainly didn't do so quickly.

"What I get most out of the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohamed is that any approach — I don't care what it is — if you have to do it 183 times, it is not working," says Matthew Alexander. He was the military interrogator in charge of the team that ended up finding al-Qaida's No. 1 man in Iraq, without resorting to torture.

"When they did use the waterboard on Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, what they were getting each time was the absolute minimum he could get away with," he says. "And that's what you get when you use torture — you get the absolute minimum amount of information."

Hoffman underscores the point: Despite waterboarding, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed didn't give up key information that he must have known at the time of his questioning. Experts say he most likely knew about the planning of the 2005 train bombing in Madrid, but he didn't talk. He had to be aware of al-Qaida sleeper cells in Britain and Europe, and he didn't reveal anything about those, either.


Finally, thanks to Harvey for bringing in a catechetical critique.

Erik
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: pterandon on May 06, 2009, 07:39:55 AM
First of all, I'm hoping everyone here is against sexual humiliation.  In both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, there are reports that prisoners were subjected as a matter of policy to sexual humiliation.  At Gitmo they used women's menstrual blood to humiliate prisoners because they thought it would help make them feel unclean and break down their connection to their religion, which was a source of spiritual strength to them.

Now waterboarding, breaking arms, etc.,   versus merely sexually humiliating someone.  Is the "conservative" church going to come out in favor of the latter, too, or will it find some kind of bible passage about sexual morality as a reason to oppose it?

 Would you be willing to say that to the widows, widowers, orphans and parents of those who died in another 9/11 that could have been prevented if better intel had been gathered?  Sorry for your loss, but we could not push harder to get information.  Would those be martyrs to American morality?

If preventing another 9/11 is paramount, then don't
i) use a technique that gives bogus information-- the person gives up whatever he thinks the torturer wants to hear.
ii) something that degrades the moral case of America overall.

And in the facts before us,  there wasn't just torture of "avowed terrorists."  It was also a bunch of abductees, many of whom had nothing to do with terror attacks, who merely engendered the disfavor of the local warlord.  And there was torture in order to drum up additional justifications of the Iraq War after the fact.


By calling waterboarding torture with such matter-of-fact certainty, you're saying that people who volunteered to defend you with their lives and who in good faith carried out their duties according to established policy are essentially war criminals. I'm not willing to say that and can't imagine anyone in any other profession facing such severe penalties on such subjective criteria.

Please pay attention to all the sources calling it torture-- it ain't just the flaming libs, starting with Amnesty International, who was quoted by conservatives from Quayle to Rumsfeld in other conflicts.  Military folk who observed the proceedings also called it torture.  But Peter, your comment betrays mere Antinomianism-- and one of the worst kind.  Did Luther in "Whether Soldiers" ever say that actions on the battlefield or in the command of such troops could ever be God-displeasing or an abomination?  You seem to operate under the opposite premise-- if the persons organized are generally doing a very honorable thing, then the state must not prosecute those who have violated the law; moreover, the church must come out in blanket defense of anything they did.


This divide is a reason why the ELCA should either not split at all or must split into at least three.

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: DCharlton on May 06, 2009, 09:52:54 AM
I am not moved by the argument that "if we did not find out in time" there would "be blood on our hands."  Whose hands?  The government, the interregators, society in general?  Nonsense.  If evil people accomplish their evil purposes the blood is on thier hands alone.  

Yes, we can and do talk of negligence and dereliction of duty, but that is when people fail to take the most basic, reasonable, and prudent actions to prevent a harm that is forseeable.  In such cases we may rightly seek to assign blame; but certainly not because they failed to take every conceivable (or extreme measure) to prevent it.  That is expecting too much of others and/or ourselves.  It is foolish and unreasonable to expect that of our leaders; and probably megalomanical on their part if they think can do so.
What you say is not unreasonable.  But I'd have more faith in it if not so many people, including those in the chattering classes, hadn't accused George W. Bush of negligence for not connecting the dots on 9/11, as if he was somehow responsible and not the evil men who committed the heinous act.  Because if they had arrested the hijackers before they carried out their mission, certainly there would have been cries of racial profiling and lack of evidence of wrong-doing intent.  If Bill Clinton had authorized the Killing of Osama bin Laden in 1998, when apparently a team had him within their sights, would that have been wrong?  Maybe 9/11 would have been prevented, or maybe not.  My point is not to try and catch you in a logic inconsistency, merely that things are not always so morally black and white as people such as yourself would make it sound.  Let's not kid ourselves, I think the way the war on terrorism has been prosecuted has certainly been influenced by the backbiting on the failure to prevent 9/11.  All actions have consequences, even the newspaper editorial or the political speech.

Sterling Spatz

Sterling,

So it's the fault of the "chattering classes" that President Bush felt the need to use water boarding?  It's "backbiting" to fault Bush for not preventing 911 but it's not backbiting for you to fault President Clinton for failing to kill Bin Laden in 1998? 

It's sad to see those who (rightly) fault the left for it's moral equivocation on abortion and homosexuality to do the same when it comes to torture. 

David Charlton

P.S.  I also find it disturbing that Americans are so comfortable with torturing those of darker pigmentation.  The torture, mutilation and killing of those with dark skin was still common in the United States 100 years ago.  (A quick search of the internet will find ghastly pictures of whites smiling and posing under the corpses of African Americans.  Sort of like the photos from Abu Ghraib.)  I sometimes wonder whether the torture conducted at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib was really more about the ritual dehumaniziation of the other than about getting useful intelligence. 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 06, 2009, 10:21:21 AM
If the fifth commandment applies, then anyone in prison against their will is being sinned against. "The neighbor" includes those who need protection from criminals, which is why secular authority has the power even to execute criminals. As I understood the term, "Chinese Water Torture" did not refer to anything like waterboarding. If someone told me I was to be tortured in some enemy camp, I would be greatly relieved to find out waterboarding was as far as they would go. That being said, my objection has not been to defend waterboarding but to be careful about the labels we use. Get rid of waterboarding, fine. But the more circuitous rout is first to define it as torture, thus, those who did it as torturers, and then to prosecute them as though there is no difference between what they did and what torturers do when they are serious about torture. In how many old westerns did John Wayne "torture" the bad guy by holding his head in a barrel of water? How wretched of Gene Hackman's character in Mississippi Burning to "torture" the KKK guy both physically and psychologically by hold the razor to his neck and then staging the mock lynching to literally scare the sh-- out of him. Bad? Sure. I think the word "torture" stands out as a little much. Again, it is like using the word rape. I'm not for boyfriends pressuring their girlfriends for sex; I'm not defending them for doing that. I only want to distinguish them from men who attack strangers and forcibly rape them. Neither behavior is acceptable, but there is a rather large difference between the two. The whole game merely serves the desired moral equivocation of those who, as I mentioned in a previous thread, have lost all judgment and can't see the difference between good guy and bad guys and who want, without distinction, to be able to say, "They torture. We torture. There is no difference." Thus, as I said upstream, I agree that waterboarding should not be used but I also regretfully acknoweldge that anti-life forces, whether in the form of Jihadists or deconstructionist academics, are being given a powerful propaganda weapon in the war against Western Civilization with the word "torture" in this context. I won't concede the word until I see a working definition of it that stands up to scrutiny, though I fully acknowledge that in a non-technical sense people might use the word to refer to all sorts of things just as someone might casually refer to the Victoria's Secret catalogue as pornographic, but would need more than such a subjective judgment before prosecuting the company for distributing pornography to minors merely because some seventeen year girls picked up their flyer in the mall.

To sum up-- I am all for discontinuing all of the methods under controversy. I do not defend waterboarding or seek to continue the practice. I see the broader issue as the power of the word "torture" (once it has been established) in the hands of those who are the moral equivalent of the KKK in the world. It is about language for me. If a black man grabbed a whites woman's arm and held it as she tried to jerk away, his action was unacceptable and not justified. Okay. But if it were in the old south and successfully labelled "sexual assault" by a court, the ramifications of that label in the hands of evil, kkk types who now have scores of "sexual assualt" cases to settle would be disastrous. I'm not defending the black man in the scenario. He shouldn't have done it. But I'd rather he be reprimanded for disorderly conduct than sexual assault. Similarly, enact all the recommendations about GITMO without using the word "torture" and I'm okay with it. It is those who insist on that particular word not out of zeal for honesty but out of lust for the power having that word in their arsenal would give them whom I steadfastly oppose.   
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Iowegian on May 06, 2009, 10:27:13 AM
First of all, I'm hoping everyone here is against sexual humiliation.  In both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, there are reports that prisoners were subjected as a matter of policy to sexual humiliation.  At Gitmo they used women's menstrual blood to humiliate prisoners because they thought it would help make them feel unclean and break down their connection to their religion, which was a source of spiritual strength to them.

It needs to be pointed out that where we're arguing 'ambiguity', in the Abu Gharib case a military tribunal found that there was more than enough of a concrete definition to try, convict and sentence military personnel for their actions.  Carrying out the actions meant prison and a dishonorable discharge from service - actually ordering or approving those actions.... ?

Quote
And in the facts before us,  there wasn't just torture of "avowed terrorists."  It was also a bunch of abductees, many of whom had nothing to do with terror attacks, who merely engendered the disfavor of the local warlord.  And there was torture in order to drum up additional justifications of the Iraq War after the fact.

According to the sources we now have - when you're putting someone through 183 sessions on the waterboard, it's pretty obvious that either the technique is useless - or there is a different goal in mind.  (That 'different goal' is not ambiguous - nearly every convention and law passed sees the idea of using physical means to extract confessions or false information as a prosecutable crime.)

By calling waterboarding torture with such matter-of-fact certainty, you're saying that people who volunteered to defend you with their lives and who in good faith carried out their duties according to established policy are essentially war criminals. I'm not willing to say that and can't imagine anyone in any other profession facing such severe penalties on such subjective criteria.

What about the people who looked at the standing legal precedent for treating waterboarding as an act of torture - either through war crimes tribunals, courts martial or civilian criminal convictions - and decided to assuage any conflicts with a little bit of legal wordsmithing?  There are people who follow orders and people who give the orders:  criminal law doesn't draw a line of separation.  I'm not sure why this case is any different.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: DCharlton on May 06, 2009, 10:32:36 AM
Similarly, enact all the recommendations about GITMO without using the word "torture" and I'm okay with it. It is those who insist on that particular word not out of zeal for honesty but out of lust for the power having that word in their arsenal would give them whom I steadfastly oppose.   

Only the left in America has the lust for power?  What about the word traitor that was bandied around by those on the right during the past 8 years?  What about the proud conservatives who stood on the street corner here in Vero Beach, Florida with a sign that said, "Communists for Obama" and "Obama kills babies?"  

I submit that the ones with the "lust for power" where the ones in the Bush administration that sought to expand the president's power to abduct, imprison and "agressively interrogate" anyone he chose.

And speaking of the KKK, when was the last time the United States rounded up every white man with a crew cut and a southern accent, labeled them "enemy combatants" and shipped them outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts?

David Charlton
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Iowegian on May 06, 2009, 10:39:07 AM
Similarly, enact all the recommendations about GITMO without using the word "torture" and I'm okay with it. It is those who insist on that particular word not out of zeal for honesty but out of lust for the power having that word in their arsenal would give them whom I steadfastly oppose.   

I'm a bit baffled by this argument:  the word "torture" is defended by actively re-defining what it means?  It strikes me as an odd flip side to the other arguments I often see hashed out here.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: DCharlton on May 06, 2009, 10:42:40 AM
That being said, my objection has not been to defend waterboarding but to be careful about the labels we use. Get rid of waterboarding, fine. But the more circuitous rout is first to define it as torture, thus, those who did it as torturers, and then to prosecute them as though there is no difference between what they did and what torturers do when they are serious about torture.].

Peter, this reminds me of the liberal attempt to soften the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality by saying the Bible is condemning pederasty or prostitution but homosexuality as we know it.  It is a sign of desperation.  

Quote
In how many old westerns did John Wayne "torture" the bad guy by holding his head in a barrel of water? How wretched of Gene Hackman's character in Mississippi Burning to "torture" the KKK guy both physically and psychologically by hold the razor to his neck and then staging the mock lynching to literally scare the sh-- out of him.].

Since when do we use movies to define reality or make moral decisions?  I also find it interesting that you appeal to John Wayne, a man who played a hero in the movies, but spent WWII seducing other men's wives in Hollywood.  When we are talking about what real, manly Americans do in times of danger, let's talk about real heros, not pretend ones.

David Charlton
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Michael Slusser on May 06, 2009, 10:43:35 AM
Looking at the bar graphs it is at least heartening that the number of persons who felt that torture was never or only rarely justified was the highest 53% among the white mainline Protestants (including Lutherans, I would guess).   62% of White Evangelical Protestants thought it could be often or sometimes justified.
Among those who attend regularly (weekly) 54% were more inclined to see torture as justifed.  It probably reflects that Evangelical go to church more than mainliners.

In the Pew methodology, ELCA is white mainline Protestant, LCMS is white evangelical Protestant.

And white mainline Protestants are not the highest number who felt that torture is never or only rarely justified (53%); "Unaffiliated" at 55% are here the one with the toughest moral standard. Who are the sheep, who the goats on this one?

Peace,
Michael
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on May 06, 2009, 10:59:26 AM
A couple of salient points:

1) This debate MUST NOT be about political party...  We risk far too much if we make it about "the Bush" administration.  SO, if we're going to investigate the practice of previous aministrations, we must not stop at merely the previous regime...  It would be only prudent to go back and investigate the Clinton administration as well.  I think it dangerously naive to think that the Bush administration somehow "invented" these techniques in a vacuum.

Of course if you're only interested in grinding a Democrat-vs.-Republican axe, as opposed to the real issues of justice, you will focus only on the Bush White House....

2) I would hope that Jim, Erik, and John would now come to see that abortion is also a sin against the sanctity and dignity of life.  Certainly many of the same issues that affect our treatment of prisoners can be seen in our treatment of the unborn?  I welcome you to the pro-life camp.

3) The administration is reflective of the state of our culture.  What did the treatment of prisoners display to us when people paid money (at exactly the same historical period) to watch "Jackass"?  There were startling similarities between the two.  Why are we surprised, when people consume such raunch and filth for entertainment that they suddenly are debased in their behavior with prisoners?  When you have "art" making a "statement" by dunking a crucifix in urine or throwing elephant dung on an image of the Blessed Virgin, why are you surprised and shocked if one of our soldiers throws a Qu'ran in a toliet (as it was alleged...)?  

What Abu Graib tells me is that our culture is seriously debased and depraved.  Not that it justifies anything, but our problems are with us.  Or as Pogo once opined: "We have met the enemy and it is us."

4) This is not, and can not, be about other's perception of "us."  The Muslim world despises us, not primarily because of our treatment of prisoners, but because of our cultural values.  Our treatment of prisoners merely confirms what they already suspect: we are debased and decadent.  Similarly, it cannot be about "what they do."  The Geneva Conventions are not followed only if both parties are subscribers.  On the other hand, let us also be honest to say that the Geneva Conventions were not intended for this type of warfare; the Geneva Conventions are written for uniformed soldiers, in a state of declared war between formal nations.  The old "Name. Rank. Serial Number" routine doesn't work with those who have no rank and no serial number.

Likewise, let us also be frank.  Our enemies do not care about the "gentleman's code" of war either.  They torture and execute those whom they capture, and they do so on camera in grusome fashion to make a statement.  They burn and deface the bodies of those whom they kill, both soldier and civilian.  They did these things long before Abu Graib and do these things because of their cultural values.

We cannot justify our behavior off the standpoint of others.  Our treatment of prisoners is a reflection of "us."  Abu Graib was a travesty, not because of what it might have done to our standing in the Muslim world, but because it was WRONG.

5) Let us also understand that this is part of war.  In World War II, our soldiers sometimes did unspeakable things like killing wounded and unarmed soldiers instead of taking them prisoners.  It happens.  I am not justifying it, but it does happen.  Which is why individual acts of honor and valor stand out so.  We must not merely point out the negative, but the valor of those who have behaved in an exemplary manner in this conflict.  We are so good at finding the wrong and so poor at finding the right.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on May 06, 2009, 11:06:22 AM
Similarly, enact all the recommendations about GITMO without using the word "torture" and I'm okay with it. It is those who insist on that particular word not out of zeal for honesty but out of lust for the power having that word in their arsenal would give them whom I steadfastly oppose.   

Only the left in America has the lust for power?  What about the word traitor that was bandied around by those on the right during the past 8 years?  What about the proud conservatives who stood on the street corner here in Vero Beach, Florida with a sign that said, "Communists for Obama" and "Obama kills babies?"  

I submit that the ones with the "lust for power" where the ones in the Bush administration that sought to expand the president's power to abduct, imprison and "agressively interrogate" anyone he chose.

And speaking of the KKK, when was the last time the United States rounded up every white man with a crew cut and a southern accent, labeled them "enemy combatants" and shipped them outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts?

David Charlton

Here again is the "Bumper Sticker" argument...  You know, the one where someone says, "I saw this bumper sticker..."

There is no monopoly on the lust for power, David.  You know that.  There are no doubt honorable liberals, but there are also no doubt honorable conservatives.  There are craven liberals, and there are craven conservatives.  Avarice knows no political brand.

You are mad that someone would hold up a "Obama Kills Babies" placard?  Fine.  Then I suspect you would also object to my local "Patriots for Peace" protestor who holds a placard that says "Bush is a Murderer."

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Team Hesse on May 06, 2009, 11:14:14 AM
5) Let us also understand that this is part of war.  In World War II, our soldiers sometimes did unspeakable things like killing wounded and unarmed soldiers instead of taking them prisoners.

Actually, it goes much deeper than that.  I read somewhere there was a standing order at the time of D-day because of the desperate nature of the impending battle and the priorities that were necessary for the great risk that was being taken -- a standing order was issued by the command that no prisoners were to be taken.  They didn't have the resources or even a place assigned to properly manage prisoners, so it was policy that all enemy combatants were to be executed.  Puts a whole new spin on 4th commandment issues.  Armchair generals can sit and judge those who are given the responsibility, a weighty responsibility indeed, but would you want to hold that responsibility, worried that an error in your judgment could lead to the death of thousands...?
"War is hell." (Wm. Tecumseh Sherman)
Lou
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: jpetty on May 06, 2009, 11:23:46 AM
I agree with Jerry that torture should not be a culture war issue.  If someone in the Clinton administration tortured someone, they should face trial.  Similarly, if Democrats in Congress aided the Bush administration on torture, they--hopefully--will get bounced out of Congress.

That said, it obviously is a "culture war" issue for some.  I'm stunned at Pastor Speckhard's rather light-hearted attitude toward waterboarding, and his artful attempts to justify it.   Said Pr. Speckhard:

"I agree that waterboarding should not be used but I also regretfully acknoweldge that anti-life forces, whether in the form of Jihadists or deconstructionist academics, are being given a powerful propaganda weapon in the war against Western Civilization with the word "torture" in this context."

In other words, what's truly regrettable about all this is not the torture itself, but that it's bad public relations.  It gives "deconstructionist academics" something to gripe about.

Five years ago, our synod assembly failed to condemn torture.  The vote was about 50-50, with those opposed having a slight majority.  That it was even close made me ashamed to be a Lutheran on that day.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 06, 2009, 11:56:00 AM

  Torture is against the law, waterboarding is torture, and those who directed it should be tried, and, if found guilty, they should do time. 

Every now and then Herman Otten will send out a survey or questionaire consisting of leading, yes/no questions. He always wonders why nobody returns them. It is because they are always aggressively simplistic in the service of a political agenda. I do not defend it when the "Right" does it and I won't participate in it when the "Left" does it, as jpetty does above. The only difference between this and an Otten survey is that Christian News would say "Torture is against the law Yes___ No___. Waterborading is torture Yes___ No____. Those who conduct torture are torturers Yes___ No___. Torturers should be punished Yes ____ No___. " I will neither concede the point nor even argue with someone whose argument depends entirely upon a definition he refuses to supply. And I think it is ironic that elsewhere I'm taken to task for redefining a term by people who have refused to define it in the first place. It is as though the only thing we know for sure about the definition of torture is that waterboarding is indisputably an example of it. Nobody has offered to provide any examples of acceptable ways of getting information from uncooperative captives, either, so I'm assuming this means we're giving up on interrogation entirely in any form beyond asking the prisoners if they would be so good as to rat out their accomplices. But I'm fine even with that. Let's not do interrogations of any kind if that is what we as a society are willing to try to live with.

What I think would help the conversations would be some distinctions. Let's come up with degrees of torture, sort of like in medical terms there are burns and then there are burns, distinguished by categorizing them in degrees. I will gladly concede the word "torture" if those who insist on it will concede that by comparison to the sort of torture employed by many regimes, waterboarding is a comparatively mild form of it. Then we could officailly adopt the phrase "moderate torture" or "low-level torture" for use in this discussion. My guess is that this offer will fall on deaf ears because any qualifier strips the word of its evocative power; beyond justice in this instance, the battle of the word is over the propaganda value of it. So even though my perfectly reasonable solution of a mitigated, technical phrase would still serve to bring justice to this situation, it will be rejected because in the broader context too much depends upon the viability of aggressively simplistic sequences like jpetty's above.    
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Charles_Austin on May 06, 2009, 12:05:42 PM
Peter writes:
I will gladly concede the word "torture" if those who insist on it will concede that by comparison to the sort of torture employed by many regimes, waterboarding is a comparatively mild form of it. Then we could officailly adopt the phrase "moderate torture" or "low-level torture" for use in this discussion.

I comment:
We don't even have to create them. Let's just look at the manuals for the Spanish Inquisition and the "Holy Office" that codified the Inquisition around the world. There were clear and distinct "rules" about how much pain could be inflicted and at what point in the questioning the inquisitor - seeking, of course, "truth" and the salvation of the one on his table - could apply certain instruments and for how long. At times, the pressure could be applied for as long as it took to say an "Our Father."
Sure, Peter, lets codify our modern torture and make it a standard part of our judicial system.
You did forget to put ironic emoticons on the above post, did you not? Good grief!
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on May 06, 2009, 12:08:01 PM
I agree with Jerry that torture should not be a culture war issue.  If someone in the Clinton administration tortured someone, they should face trial.  Similarly, if Democrats in Congress aided the Bush administration on torture, they--hopefully--will get bounced out of Congress.

That said, it obviously is a "culture war" issue for some.  I'm stunned at Pastor Speckhard's rather light-hearted attitude toward waterboarding, and his artful attempts to justify it.   Said Pr. Speckhard:

"I agree that waterboarding should not be used but I also regretfully acknoweldge that anti-life forces, whether in the form of Jihadists or deconstructionist academics, are being given a powerful propaganda weapon in the war against Western Civilization with the word "torture" in this context."

In other words, what's truly regrettable about all this is not the torture itself, but that it's bad public relations.  It gives "deconstructionist academics" something to gripe about.

Five years ago, our synod assembly failed to condemn torture.  The vote was about 50-50, with those opposed having a slight majority.  That it was even close made me ashamed to be a Lutheran on that day.


Actually, John, I said it should not be a matter of "Political Party."  This debate cannot/should not descend to the issue of "Republican vs. Democrat" which is where it seems to be leading.  I've always wondered, for instance, why some people can decry the Bush administration for "going to war" with Iraq while ignoring the default state of war that existed throughout the entire Clinton administration.  Or conversely how some argue for a strict "constructionist" interpretation of the Constitution while arguing for Presidential powers to take "pre-emptive" military power.  It comes down to the old "Sure, he's an SOB...But he's our SOB!" argument.

It is ironic that, now that we have a Democrat in office, my most recent "Lutheran Parters" was suddenly gushing about the virtues of "patriotism" and serving the government.  For eight years, all I heard was about the need to "speak truth to power" and the Christian necessity of opposition to the government so as to avoid the evils of "civil religion."  Suddenly, it is "hip" to be down with the government.  Kinda makes you wonder...
 
But the debate over torture does need to be part of the "culture wars."  Because it is a reflection of our culture.  If Abu Graib is indicative of anything, it is indeed that the "culture wars" are going quite badly for the Church.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: edoughty on May 06, 2009, 12:35:23 PM

  Torture is against the law, waterboarding is torture, and those who directed it should be tried, and, if found guilty, they should do time. 

Every now and then Herman Otten will send out a survey or questionaire consisting of leading, yes/no questions. He always wonders why nobody returns them. It is because they are always aggressively simplistic in the service of a political agenda. I do not defend it when the "Right" does it and I won't participate in it when the "Left" does it, as jpetty does above. The only difference between this and an Otten survey is that Christian News would say "Torture is against the law Yes___ No___. Waterborading is torture Yes___ No____. Those who conduct torture are torturers Yes___ No___. Torturers should be punished Yes ____ No___. " I will neither concede the point nor even argue with someone whose argument depends entirely upon a definition he refuses to supply. And I think it is ironic that elsewhere I'm taken to task for redefining a term by people who have refused to define it in the first place. It is as though the only thing we know for sure about the definition of torture is that waterboarding is indisputably an example of it. Nobody has offered to provide any examples of acceptable ways of getting information from uncooperative captives, either, so I'm assuming this means we're giving up on interrogation entirely in any form beyond asking the prisoners if they would be so good as to rat out their accomplices. But I'm fine even with that. Let's not do interrogations of any kind if that is what we as a society are willing to try to live with.

What I think would help the conversations would be some distinctions. Let's come up with degrees of torture, sort of like in medical terms there are burns and then there are burns, distinguished by categorizing them in degrees. I will gladly concede the word "torture" if those who insist on it will concede that by comparison to the sort of torture employed by many regimes, waterboarding is a comparatively mild form of it. Then we could officailly adopt the phrase "moderate torture" or "low-level torture" for use in this discussion. My guess is that this offer will fall on deaf ears because any qualifier strips the word of its evocative power; beyond justice in this instance, the battle of the word is over the propaganda value of it. So even though my perfectly reasonable solution of a mitigated, technical phrase would still serve to bring justice to this situation, it will be rejected because in the broader context too much depends upon the viability of aggressively simplistic sequences like jpetty's above.    

Well, the USA signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment , which defines "torture" and includes the following:

Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.
Article 2

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.


Erik
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: RevSteve on May 06, 2009, 12:49:22 PM
5) Let us also understand that this is part of war.  In World War II, our soldiers sometimes did unspeakable things like killing wounded and unarmed soldiers instead of taking them prisoners.

Armchair generals can sit and judge those who are given the responsibility, a weighty responsibility indeed, but would you want to hold that responsibility, worried that an error in your judgment could lead to the death of thousands...?
"War is hell." (Wm. Tecumseh Sherman)
Lou


Exactly!!!! What anyone who is willing to glibly say "Well if not waterboarding someone means that we don't get information from suspected terrorists than so be it." needs to be willing to acknowledge is that this information that you so quickly dismiss could very likely save lives. And so such an outook could quite possibly be the same as saying that you are willing to risk the lives of thousands of people in the interest of preventing a few suspected terrorists from being waterboarded.

I say this not to defend waterboarding, nor to condemn it. As a Christian who happens to be a veteran and did have opportunities to know and interact with Marines and Navy SEALS who quite possibly might now be involved in some of these interrogation practices, I really don't know where I come down on this issue.

I know it is arrogant and presumptuous for any of us to speak of these interrogation techniques in the black and white terms that I have seen them spoken of on this thread, when I am guessing none of us have any personal insight into the context of these interrogations nor the amount of lives that might be saved from the information that might be gained from them. I am not rationalizing here. The fact that this is a complex situation of course is no excuse for brutality, of course there should be a line that should not be crossed. But I don't care how many books or articles on torture you have read or how many CNN reports you have watched, unless you have been in that situation then you are in no place to say where that line should be drawn.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: mariemeyer on May 06, 2009, 12:56:30 PM
IMO "degrees of torture" is akin to a women being a "little bit pregnant."

Marie Meyer
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: jpetty on May 06, 2009, 12:59:25 PM
5) Let us also understand that this is part of war.  In World War II, our soldiers sometimes did unspeakable things like killing wounded and unarmed soldiers instead of taking them prisoners.

Armchair generals can sit and judge those who are given the responsibility, a weighty responsibility indeed, but would you want to hold that responsibility, worried that an error in your judgment could lead to the death of thousands...?
"War is hell." (Wm. Tecumseh Sherman)
Lou


Exactly!!!! What anyone who is willing to glibly say "Well if not waterboarding someone means that we don't get information from suspected terrorists than so be it." needs to be willing to acknowledge is that this information that you so quickly dismiss could very likely save lives. And so such an outook could quite possibly be the same as saying that you are willing to risk the lives of thousands of people in the interest of preventing a few suspected terrorists from being waterboarded.

I say this not to defend waterboarding, nor to condemn it. As a Christian who happens to be a veteran and did have opportunities to know and interact with Marines and Navy SEALS who quite possibly might now be involved in some of these interrogation practices, I really don't know where I come down on this issue.

I know it is arrogant and presumptuous for any of us to speak of these interrogation techniques in the black and white terms that I have seen them spoken of on this thread, when I am guessing none of us have any personal insight into the context of these interrogations nor the amount of lives that might be saved from the information that might be gained from them. I am not rationalizing here. The fact that this is a complex situation of course is no excuse for brutality, of course there should be a line that should not be crossed. But I don't care how many books or articles on torture you have read or how many CNN reports you have watched, unless you have been in that situation then you are in no place to say where that line should be drawn.


So only veterans are entitled to have an opinion?  Since I'm a veteran, I guess that allows me to speak.  Torture gets crappy information.  People will say whatever you want them to say, as John McCain, who knows something about this, has said repeatedly.  (You waterboard a few Jews in medieval Spain, and yeah, they'll convert to Christianity.)  I certainly would not be willing to bet the lives of others on "information" obtained through torture.  That would truly be a dereliction of duty.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 06, 2009, 01:07:28 PM
Jerry, I do not have a light-hearted approach to waterboarding, nor do I attempt, artfully or otherwise, to justify it. If your paragraph after you wrote "in other words" really explains how you took my series of posts, then language really has become an impediment to understanding and perhaps I'll just stop posting on this topic. As for Charles' reference to the Spanish Inquisition, I,m not sure I got the point other that codifying the law is bad and we should try and convict people without reference to definitions or laws. Ironically, one of the legal matters on the detainees' side was that they were being held without charges. Now the people who held them can be convicted without charges, or at least without meaningful charges, you know, the kind that refer to law with words that have definitions.I imagine if another country were going to try our soldiers for crimes without defining the crimes, we might object. But maybe not. Maybe we could just have law: don't do anything bad. Then when we see anyone doing anything bad we put them in jail. We don't need to define or codify what we mean by that because that would be like the Spanish Inquisition. Good grief indeed.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Kurt Weinelt on May 06, 2009, 01:07:45 PM
5) Let us also understand that this is part of war.  In World War II, our soldiers sometimes did unspeakable things like killing wounded and unarmed soldiers instead of taking them prisoners.

Armchair generals can sit and judge those who are given the responsibility, a weighty responsibility indeed, but would you want to hold that responsibility, worried that an error in your judgment could lead to the death of thousands...?
"War is hell." (Wm. Tecumseh Sherman)
Lou


Exactly!!!! What anyone who is willing to glibly say "Well if not waterboarding someone means that we don't get information from suspected terrorists than so be it." needs to be willing to acknowledge is that this information that you so quickly dismiss could very likely save lives. And so such an outook could quite possibly be the same as saying that you are willing to risk the lives of thousands of people in the interest of preventing a few suspected terrorists from being waterboarded.

I say this not to defend waterboarding, nor to condemn it. As a Christian who happens to be a veteran and did have opportunities to know and interact with Marines and Navy SEALS who quite possibly might now be involved in some of these interrogation practices, I really don't know where I come down on this issue.

I know it is arrogant and presumptuous for any of us to speak of these interrogation techniques in the black and white terms that I have seen them spoken of on this thread, when I am guessing none of us have any personal insight into the context of these interrogations nor the amount of lives that might be saved from the information that might be gained from them. I am not rationalizing here. The fact that this is a complex situation of course is no excuse for brutality, of course there should be a line that should not be crossed. But I don't care how many books or articles on torture you have read or how many CNN reports you have watched, unless you have been in that situation then you are in no place to say where that line should be drawn.

So only veterans are entitled to have an opinion?  Since I'm a veteran, I guess that allows me to speak.  Torture gets crappy information.  People will say whatever you want them to say, as John McCain, who knows something about this, has said repeatedly.  (You waterboard a few Jews in medieval Spain, and yeah, they'll convert to Christianity.)  I certainly would not be willing to bet the lives of others on "information" obtained through torture.  That would truly be a dereliction of duty.

That is a straw man of Pr Bliss' well-reasoned argument.  You of course quite effectively tore down the straw man you built.  I have been following this thread, and I'd rather see your well-reasoned rebuttal of Pr Bliss' actual argument.

Kurt
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on May 06, 2009, 01:24:09 PM
Jerry, I do not have a light-hearted approach to waterboarding, nor do I attempt, artfully or otherwise, to justify it. If your paragraph after you wrote "in other words" really explains how you took my series of posts, then language really has become an impediment to understanding and perhaps I'll just stop posting on this topic. As for Charles' reference to the Spanish Inquisition, I,m not sure I got the point other that codifying the law is bad and we should try and convict people without reference to definitions or laws. Ironically, one of the legal matters on the detainees' side was that they were being held without charges. Now the people who held them can be convicted without charges, or at least without meaningful charges, you know, the kind that refer to law with words that have definitions.I imagine if another country were going to try our soldiers for crimes without defining the crimes, we might object. But maybe not. Maybe we could just have law: don't do anything bad. Then when we see anyone doing anything bad we put them in jail. We don't need to define or codify what we mean by that because that would be like the Spanish Inquisition. Good grief indeed.

Huh?

Did I say that?  If I did, I certainly didn't mean to?  I never thought you took a "light-hearted" approach to waterboarding...  If anything, I think those who throw around the "throw em' jail" argument are the ones who are "taking this lightly..."  That's why I don't think the debate can be allowed to sink into a partisan fight...

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 06, 2009, 01:27:12 PM

  Torture is against the law, waterboarding is torture, and those who directed it should be tried, and, if found guilty, they should do time. 

Every now and then Herman Otten will send out a survey or questionaire consisting of leading, yes/no questions. He always wonders why nobody returns them. It is because they are always aggressively simplistic in the service of a political agenda. I do not defend it when the "Right" does it and I won't participate in it when the "Left" does it, as jpetty does above. The only difference between this and an Otten survey is that Christian News would say "Torture is against the law Yes___ No___. Waterborading is torture Yes___ No____. Those who conduct torture are torturers Yes___ No___. Torturers should be punished Yes ____ No___. " I will neither concede the point nor even argue with someone whose argument depends entirely upon a definition he refuses to supply. And I think it is ironic that elsewhere I'm taken to task for redefining a term by people who have refused to define it in the first place. It is as though the only thing we know for sure about the definition of torture is that waterboarding is indisputably an example of it. Nobody has offered to provide any examples of acceptable ways of getting information from uncooperative captives, either, so I'm assuming this means we're giving up on interrogation entirely in any form beyond asking the prisoners if they would be so good as to rat out their accomplices. But I'm fine even with that. Let's not do interrogations of any kind if that is what we as a society are willing to try to live with.

What I think would help the conversations would be some distinctions. Let's come up with degrees of torture, sort of like in medical terms there are burns and then there are burns, distinguished by categorizing them in degrees. I will gladly concede the word "torture" if those who insist on it will concede that by comparison to the sort of torture employed by many regimes, waterboarding is a comparatively mild form of it. Then we could officailly adopt the phrase "moderate torture" or "low-level torture" for use in this discussion. My guess is that this offer will fall on deaf ears because any qualifier strips the word of its evocative power; beyond justice in this instance, the battle of the word is over the propaganda value of it. So even though my perfectly reasonable solution of a mitigated, technical phrase would still serve to bring justice to this situation, it will be rejected because in the broader context too much depends upon the viability of aggressively simplistic sequences like jpetty's above.    

If we have a law (and treaty obligations) that make toture illegal under our law, then it is illegal -- all torture, as defined in the statue.  (The law must define torture in principle because, as I said above, the statute cannot be a comprehensive list of techniques, because that would only incite those who wish to avoid the law to come up with new techniques--rendering it meaningless.) The suggestion that we might speak of "low-level torture" or "moderate torture" is itself offensive and suggests the circumstances that brought us to this point.  It is a lack of commitment to the principle of non-torture itself.  The lawyers who worked on the memos giving the cover for this fiasco seemingly began by asking "well what if we only did this...." I would concede your point if the degrees of torture were for the purposes of prosecution and sentencing, like grand larceny vs. petit larceny or 1st degree murder vs. 2nd degree murder, etc.  What the degree system you suggest shouldn't do, however, is remove any "level" or "degree" of torture from the category of "crime."

Erik has posted for us what seems to me a pretty comprehensive and workable definition, which has the benefit of being actual law that is in place. What would you prefer instead?  You have complained about a lack of specifics, what would you have the law say?

Please, please don't resort to that false alternative that if we can't torture well then we can't have any meaningful interrogations at all.  FBI people will tell you otherwise, indeed they will tell you they don't need torture to get the job done.

One thing more--that someone somewhere does worse things should have no bearing on where we draw the line as to what we consider going too far.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Michael Slusser on May 06, 2009, 01:29:49 PM
Jerry, I do not have a light-hearted approach to waterboarding, nor do I attempt, artfully or otherwise, to justify it. If your paragraph after you wrote "in other words" really

Huh?

Did I say that?  If I did, I certainly didn't mean to?  I never thought you took a "light-hearted" approach to waterboarding...  If anything, I think those who throw around the "throw em' jail" argument are the ones who are "taking this lightly..."  That's why I don't think the debate can be allowed to sink into a partisan fight...

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

Jerry, I think that Peter Speckhard meant jpetty; see post#51.

Peace,
Michael
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: RevSteve on May 06, 2009, 01:33:13 PM
5) Let us also understand that this is part of war.  In World War II, our soldiers sometimes did unspeakable things like killing wounded and unarmed soldiers instead of taking them prisoners.

Armchair generals can sit and judge those who are given the responsibility, a weighty responsibility indeed, but would you want to hold that responsibility, worried that an error in your judgment could lead to the death of thousands...?
"War is hell." (Wm. Tecumseh Sherman)
Lou


Exactly!!!! What anyone who is willing to glibly say "Well if not waterboarding someone means that we don't get information from suspected terrorists than so be it." needs to be willing to acknowledge is that this information that you so quickly dismiss could very likely save lives. And so such an outook could quite possibly be the same as saying that you are willing to risk the lives of thousands of people in the interest of preventing a few suspected terrorists from being waterboarded.

I say this not to defend waterboarding, nor to condemn it. As a Christian who happens to be a veteran and did have opportunities to know and interact with Marines and Navy SEALS who quite possibly might now be involved in some of these interrogation practices, I really don't know where I come down on this issue.

I know it is arrogant and presumptuous for any of us to speak of these interrogation techniques in the black and white terms that I have seen them spoken of on this thread, when I am guessing none of us have any personal insight into the context of these interrogations nor the amount of lives that might be saved from the information that might be gained from them. I am not rationalizing here. The fact that this is a complex situation of course is no excuse for brutality, of course there should be a line that should not be crossed. But I don't care how many books or articles on torture you have read or how many CNN reports you have watched, unless you have been in that situation then you are in no place to say where that line should be drawn.


So only veterans are entitled to have an opinion?  Since I'm a veteran, I guess that allows me to speak.  Torture gets crappy information.  People will say whatever you want them to say, as John McCain, who knows something about this, has said repeatedly.  (You waterboard a few Jews in medieval Spain, and yeah, they'll convert to Christianity.)  I certainly would not be willing to bet the lives of others on "information" obtained through torture.  That would truly be a dereliction of duty.



Read my post!!! I said I was not defending waterboarding. If Senator McCain says it constitutes torture then I'll take him at his word. I said it's arrogant for any of us to suggest that we know where the line should be drawn in any given situation. And of course I didn't mean to suggest that only veterans have a right to an opinion on this.  I never said that and I think anyone who read my post with even the slightest amount of objectivity would understand I wasn't saying that.

Notice that the UN article that edoughty provided defines torture clearly but does not codify it to the point of citing specific examples. I point this out not to justify waterboarding or any other technique for that matter but rather to suggest that crossing the line into torture is as much if not moreso defnied by how an interrogation technique is used and the degree to which is used and the intent connected to it, as it is by the specific technique. When we boil the prevention of torture down to calling one technique torture and another one advanced interrogation, then were not really preventing torture we're merely limiting the techniques by which torture can be applied. I actually like the way the UN article is worded because it goes deeper than merely saying certain techniques should be labeled as torture.

The reality of torture of course needs to be recognized and addressed. But should it not also be balanced with the objective mission of the military?  Not that the mission should ever be used as a means to justify torture, but a reality that is always considered, lest we tie the hands of the interrogators.

And in case I still have not made myself clear. I was not in any way suggesting that only veterans should be able to speak on this topic, nor was I necessarily justifying waterboarding.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on May 06, 2009, 01:44:03 PM
5) Let us also understand that this is part of war.  In World War II, our soldiers sometimes did unspeakable things like killing wounded and unarmed soldiers instead of taking them prisoners.

Armchair generals can sit and judge those who are given the responsibility, a weighty responsibility indeed, but would you want to hold that responsibility, worried that an error in your judgment could lead to the death of thousands...?
"War is hell." (Wm. Tecumseh Sherman)
Lou


Exactly!!!! What anyone who is willing to glibly say "Well if not waterboarding someone means that we don't get information from suspected terrorists than so be it." needs to be willing to acknowledge is that this information that you so quickly dismiss could very likely save lives. And so such an outook could quite possibly be the same as saying that you are willing to risk the lives of thousands of people in the interest of preventing a few suspected terrorists from being waterboarded.

I say this not to defend waterboarding, nor to condemn it. As a Christian who happens to be a veteran and did have opportunities to know and interact with Marines and Navy SEALS who quite possibly might now be involved in some of these interrogation practices, I really don't know where I come down on this issue.

I know it is arrogant and presumptuous for any of us to speak of these interrogation techniques in the black and white terms that I have seen them spoken of on this thread, when I am guessing none of us have any personal insight into the context of these interrogations nor the amount of lives that might be saved from the information that might be gained from them. I am not rationalizing here. The fact that this is a complex situation of course is no excuse for brutality, of course there should be a line that should not be crossed. But I don't care how many books or articles on torture you have read or how many CNN reports you have watched, unless you have been in that situation then you are in no place to say where that line should be drawn.


So only veterans are entitled to have an opinion?  Since I'm a veteran, I guess that allows me to speak.  Torture gets crappy information.  People will say whatever you want them to say, as John McCain, who knows something about this, has said repeatedly.  (You waterboard a few Jews in medieval Spain, and yeah, they'll convert to Christianity.)  I certainly would not be willing to bet the lives of others on "information" obtained through torture.  That would truly be a dereliction of duty.

John, I trust that you're not being purposefully offensive here, right?  I mean, "You waterboard a few Jews in medieval Spain, and yeah, they'll convert to Christianity..."  C'mon, man.

First, the Church repudiated the tactic of "mass forced baptism" of Jews.  That was not "waterboarding" FWIW...  And they didn't "convert," either through the wrongful impostition of baptism nor through various tortures.

Secondly, there were several tortures that resemble the practice of "waterboarding," but they all had the real possibility of death, which the US practice of waterboarding avoids.  "Ducking" and the old, low-tech, "hold their head in a barrel of water" continued long after the Inquisition.  Ducking (the practice of repeatedly submerging someone in cold water, while bound to a chair), in particular, was a favorite in the Northeast and the New England colonies...

Finally, who exactly knows whether the information gleaned from these techniques is "good" or "crappy."  Frankly I think that's irrelevant to the moral dillemma anyway.  Dr. Mengele may have gotten "good" data on hypothermia as he froze Jewish prisoners to death; that does not justify the experiment.  In the same way scientific "advances" that are gained at the expense of destroying human life must also be grieved.  No doubt some "good" data was gained, but at what cost?  No doubt, mis-information was gained by "mild" questioning as well.    So what?

The main difference here, and it MUST be noted, between the USA and others who have employed torture (oh say, the North Vietnamese), is that the US was looking for real information, not merely to make another suffer.  The Japanese did not torture US POWs to get "information" (usefull or otherwise) out of them, but to kill them because they saw prisoners as not having honor.  The North Vietnamese tortured US POWs to "avenge" themselves upon US servicemen and to break the US will to fight (it worked...).  Saddam Hussien tortured because he was a sadist and to intimidate and eliminate his rivals (it worked too...).  There is no equivilent stategy in the US approach and so to try and equate the two is literally "apples" and "oranges."  Yep, they're both fruit, they both grow on trees, but there's where the similarities end.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 06, 2009, 01:47:27 PM

The reality of torture of course needs to be recognized and addressed. But should it not also be balanced with the objective mission of the military?  Not that the mission should ever be used as a means to justify torture, but a reality that is always considered, lest we tie the hands of the interrogators.

And in case I still have not made myself clear. I was not in any way suggesting that only veterans should be able to speak on this topic, nor was I necessarily justifying waterboarding.

There is an undercurrent here that I think we need to address.  There is a sense (and maybe its only that) that this discussion is somehow addressing the conduct of our armed forces.  I don' think that it at issue.  The military interrogation manual is pretty clear about what is and isn't torture, and it is pretty prohibitive.  As I understand it, and someone may correct me if I have it wrong, though the prisioners were in military custody, the primary agents of interrogation were civilians for that reason.  Those my original piece seeks to hold accountable are not soldiers but civilian officials of the government.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 06, 2009, 03:07:00 PM
Sorry Jerry, I did indeed type in the wrong name above. My bad. I do think Erik's citation of the definition is very helpful, and my suggestion of degrees of torture was indeed for purposes not only sentencing but also for general discussion because I think it removes the dynamite from the raw word "torture". All torture ought to be considered a crime, I agree, but not the same crime, just as a shoplifter is not guilty of grand larceny, the "stealing is stealing" crowd notwithstanding. The specific point I disagree about above is the suggestion that torture is like pregnancy. I would say the opposite, that unlike pregnancy torture is always a matter of degree, of excess. For example, article 1.1. of the definition Erik posted might apply to the courts imprisoning a journalist for refusing to testify. The journalist is taken into custody and is therefore a prisoner of the state. He is threatened with jail time if he does not give information to the government about a third party, causing extreme emotional and psychological trauma. In jail, he is promised release if he does talk. Now, the degree to which such an experience might be humiliating, terrifying, or painful is matter of debate, and therefore it becomes a matter of debate as to if and when such a policy becomes torture. Can such a person be made to wear an orange jumpsuit? Can his mugshots be made public, thus humiliating him? Can he be threatened with solitary confinement if he refuses to testify? Given only bread and water? Kept in the dark? At some point, but not an easy one to define, it becomes torture. All valid questions, but not parallel to the question of whether someone is pregnant or not.

Again, by seeking better terminology I'm not trying to defend the practice of waterboarding. I'm trying to bring a sense of proportion to what appears to be turning into a mob mentality against the U.S. on this matter. It is as though even if you agree with the mob, doing so with insufficient gusto or with any reservations is cause for suspicion. It wasn't right when the mob mentality du jour was against Jihadists and it isn't right when the mob mentality du jour is against GITMO interrogators. In seeking to serve my neighbor, in the current environment the serviceman who may soon be on trial for his life is in need of the best construction on his actions, and I don't think jpetty's blanket "they're obviously torturers" or Charles' "anyone-who-wants-definitions-is-like-the-Spanish-Inquisition" approach does them justice or mercy. 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Charles_Austin on May 06, 2009, 03:14:42 PM
Pastor Kliner writes (to someone):
John, I trust that you're not being purposefully offensive here, right?  I mean, "You waterboard a few Jews in medieval Spain, and yeah, they'll convert to Christianity..."  C'mon, man.

I comment:
No, that's exactly the point. State-approved and church-sanctioned torture produced horrendous "information" and phony conversions. Some scholars draw direct links from the policies and practices of the inquisition to the Nazis and more recent abuses of people held in detention.
If it was/is our policy to hold people illegally and torture them for any reason, that is wrong. Wrong.
President Obama has suggested that he may not pursue prosecutions in the matter; and others, including our friend, Garrison Keillor, have said that not much would be gained, other than more political schisms, by doing so.
But wrong is wrong.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Charles_Austin on May 06, 2009, 03:17:15 PM
I repeat:
This has nothing to do with maligning our military forces.
Peter, what do you think would be accomplished by codifying the degrees of torture and "agreeing" when they could be applied?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 06, 2009, 03:57:40 PM
I repeat:
This has nothing to do with maligning our military forces.
Peter, what do you think would be accomplished by codifying the degrees of torture and "agreeing" when they could be applied?
The same thing that is gained by codifying the degrees of theft-- it brings a sense of proportion. It would also help separate out the justice issue from the political powderkeg. I think we agree that torture ought never to be applied. But we might also agree that some things do not constitute torture.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 06, 2009, 04:09:42 PM
Similarly, enact all the recommendations about GITMO without using the word "torture" and I'm okay with it. It is those who insist on that particular word not out of zeal for honesty but out of lust for the power having that word in their arsenal would give them whom I steadfastly oppose.   

Only the left in America has the lust for power?  What about the word traitor that was bandied around by those on the right during the past 8 years?  What about the proud conservatives who stood on the street corner here in Vero Beach, Florida with a sign that said, "Communists for Obama" and "Obama kills babies?"  

I submit that the ones with the "lust for power" where the ones in the Bush administration that sought to expand the president's power to abduct, imprison and "agressively interrogate" anyone he chose.

And speaking of the KKK, when was the last time the United States rounded up every white man with a crew cut and a southern accent, labeled them "enemy combatants" and shipped them outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts?

David Charlton
David, when did I say only the Left has a lust for power? Everyone has a lust for power. I would say that the American Right has a lust for power like Boromir's while the American Left has a lust for power more like Saruman's, but that is neither or nor there in this discussion. And I admit that I don't post about everyone with an inflammatory political sign that I see, but what do those anti-Obama signs have to do with anything? And as far as I know we have never rounded up white men with crew cuts and southern accents and shipped them overseas. Nor have we rounded up every member of any class whatsoever. When we were at war with Germany (especially in WWI) certainly native speakers of German in this country came under added scrutiny and suspicion. Does that not make sense?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Kurt Weinelt on May 06, 2009, 04:19:34 PM
David, when did I say only the Left has a lust for power? Everyone has a lust for power. I would say that the American Right has a lust for power like Boromir's while the American Left has a lust for power more like Saruman's, but that is neither or nor there in this discussion. And I admit that I don't post about everyone with an inflammatory political sign that I see, but what do those anti-Obama signs have to do with anything? And as far as I know we have never rounded up white men with crew cuts and southern accents and shipped them overseas. Nor have we rounded up every member of any class whatsoever. When we were at war with Germany (especially in WWI) certainly native speakers of German in this country came under added scrutiny and suspicion. Does that not make sense?

Well, there is this to consider from WWII---and many Americans of German descent came under more than just added scrutiny and suspicion.

http://www.gaic.info/camp_doj.html (http://www.gaic.info/camp_doj.html)
Kurt
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Eileen_Smith on May 06, 2009, 04:43:30 PM
I noticed a Resolution to the MNYS Synod Assembly on the topic.  It doesn't unfortunately (in my view) stop at condemning the use of torture but continues to resolve that the MNYS might call upon the President of the United States and Dept of Justice to "prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, all those who were responsible for the development of standards....."  Well, it goes on.  I'd much rather see a resolution on torture along the lines of calling upon the President of the United States to end the torture of innocent unborn children by the act of abortion - and ensuring that the next appointment to the Supreme Court not be one who will expand abortion 'rights.'  But I think that's really wishful thinking.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: DCharlton on May 06, 2009, 05:16:36 PM
Similarly, enact all the recommendations about GITMO without using the word "torture" and I'm okay with it. It is those who insist on that particular word not out of zeal for honesty but out of lust for the power having that word in their arsenal would give them whom I steadfastly oppose.   

Only the left in America has the lust for power?  What about the word traitor that was bandied around by those on the right during the past 8 years?  What about the proud conservatives who stood on the street corner here in Vero Beach, Florida with a sign that said, "Communists for Obama" and "Obama kills babies?"  

I submit that the ones with the "lust for power" where the ones in the Bush administration that sought to expand the president's power to abduct, imprison and "agressively interrogate" anyone he chose.

And speaking of the KKK, when was the last time the United States rounded up every white man with a crew cut and a southern accent, labeled them "enemy combatants" and shipped them outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts?

David Charlton

Here again is the "Bumper Sticker" argument...  You know, the one where someone says, "I saw this bumper sticker..."

There is no monopoly on the lust for power, David.  You know that.  There are no doubt honorable liberals, but there are also no doubt honorable conservatives.  There are craven liberals, and there are craven conservatives.  Avarice knows no political brand.

You are mad that someone would hold up a "Obama Kills Babies" placard?  Fine.  Then I suspect you would also object to my local "Patriots for Peace" protestor who holds a placard that says "Bush is a Murderer."

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS


Jerry,

You missed my point.  I was responding to Peter who was allleging that the word "torture" was being introduced by those who liberals with a lust for power.  I was merely pointing out to him that the Left has no monopoly of the "lust for power" or on using inflammatory language. 

If you had read my post in context, you would have seen that, but thanks for the lecture.

David Charlton

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 06, 2009, 05:51:36 PM
I was responding to Peter who was allleging that the word "torture" was being introduced by those who liberals with a lust for power.  I was merely pointing out to him that the Left has no monopoly of the "lust for power" or on using inflammatory language. 
I do not say liberals introduced the term, I say they insist on it as a matter of principle because of the evocative power of the word. I never said or implied that liberals have a monopoly on lust for power or inflammatory language. I tried to use the word "rape" as a parallel example of how the power of a word can pervert the truth. Essentially such words carry on one hand a powerful and emotionally charged mental image as well as a technical definition. So, the word rape calls to mind physically coerced sex against the will of the woman. When it gets applied to teenage boys pressuring their girlfriends for sex (still wrong behavior, btw, I'm not defending it) without any qualifier, then the sentence "he is a rapist" might be used correctly in a technical sense about some boy on prom night but in a very misleading way in practical terms because the speaker knows that the mental image he is calling to mind in the listener does not match the actual event. So we come up with phrases like date rape, acquaintance rape, etc. to distinguish one bad thing from another. We do it with virtually every kind of crime-- lable the various degees and nuances. I think torture needs similar treatment. Otherwise, "he is a torturer" will either lose meaning or become very misleading. 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Erme Wolf on May 06, 2009, 06:02:08 PM
I was responding to Peter who was allleging that the word "torture" was being introduced by those who liberals with a lust for power.  I was merely pointing out to him that the Left has no monopoly of the "lust for power" or on using inflammatory language. 
I do not say liberals introduced the term, I say they insist on it as a matter of principle because of the evocative power of the word. I never said or implied that liberals have a monopoly on lust for power or inflammatory language. I tried to use the word "rape" as a parallel example of how the power of a word can pervert the truth. Essentially such words carry on one hand a powerful and emotionally charged mental image as well as a technical definition. So, the word rape calls to mind physically coerced sex against the will of the woman. When it gets applied to teenage boys pressuring their girlfriends for sex (still wrong behavior, btw, I'm not defending it) without any qualifier, then the sentence "he is a rapist" might be used correctly in a technical sense about some boy on prom night but in a very misleading way in practical terms because the speaker knows that the mental image he is calling to mind in the listener does not match the actual event. So we come up with phrases like date rape, acquaintance rape, etc. to distinguish one bad thing from another. We do it with virtually every kind of crime-- lable the various degees and nuances. I think torture needs similar treatment. Otherwise, "he is a torturer" will either lose meaning or become very misleading. 

I will suggest that using the analogy of "date/acquaintance rape" be dropped.  That term does not mean that physical force was not used.  It only means that the female and the male knew each other, and perhaps the event began by the two people both agreeing to be in each other's company.  It says nothing about the degree of force that may have been used in order to force sexual intercourse. 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Dave_Poedel on May 06, 2009, 06:12:24 PM
I recently learned from a couple of the members of my parish who are just a bit older than I am, and consequently were on active duty before I was (1971-75) that each of them were waterboarded during "Jungle Survival School".  One commented to me that "after 30 seconds I would have told them everything I knew just to get them to stop".

Not wanting to throw a wrench into the works here ( I have already stated my position) but should the instructors in survival school who role-played the "enemy" and waterboarded each of our servicemen be tried for torture?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Erme Wolf on May 06, 2009, 06:26:47 PM
I do not say liberals introduced the term, I say they insist on it as a matter of principle because of the evocative power of the word. I never said or implied that liberals have a monopoly on lust for power or inflammatory language.  

   Gee, thanks.

   The most powerful voice I have heard insisting that the term that should be used for the interrogation techniques that are under investigation at Gitmo is torture is that of Sen. John McCain.  He spoke out with power and courage, when it was not politically wise to do so, and when other voices were advocating the "degrees of force" argument that you seem to be supporting.  When he spoke, the word meant something, because it came out his own experience and gave him the moral authority to condemn what leaders in our government were attempting to legalize and sanction.  

    Some words evoke powerful, and ugly, images.  Such words as "rape,"  "lynch," various unprintable racial epithets, and many words associated with the Third Reich are such words, for good reason.  They can take on such ugly power that even alluding to but not actually using the word itself can have the desired result, such as drawing a hangman's noose on the wall of a dorm hallway.  The power of intimidation is real, and so those words should not be flung around casually or without purpose.  

    The word "torture" is also such a word.  It does have a definition.  Eric provided it for us.  Based on the testimony of men such as Sen. McCain, I believe the waterboarding used on "enemy combatants" at Gitmo was indeed torture.  If this is inflammatory, then it is so for a reason.  The United States is a nation of laws, and our laws prohibit the use of torture.  It is who we are, or at least who we intend to be, and aspire to be.  Do we as a nation ever fall short of those ideals?  Yes, of course, especially when we are confronted with a threat unlike any our nation has ever faced.  Does that mean our ideals are wrong?  That is part of the debate our nation is conducting, ever since the attack on 9/11.  I want us to hold to our ideals.  

    
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 06, 2009, 06:28:25 PM

I will suggest that using the analogy of "date/acquaintance rape" be dropped.  That term does not mean that physical force was not used.  It only means that the female and the male knew each other, and perhaps the event began by the two people both agreeing to be in each other's company.  It says nothing about the degree of force that may have been used in order to force sexual intercourse. 
But we still have the different terms and qualifiers, among others like "second degree sexual assualt", because we know that they are different things. The degree of force used is not the only distinction. If we dropped all distinctions and just said "Rape is rape, period" while trying to avoid precise definitions it would not serve truth or justice when anyone was accused of it. Yet that is what we are in danger of doing with the word torture.  
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 06, 2009, 06:42:55 PM
I do not say liberals introduced the term, I say they insist on it as a matter of principle because of the evocative power of the word. I never said or implied that liberals have a monopoly on lust for power or inflammatory language.  

   Gee, thanks.

   The most powerful voice I have heard insisting that the term that should be used for the interrogation techniques that are under investigation at Gitmo is torture is that of Sen. John McCain.  He spoke out with power and courage, when it was not politically wise to do so, and when other voices were advocating the "degrees of force" argument that you seem to be supporting.  When he spoke, the word meant something, because it came out his own experience and gave him the moral authority to condemn what leaders in our government were attempting to legalize and sanction.  

    Some words evoke powerful, and ugly, images.  Such words as "rape,"  "lynch," various unprintable racial epithets, and many words associated with the Third Reich are such words, for good reason.  They can take on such ugly power that even alluding to but not actually using the word itself can have the desired result, such as drawing a hangman's noose on the wall of a dorm hallway.  The power of intimidation is real, and so those words should not be flung around casually or without purpose.  

    The word "torture" is also such a word.  It does have a definition.  Eric provided it for us.  Based on the testimony of men such as Sen. McCain, I believe the waterboarding used on "enemy combatants" at Gitmo was indeed torture.  If this is inflammatory, then it is so for a reason.  The United States is a nation of laws, and our laws prohibit the use of torture.  It is who we are, or at least who we intend to be, and aspire to be.  Do we as a nation ever fall short of those ideals?  Yes, of course, especially when we are confronted with a threat unlike any our nation has ever faced.  Does that mean our ideals are wrong?  That is part of the debate our nation is conducting, ever since the attack on 9/11.  I want us to hold to our ideals.  

As I said, I think Erik's definition is a good one, but relies upon the idea of torture as a matter of degree or excess, not, as Marie Meyer proposed, a matter of "it is or it isn't" like pregnancy. It is like determining what constitutes reckless driving as opposed to what constitutes speeding. Studied opinion enters into it. John McCain's identification of waterboarding as torture was his studied opinion, not a statement of verifiable fact like whether or not someone is pregnant.  But the question before us is whether disagreeing with John McCain on that makes a U.S. military or white house lawyer a war criminal. Maybe it does. But I don't think the insistence on the term without distinctions serves the purpose of justice for the accused. Nor does it help de-politicize justice.   
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Erme Wolf on May 06, 2009, 06:53:20 PM
Well, the USA signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment , which defines "torture" and includes the following:

Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.
Article 2

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.


Erik

Ok, I'm looking at the definition.  What I see is the prohibition of "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental,  is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession. . ."  The only matter of degree I see here is in the word "severe."  Are you really arguing that waterboarding can ever be an act that does not use "severe pain or suffering"?  Or are you arguing that waterboarding should not be described by use of the word "torture"?  I really am trying to understand.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Erme Wolf on May 06, 2009, 06:56:17 PM
     And I should add, this isn't "Eric's definition."  It is the definition of the United Nations, as ratified and agreed to by the United States.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on May 06, 2009, 07:04:02 PM
But we still have the different terms and qualifiers, among others like "second degree sexual assualt", because we know that they are different things. The degree of force used is not the only distinction. If we dropped all distinctions and just said "Rape is rape, period" while trying to avoid precise definitions it would not serve truth or justice when anyone was accused of it. Yet that is what we are in danger of doing with the word torture.  
Rape is rape. It is sex against one's will. Depending on how much force is used and what was placed where and the age of the victim, e.g., statutory rape; the definition and punishment of the crime may differ.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: DCharlton on May 06, 2009, 07:09:14 PM
Similarly, enact all the recommendations about GITMO without using the word "torture" and I'm okay with it. It is those who insist on that particular word not out of zeal for honesty but out of lust for the power having that word in their arsenal would give them whom I steadfastly oppose.   

Only the left in America has the lust for power?  What about the word traitor that was bandied around by those on the right during the past 8 years?  What about the proud conservatives who stood on the street corner here in Vero Beach, Florida with a sign that said, "Communists for Obama" and "Obama kills babies?"  

I submit that the ones with the "lust for power" where the ones in the Bush administration that sought to expand the president's power to abduct, imprison and "agressively interrogate" anyone he chose.

And speaking of the KKK, when was the last time the United States rounded up every white man with a crew cut and a southern accent, labeled them "enemy combatants" and shipped them outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts?

David Charlton
David, when did I say only the Left has a lust for power? Everyone has a lust for power. I would say that the American Right has a lust for power like Boromir's while the American Left has a lust for power more like Saruman's, but that is neither or nor there in this discussion. And I admit that I don't post about everyone with an inflammatory political sign that I see, but what do those anti-Obama signs have to do with anything? And as far as I know we have never rounded up white men with crew cuts and southern accents and shipped them overseas. Nor have we rounded up every member of any class whatsoever. When we were at war with Germany (especially in WWI) certainly native speakers of German in this country came under added scrutiny and suspicion. Does that not make sense?

But Peter, you make my point.  We don't have a history of rounding up whites of any ethnic background.  We do have a history of rounding up people of Asian backgrounds, specifically the Japanese.

We do not have a history of torturing, mutilating and murdering people of European ancestry.  We do have a history of torturing, mutilating and murdering people of African ancestry.  

So when Americans begin to make excuses for holding people of Middle Eastern ancestry in special prisons, outside of the jurisdiction of American courts and subjecting them to torture, it seems way too familiar.

David Charlton
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Dan Fienen on May 06, 2009, 07:24:09 PM
But Peter, you make my point.  We don't have a history of rounding up whites of any ethnic background.  We do have a history of rounding up people of Asian backgrounds, specifically the Japanese.
David Charlton

What about the German Americans rounded up during WW II?

Dan
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: jpetty on May 06, 2009, 07:27:00 PM
I recently learned from a couple of the members of my parish who are just a bit older than I am, and consequently were on active duty before I was (1971-75) that each of them were waterboarded during "Jungle Survival School".  One commented to me that "after 30 seconds I would have told them everything I knew just to get them to stop".

Not wanting to throw a wrench into the works here ( I have already stated my position) but should the instructors in survival school who role-played the "enemy" and waterboarded each of our servicemen be tried for torture?

Soldiers in training may signal when they've had enough.  It's not the same thing.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 06, 2009, 07:48:34 PM
Not wanting to throw a wrench into the works here ( I have already stated my position) but should the instructors in survival school who role-played the "enemy" and waterboarded each of our servicemen be tried for torture?

The answer to your question is quite simple:  No, it is not torture as it clearly stands outside of the definition.  It is neither for the purposes of obtaining information or a confession; nor punishment for an act committed (or alleged); nor for intimidation or corecion; nor as a result of discrimination.  It is a training exercise, nothing more.  The exception would be if an overzealous training officer or other participants violated the protocols of the exercise, then the defintion might apply; though in such a case it may be simply regarded as criminal assault.

The definition as given above (emphasis added): 

Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Erme Wolf on May 06, 2009, 08:24:51 PM

I will suggest that using the analogy of "date/acquaintance rape" be dropped.  That term does not mean that physical force was not used.  It only means that the female and the male knew each other, and perhaps the event began by the two people both agreeing to be in each other's company.  It says nothing about the degree of force that may have been used in order to force sexual intercourse. 
But we still have the different terms and qualifiers, among others like "second degree sexual assualt", because we know that they are different things. The degree of force used is not the only distinction. If we dropped all distinctions and just said "Rape is rape, period" while trying to avoid precise definitions it would not serve truth or justice when anyone was accused of it. Yet that is what we are in danger of doing with the word torture.  

What makes an act "rape", or to use the actual term in the criminal statutes, "sexual assault," is the lack of consent.  If there is no consent, it is rape.  You don't like that term being used for what you call "a guy talking his date into having sex"; I would rather not speculate on exactly what you think is happening in that situation.  All I am asking is that, since I find the comparison to be offensive, would you please find another analogy?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jakozak on May 06, 2009, 08:40:07 PM
Muslims are the fastest growing segment of Europe's population.  I've seen stats that indicate that within the next few decades, they will be the majority of England, France, and Germany.  Then liberal talk of what constitutes torture will become moot when Sharia law is imposed.  

Rev. Jack Kozak/Akron
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Erme Wolf on May 06, 2009, 08:48:26 PM
But Peter, you make my point.  We don't have a history of rounding up whites of any ethnic background.  We do have a history of rounding up people of Asian backgrounds, specifically the Japanese.
David Charlton

What about the German Americans rounded up during WW II?

Dan

My understanding is that the majority of those who were interned during WW II were German-Americans who were not U.S. citizens.  U.S. citizens of German-American heritage were not routinely rounded up and interned, nor was their participation in the war effort something that required special consideration.  Such was the case for Japanese-Americans, including second and third generation citizens who had been born in this country.  (Interestingly, Hawaii did not intern its Japanese and Japanese-American residents during WW II, though it was hotly debated in the territory.)

My heritage is partly German-American (and my mother's maiden name could not be mistaken for any other ethnic group!).  Unlike the Japanese-Americans who volunteered to serve in the military and were sent to the European theater, German-Americans both volunteered and were drafted, and served in all theaters of the war.  Yes, some were interned; but it is not comparable to the wholesale internment of the Japanese.  Nonetheless, it was still a violation of the Constitution.  
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: rcephd on May 06, 2009, 09:19:49 PM
One last issue.  We seem to have accepted as a working concept, that torture or induced bitterness does not yield correct or useful answers.   That's nice to believe, from my point of view but it is not a proven fact, is it?  At the very least it depends on who is to be embittered, aka tortured, doesn't it?   And whether they possess any useful, truthful information. 


You may want to review the opinion of Obama's own Director of National Intelligence, posted by me last night, in which he reported that the "methods" of alleged "torture" yielded valuable information which appears to have saved innocent lives. Not a bad trade-off in dealing with sworn murderous enemies, for my money.

It defies rational explanation short of attribution of political motives, that anyone would deny the effectiveness of vigorous and sophisticated interrogation procedures. The United States is not exactly a novice at this sort of thing, and thank my god anyway, for it.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 06, 2009, 09:35:13 PM

I will suggest that using the analogy of "date/acquaintance rape" be dropped.  That term does not mean that physical force was not used.  It only means that the female and the male knew each other, and perhaps the event began by the two people both agreeing to be in each other's company.  It says nothing about the degree of force that may have been used in order to force sexual intercourse. 
But we still have the different terms and qualifiers, among others like "second degree sexual assualt", because we know that they are different things. The degree of force used is not the only distinction. If we dropped all distinctions and just said "Rape is rape, period" while trying to avoid precise definitions it would not serve truth or justice when anyone was accused of it. Yet that is what we are in danger of doing with the word torture.  

What makes an act "rape", or to use the actual term in the criminal statutes, "sexual assault," is the lack of consent.  If there is no consent, it is rape.  You don't like that term being used for what you call "a guy talking his date into having sex"; I would rather not speculate on exactly what you think is happening in that situation.  All I am asking is that, since I find the comparison to be offensive, would you please find another analogy?
Erma, it isn't nearly that simple. Men have been found guilty of rape when they committed the act under the impression that consent had been given and when in fact the victim did not herself think she had been raped until convinced of the fact later. All kinds of things confuse the issue-- the seventeen year old who cannot legally consent but who implied (without outright saying) that she was eighteen, the girl who had been drinking a little but neither of them could be sure if she was intoxicated, which would invalidate any consent, the girl who did not resist but regretted it later, etc. I agree that lack of consent constitutes rape. But legally we still need for the sake of justice to distinguish, e.g. first degree or second degree, etc. That's why we have those terms on the books and that's why I think the comparison to torture is quite apt, because we need parallel terms but don't have them, which allows the insinuations to run amock. jpetty outlined his train of thought quite clearly as though there could be no distinction between our interrogators and Nazis or the Spanish Inquisition. I think there can and must be such a distinction. But if the comparison offends you I'll drop it. Just realize how deeply, deeply offensive it is for me to listen to the way the word "torture" is tossed around by certain people in their smug self-righteousness and palpable disdain for the accused.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: DCharlton on May 06, 2009, 10:45:40 PM
The last two posts are truly creepy. 

Moderator's Note: Agreed, which is why I deleted them. Please limit the posts here to a discussion of torture and related theological issues.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: DCharlton on May 06, 2009, 10:54:33 PM

The main difference here, and it MUST be noted, between the USA and others who have employed torture (oh say, the North Vietnamese), is that the US was looking for real information, not merely to make another suffer.  The Japanese did not torture US POWs to get "information" (usefull or otherwise) out of them, but to kill them because they saw prisoners as not having honor.  The North Vietnamese tortured US POWs to "avenge" themselves upon US servicemen and to break the US will to fight (it worked...).  Saddam Hussien tortured because he was a sadist and to intimidate and eliminate his rivals (it worked too...).  

Are you really so sure that Americans are incapable of torturing prisoners to gain a sense of revenge?  Even if the original intent of the torture is to gain information, it creates an atomosphere where unoffical torture is much more likely.  Some allege that this is exactly what happened at Abu Ghraib.  Aware that their superiors where utilizing torture, regular guards decided to take it into their own hands.

Quote
There is no equivilent stategy in the US approach and so to try and equate the two is literally "apples" and "oranges."  Yep, they're both fruit, they both grow on trees, but there's where the similarities end.

Speaking of fruit, don't forget the "strange fruit" that hung on trees in the American south less than 100 years ago.  Average Americans are perfectly capable of using torture against their perceived enemies.

David Charlton
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: jpetty on May 06, 2009, 10:59:09 PM
Muslims are the fastest growing segment of Europe's population.  I've seen stats that indicate that within the next few decades, they will be the majority of England, France, and Germany.  Then liberal talk of what constitutes torture will become moot when Sharia law is imposed.  

Rev. Jack Kozak/Akron

However, see:  http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=wq.essay&essay_id=519403

The European birth rate appears to be on the rise.  Both France and England have revised upward their population projections for the year 2050, from 60 to 75 million each.  The primary driver of that expectation is the increasing birth rate among the native population--not from immigration, in other words.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: rcephd on May 06, 2009, 11:03:32 PM
The last two posts are truly creepy. 

Moderator's Note: Agreed, which is why I deleted them. Please limit the posts here to a discussion of torture and related theological issues.

One of the reasons the Lutheran church is a dead chruch walking  is the obstinate refusal to deal with reality. The preceding "creepy" allegation was an unethical distortion of an empirically-based  observation. You appear content to collude with this pathology. Fair enough. It's your forum.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: jpetty on May 06, 2009, 11:18:47 PM
jpetty outlined his train of thought quite clearly as though there could be no distinction between our interrogators and Nazis or the Spanish Inquisition.

Only the cause for which it was done.  One was for the perceived "safety" of the Roman Catholic Church.  The other is the perceived "safety" of the United States of America.  (I didn't say anything about Nazis, by the way, although you might be interested to know that it was the Third Reich which coined the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques.")

I argue that, yes, it's torture, it's against the law, and, if we have knowledge of this crime, we are obligated to prosecute.  It's not even a matter of opinion.

Now, if you want to change the definitions, and so forth, you could advocate for it legislatively.  Fine.  I wouldn't want to be the one to argue your position, however.

Besides which, it demeans us as a nation to practice these sorts of things, especially when they don't even work.  182 times for one person!  Didn't it occur to anybody, long about the 50th or 60th time, that maybe this thing wasn't going anywhere?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: MaddogLutheran on May 06, 2009, 11:24:05 PM
Sterling,

So it's the fault of the "chattering classes" that President Bush felt the need to use water boarding?  It's "backbiting" to fault Bush for not preventing 911 but it's not backbiting for you to fault President Clinton for failing to kill Bin Laden in 1998? 

It's sad to see those who (rightly) fault the left for it's moral equivocation on abortion and homosexuality to do the same when it comes to torture. 

David,
I think you missed the point of the things I mentioned in my previous.  First, I mentioned President Clinton not killing bin Laden not to fault him, but to suggest how if he had succeeded we might view that act now, without the atrocities of 9/11 having occurred.  Would that extra-judicial execution have been justified?  I don't recall if that was before or after the African embassy bombings, but even so, the only "proof" of his involvement would have been inadmissible in a court of law.  In all this indignation about torture, it makes it sound worse than actually taking a life.  In his first week in office, President Obama authorized a Predator missile strike into Pakistan, and the locals claimed innocent civilians were killed.  If that were true, isn't that worse than "torturing" those known to have valuable information?  (And as far as I can tell, we have not been using "enhanced interrogation" against every Muslim in our custody.)  I say that not to excuse that "torture", because I personally don't believe it justifiable in most cases.  I'm just trying to bring some perspective.

As for backbiting, I did not say it was the reason or excuse for President Bush to do what he has done.  I think that's an unfair reading of my statement.  I will clarify and say that I can understand how someone in his position might want to make sure he's not caught short again, considering the way his political enemies tried to blame him for 9/11.  I also think it's unfair to blame President Clinton as well.  The blame game is bipartisan.

Quote from: DCharlton
P.S.  I also find it disturbing that Americans are so comfortable with torturing those of darker pigmentation.  The torture, mutilation and killing of those with dark skin was still common in the United States 100 years ago.  (A quick search of the internet will find ghastly pictures of whites smiling and posing under the corpses of African Americans.  Sort of like the photos from Abu Ghraib.)  I sometimes wonder whether the torture conducted at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib was really more about the ritual dehumaniziation of the other than about getting useful intelligence. 
How do you arrive at the conclusion that Americans are "comfortable with torturing those of a darker pigmentation"?  Have we as a people expressed discomfort at doing it to those of a lighter complexion?  This is one of the political correct fallacies that irks me.   We are not holding people at Gitmo because they don't look like us.  We incarcerate them because they have made war against us.  I bet if some Chechens (who look like us) were found fighting us, they'd be at Gitmo and be similarly interrogated.  It is wrong to equate the sins of Jim Crow with the treatment of those foreigners who seek to indiscriminately kill American civilians.

And finally, what went on at Abu Ghraib has no connection to Gitmo interrogations.  You are right to describe what went on at Abu Ghraib as ritual dehumanization.  But from what has been publicly released, it is certainly obvious that Gitmo interrogations were all about getting useful intelligence.  There was none to be obtained from those abused at Abu Ghraib, and it was not ordered or sanctioned from the highest levels.  To conflate the two is simply inaccurate.

Sterling Spatz
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: MaddogLutheran on May 06, 2009, 11:32:21 PM
jpetty outlined his train of thought quite clearly as though there could be no distinction between our interrogators and Nazis or the Spanish Inquisition.

Only the cause for which it was done.  One was for the perceived "safety" of the Roman Catholic Church.  The other is the perceived "safety" of the United States of America.  (I didn't say anything about Nazis, by the way, although you might be interested to know that it was the Third Reich which coined the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques.")
I think this is the kind of moral equivalency that Pastor Speckhard has been pushing back against in this thread.  I alluded to this in my recent post, but I'll say it here.  From the public information to date, it's pretty clear that the "enhanced interrogation" techniques were only used against a subset of detainees, after it had been determined who had valuable information, and after friendlier questioning failed.  From my understanding of history, the Spanish inquistion, much like the Salem witch trials, were not all that concerned with probable cause or guilt/innocense.  To suggest a similarity is simply laziness in a feeble attempt to score debating points.

By all means, object to what went on at Gitmo.  But at least try and be honest about exactly what you are objecting to.

Sterling Spatz
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Erme Wolf on May 07, 2009, 12:44:14 AM
I agree that lack of consent constitutes rape. But legally we still need for the sake of justice to distinguish, e.g. first degree or second degree, etc. That's why we have those terms on the books and that's why I think the comparison to torture is quite apt, because we need parallel terms but don't have them, which allows the insinuations to run amock. jpetty outlined his train of thought quite clearly as though there could be no distinction between our interrogators and Nazis or the Spanish Inquisition. I think there can and must be such a distinction. But if the comparison offends you I'll drop it. Just realize how deeply, deeply offensive it is for me to listen to the way the word "torture" is tossed around by certain people in their smug self-righteousness and palpable disdain for the accused.

Just who is tossing around the word "torture" in "smug self-righteousness and palpable disdain for the accused"?   Tone is incredibly difficult to determine in online postings on the internet.  Just how have you determined who is being self-righteous?

And in the case of sexual assault, you are correct in noting that the legal codes distinguish between first, second, third and fourth degree sexual assault.  But all of these are sexual assault under the law. (You don't have to take my word for it.  I found the Wisconsin statute stipulating the various degrees on the internet; there are varying punishments depending on the charge brought, but first and second and third degree sexual assault are all felonies, all are sexual assault, all have in common the lack of consent.) No matter what the degree, all are completely illegal.

The codes are just as clear in regards to torture.  Torture is illegal, just as sexual assault is illegal.  There is no "little bit" of torture that is allowed; there is no "second degree torture" that is permitted, while a "first degree torture" is always forbidden.  And certain techniques are always deemed to be torture, and until this decade waterboarding, aka Chinese water torture, was deemed to be torture.  The Bush administration did not argue that this was "acceptable torture"; they made the argument that it was not torture. 

I do recognize that the world we live in is very dangerous, very complicated, and very evil.  Our enemies would destroy us if they could, and they have tried (and will undoubtedly continue to try in the future) to do so.  In Iraq and Afghanistan our enemies have not acted by the Geneva Conventions.  But if our standard for treatment becomes the lowest common denominator, the worst way in which our enemies treat us, then I remind you of the saying that if we live by an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, the world will soon be blind and toothless.  Not only even if the information obtained through "enhanced interrogation techniques" is useful, in part or in whole; especially if the information obtained in such a manner is useful, in part or in whole, such techniques, which amount to and are defined by our own statues and military codes as being torture, must be denounced.  We are on dangerous shifting sands here, and will lose far more than we gain. 

And I speak this out of deep respect and honor for those who serve this country (yes, even those who serve in the CIA).  We bring them to dishonor if we do not expect them to uphold the high standards for which this country is known.  If it wasn't difficult, it wouldn't be worth fighting to maintain. 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Charles_Austin on May 07, 2009, 05:57:35 AM
Sterling Spatz writes:
From the public information to date, it's pretty clear that the "enhanced interrogation" techniques were only used against a subset of detainees, after it had been determined who had valuable information, and after friendlier questioning failed.

I comment:
First of all, it is not clear.
Then, consider this: Torture is wrong, unless one can find a "subset" of people for whom it isn't wrong? Torture is wrong, unless one decides that some people have certain information, and then it isn't wrong?

Sterling Spatz writes:
From my understanding of history, the Spanish inquistion, much like the Salem witch trials, were not all that concerned with probable cause or guilt/innocense.
I comment:
On the 300th anniversary of the Salem witch trials, I went there to write an article; and read through hundreds of pages of the testimony and spoke with historians (and a couple of witches.). Your comment is wrong. The intent was to save the souls of those accused. The hysteria took over and other dynamics came to the forefront.

Sterling Spatz writes:
To suggest a similarity is simply laziness in a feeble attempt to score debating points.
I comment:
No, it isn't. And people don't generally post here just to "score debating points."
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on May 07, 2009, 06:45:01 AM
again not to defend even loosely defined torture...

but are we attempting to treat war as if it were able to be tamed
as if war could be waged in civilized fashion?
I always ask, rhetorically, why not shoot at ambulances, they will be patched up to come and fight us again….
we laugh at the red-coated British in lines attempting to beat colonialists hidden behind trees in rudimentary camo,
but is there such a thing as ruling the unruliness of combat?
the atomic bomb ushered in a new view point in numbers and the human exodus…
maybe the Old Testy God had a point when it said (or someone said, if you are more liberal in your interpretation) "wipe 'em all out!"
if war is sin, it can only be forgiven, not re-crafted into a lesser more graceful  form
the good that I would I won’t, and am more than willing the evil…
love your enemies, pray not for your victory but for their conversion, is hardly a usual petition….

I just read a Luther quote where he says that the church does not require fighting but suffering, sheath the sword Peter.  And in another passage (these in CPH’s new office book and they are not clearly footnoted so they may come from the same writing) he says and I know he is making the distinction between the two kingdoms, “Why should Christ or his people have anything to do with the sword and going to war, and kill men’s bodies, when he declared that he has come to save the world, not to kill people.”  When I studied the two kingdom theory back in my sem days I remember arguing that it was nice on paper but difficult to draw their boundaries on paper or in prayer. 

I say this as a semi-pacifist… who would defend my own grandchildren like a lion but hope not to revenge or needlessly defend my own life.    Isn’t it nice that we in the church are above it all?  I collect, and have often made… what shall I say, odd crosses and crucifixes.  I once took a small GI Joe figure and carefully nailed his hands and feet to a standard wood cross.  It is abrasive to say the least.  We just do not know that Jesus, temple cleansing not withstanding.   

Harvey Mozolak
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on May 07, 2009, 08:05:38 AM
plying my own reply...

chaplains may not be welcome in Herod's courts, their headship questioned by the edge of a sword... but...

Lutherans have offered the two kingdom theory which is not as clean as the doxology to the Our Father's one kingdom gloria... Yours.  For yours is the church, world and heaven, (aka kingdom, power and glory). 

If you want to postulate a two kingdom viewpoint then the kingdom of the church/grace overlaps, baptismally sloshes over the kingdom of world both in judgment and forgiveness.  We always interpret the render to Caesar and God to say that it is an ironic statement because Caesar may get a palace, coin or two, but it all is owned by God.   

When David picked up the smooth river rock, he was listening to God as well as raising Cain and marking Goliath not as God had marked that living brother but as we mark those we determine as not listening to God as well as we do. 

Harvey Mozolak
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 07, 2009, 12:21:22 PM
Three separate issues-- first, whether torture is a matter of degree with some subjective criteria, like reckless driving, or a matter of verifiable and objective fact, like speeding (or pregnancy). I argue for the former, and upstream gave the following illustration:

For example, article 1.1. of the definition Erik posted might apply to the courts imprisoning a journalist for refusing to testify. The journalist is taken into custody and is therefore a prisoner of the state. He is threatened with jail time if he does not give information to the government about a third party, causing extreme emotional and psychological trauma. In jail, he is promised release if he does talk. Now, the degree to which such an experience might be humiliating, terrifying, or painful is matter of debate, and therefore it becomes a matter of debate as to if and when such a policy becomes torture. Can such a person be made to wear an orange jumpsuit? Can his mugshots be made public, thus humiliating him? Can he be threatened with solitary confinement if he refuses to testify? Given only bread and water? Kept in the dark? At some point, but not an easy one to define, it becomes torture. All valid questions, but not parallel to the question of whether someone is pregnant or not.

This, I think, shows that you can't take a "it-is-or-it-isn't" approach to these questions, but must acknowledge that it is possible to disagee on what constitutes torture without one side defending torture.

The second issue is whether we ought to label torture according to differing degrees and nuances like we do with virtually every other crime like murder and theft (e.g. petty theft, grand larceny, first degree murder, manslaughter, etc.). In other words, should it be possible to accuse someone of, say, second degree torture? I argue yes, not only for the purposes of seeking truth and justice but also to take the inflammatory power out of the forced use of the naked word "torture" to describe a huge variety of things. 

Third, is it ever possible to reach a verdict of "justifiable torture" sort of like "justifiable homicide"? These are three distinct issues and I think they have been getting blended into one in this discussion.

A fourth issue is disagreement over whether torture works or not. For what it is worth, I think it only works (this is based on my guesses about human nature, not any experience torturing or being tortured) when the interrogator knows for a fact that the subject knows the information and can verify the answers fairly quickly. For example, if the police see someone open a safe, put something in it, and then slam it shut, the police know that person knows the combination to the safe, the suspect knows the police know he knows (etc.), the police can easily check if the suspect lies about it, so there is no point in that, and it all becomes a matter of how much the suspect is willing to endure before giving the combination. In that case I suspect torture would "work" pretty reliably. The key is whether all parties involved know exactly what information is being sought and know that the suspect has that information, as per the imprisoned journalist who won't reveal his sources example above. But if all the information is not on the table-- if the interrogators already know the answer, but the suspect doesn't know they know, so they're just checking for reliability, or if the interrogators can't easily verify the answers quickly, giving some glimmer of incentive for the suspect to lie, or if the interrogators don't know exactly what information they want but are just trying to convert an uncooperative person to a cooperative by breaking his will, then I think torture wouldn't work very well. All this is not to comment on the rightness or wrongness of it but only to offer my own two cents on the side-debate about whether torture works. 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on May 07, 2009, 12:37:43 PM
Peter, would you argue that in spite of the fact that killing another human is a sin and not good, that the state has a God-given right to execute certain criminals and thus that in spite of the fact that torture is a sin and not good, that the state has a God-given right to torture under certain circumstances.  (I know I have not defined torture, that's too torturous).

I wonder why the state has the right to execute?  And what are the holy criteria for using that right. 

 Harvey Mozolak
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 07, 2009, 12:54:16 PM
Peter, would you argue that in spite of the fact that killing another human is a sin and not good, that the state has a God-given right to execute certain criminals and thus that in spite of the fact that torture is a sin and not good, that the state has a God-given right to torture under certain circumstances.  (I know I have not defined torture, that's too torturous).

I wonder why the state has the right to execute?  And what are the holy criteria for using that right. 

 Harvey Mozolak
No, I would not argue that. I do believe that the state has the right in the abstract to execute criminals. That does not mean I necessarily think it should. If we abolished the death penalty, it would be important to me to make the distinction that we in theory retain the right to execute criminals, but choose not to exercise it. It would be like getting rid of the 55 mph speed limit-- we could bring it back if we wanted to without inherent injustice, but we do not think it serves us well. 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on May 07, 2009, 01:13:53 PM
I asked it wrong, why if the state has the right to execute (killing in the extreme) does it not have the right to kill in the less extreme, hurt badly-- torture?  Why could the Christian not argue that, if he or she accepted the states right to take life, why not hurt life?  Harvey Mozolak
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 07, 2009, 01:19:49 PM
again not to defend even loosely defined torture...

but are we attempting to treat war as if it were able to be tamed
as if war could be waged in civilized fashion?
I always ask, rhetorically, why not shoot at ambulances, they will be patched up to come and fight us again….
we laugh at the red-coated British in lines attempting to beat colonialists hidden behind trees in rudimentary camo,
but is there such a thing as ruling the unruliness of combat?
the atomic bomb ushered in a new view point in numbers and the human exodus…
maybe the Old Testy God had a point when it said (or someone said, if you are more liberal in your interpretation) "wipe 'em all out!"
if war is sin, it can only be forgiven, not re-crafted into a lesser more graceful  form
the good that I would I won’t, and am more than willing the evil…
love your enemies, pray not for your victory but for their conversion, is hardly a usual petition….

Harvey Mozolak

I recommend a truly enlightening book,  House of War by James Carroll.  A former priest, he traces the history of the Pentagon and offers an analysis of the history of our slouching toward (and embracing) the concept of "total war" in the 20th century.  It may be a case of the genie let out of the bottle, but we should be aware of many of the dubious moral compromises we have made, and disabuse ourselves of our oft self-rightous assertion that we "own" the higher moral ground.  We certainly are not the worst of the worst, but there is much in our history of waging war for which we ought hang our heads in shame.

To a large dergee, the current torture debate is another exemplar of our "relatavizing" our moral convictions about the waging of war.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 07, 2009, 01:45:17 PM
I asked it wrong, why if the state has the right to execute (killing in the extreme) does it not have the right to kill in the less extreme, hurt badly-- torture?  Why could the Christian not argue that, if he or she accepted the states right to take life, why not hurt life?  Harvey Mozolak

Would being imprisoned -- especially in a super-max facility where you only leave your cell for 1 hour a day and have no human contact, but less severe conditions of imprisonment as well -- constitute hurting and hurting badly?  It seems that the UN definition of "torture" could be construed to cover putting folks in jail (mental pain):

For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

The bolded bits would seem to indicate that it would be torture.

But then comes the underlined part.

It seems that the last sentence I've underlined says that you can put someone in jail even if it causes the suffering that was detailed initially, but that really begs the question.  If a legal memo says that waterboarding is a "lawful sanction" against the folks in Gitmo, then it seems that it would ipso facto not be torture by this definition.  It also means that cutting off somebody's joint knuckles one-by-one might not be torture if it was considered a "lawful sanction" in a country.

If I'm reading this correctly, then there isn't much useful guidance offered in this "definition" of torture because all a society needs to say is that some horrendous treatment is a "lawful sanction" and then it's not torture.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 07, 2009, 01:46:35 PM
Three separate issues-- first, whether torture is a matter of degree with some subjective criteria, like reckless driving, or a matter of verifiable and objective fact, like speeding (or pregnancy). I argue for the former, and upstream gave the following illustration:

For example, article 1.1. of the definition Erik posted might apply to the courts imprisoning a journalist for refusing to testify. The journalist is taken into custody and is therefore a prisoner of the state. He is threatened with jail time if he does not give information to the government about a third party, causing extreme emotional and psychological trauma. In jail, he is promised release if he does talk. Now, the degree to which such an experience might be humiliating, terrifying, or painful is matter of debate, and therefore it becomes a matter of debate as to if and when such a policy becomes torture. Can such a person be made to wear an orange jumpsuit? Can his mugshots be made public, thus humiliating him? Can he be threatened with solitary confinement if he refuses to testify? Given only bread and water? Kept in the dark? At some point, but not an easy one to define, it becomes torture. All valid questions, but not parallel to the question of whether someone is pregnant or not.

This, I think, shows that you can't take a "it-is-or-it-isn't" approach to these questions, but must acknowledge that it is possible to disagee on what constitutes torture without one side defending torture.

You're quite wrong.  The Convention on Torture is clear about the kind of scenario you raise (emphasis added):

Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Quote
The second issue is whether we ought to label torture according to differing degrees and nuances like we do with virtually every other crime like murder and theft (e.g. petty theft, grand larceny, first degree murder, manslaughter, etc.). In other words, should it be possible to accuse someone of, say, second degree torture? I argue yes, not only for the purposes of seeking truth and justice but also to take the inflammatory power out of the forced use of the naked word "torture" to describe a huge variety of things. 



You are still missing the point:  torture is an inflammatory word because its use is a moral outrage in itself.  You would have us parse how much of an outrage it is, suggesting that maybe its not always an outrage.  That may be your position but then you can't really honestly say you oppose torture, only some forms of it.

Quote
Third, is it ever possible to reach a verdict of "justifiable torture" sort of like "justifiable homicide"? These are three distinct issues and I think they have been getting blended into one in this discussion.

No, you can't.  That is the point in outlawing torture.  The UN Convention against Torture addresses this as well (emphasis added):

Article 2
2.   No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.  
Quote

A fourth issue is disagreement over whether torture works or not. For what it is worth, I think it only works (this is based on my guesses about human nature, not any experience torturing or being tortured) when the interrogator knows for a fact that the subject knows the information and can verify the answers fairly quickly. For example, if the police see someone open a safe, put something in it, and then slam it shut, the police know that person knows the combination to the safe, the suspect knows the police know he knows (etc.), the police can easily check if the suspect lies about it, so there is no point in that, and it all becomes a matter of how much the suspect is willing to endure before giving the combination. In that case I suspect torture would "work" pretty reliably. The key is whether all parties involved know exactly what information is being sought and know that the suspect has that information, as per the imprisoned journalist who won't reveal his sources example above. But if all the information is not on the table-- if the interrogators already know the answer, but the suspect doesn't know they know, so they're just checking for reliability, or if the interrogators can't easily verify the answers quickly, giving some glimmer of incentive for the suspect to lie, or if the interrogators don't know exactly what information they want but are just trying to convert an uncooperative person to a cooperative by breaking his will, then I think torture wouldn't work very well. All this is not to comment on the rightness or wrongness of it but only to offer my own two cents on the side-debate about whether torture works. 

I am unpersuaded that it does work, many military and other professionals in intelligence community call it suspect or useless.  The only way to verifiy its efficacy is to engage in it, so that presents an obvious morally prohibitive paradox:  

You cannot use methods of torture unless you can prove torture works.
You cannot prove torture works unless you use methods of torture.

Further the moral gravity of torture is such that you would have to then face the question at what level does it work:  some of the time, most of the time, all of the time.  What percentage would be needed satisfy or overwhelm the moral restriction?
I would think it would have to be quite high.  To engage in torture if there is a reasonable chance it won't work is effectively sadistic.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 07, 2009, 01:58:25 PM
Peter, would you argue that in spite of the fact that killing another human is a sin and not good, that the state has a God-given right to execute certain criminals and thus that in spite of the fact that torture is a sin and not good, that the state has a God-given right to torture under certain circumstances.  (I know I have not defined torture, that's too torturous).

I wonder why the state has the right to execute?  And what are the holy criteria for using that right. 

 Harvey Mozolak

A major distinction between the two is that in the instance of execution the state has legally established guilt. 

Whether that is in fact the truth is another matter, nevertheless the accused has had the opportunity to defend him/herself against the charge and due process has been served.

Torture for the purpose of obtaining timely information (the most usual justification) usually could not wait for the slow but exceedingly fine wheels of justice to turn.

My argument against execution, by the way, is that evidence shows that we get it wrong too often and that while it might be just and within the authority of the state, flawed human beings are not competent to decide and apply this sanction.  In a sense execution is a kind of "perfect" punishment (that is to say not subject to review or revision) and it requires therefore perfect administration.

You ask if the state can kill, why not hurt?
Because, at least in this nation-state we cannot inflict "cruel or unusual punishment" -- and that only for proven crimes.  We require execution to be virtually painless.  Torture is by definition the infliction of pain.  Torture is the "science" of applied (though perhaps measured) cruelty.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 07, 2009, 02:02:52 PM
Would being imprisoned -- especially in a super-max facility where you only leave your cell for 1 hour a day and have no human contact, but less severe conditions of imprisonment as well -- constitute hurting and hurting badly?  It seems that the UN definition of "torture" could be construed to cover putting folks in jail (mental pain) <big snip>

It seems <snip> that you can put someone in jail even if it causes the suffering that was detailed initially, but that really begs the question.  If a legal memo says that waterboarding is a "lawful sanction" against the folks in Gitmo, then it seems that it would ipso facto not be torture by this definition.  It also means that cutting off somebody's joint knuckles one-by-one might not be torture if it was considered a "lawful sanction" in a country.

If I'm reading this correctly, then there isn't much useful guidance offered in this "definition" of torture because all a society needs to say is that some horrendous treatment is a "lawful sanction" and then it's not torture.

But such an argument, as that in your final paragraph, would be a cynical abuse of the spirit of the law, wouldn't it?  I'm not saying it can't happen (indeed that seems to be what Ms. Rice was assertiing recently was our government's strategy).  I'm saying call it what it is, a cynical evasion of one's responsibilities as a signatory to the convention not to engage in torture.   

As for your comment about jails, I doubt it would apply to "normal imprisonment," but Supermax facitlities may be a different matter.  Many have begun to raise the issue of whether or not they constitute torture--24 hour solitary confinement for years, 1 hour/day outside of cell, etc.  They may have a point.  The Convention addresses "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, ...intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as .... punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed.".  It may be time we ask whether the security needs embodied in the draconian supermax system might not be achieved in some other, and more humane, way.   These types of prisons came about without much public debate about the moral implications of such treatment, so far as I know.  My guess is that they were developed under a fairly utilitarian ethic.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 07, 2009, 03:05:00 PM
Would being imprisoned -- especially in a super-max facility where you only leave your cell for 1 hour a day and have no human contact, but less severe conditions of imprisonment as well -- constitute hurting and hurting badly?  It seems that the UN definition of "torture" could be construed to cover putting folks in jail (mental pain) <big snip>

It seems <snip> that you can put someone in jail even if it causes the suffering that was detailed initially, but that really begs the question.  If a legal memo says that waterboarding is a "lawful sanction" against the folks in Gitmo, then it seems that it would ipso facto not be torture by this definition.  It also means that cutting off somebody's joint knuckles one-by-one might not be torture if it was considered a "lawful sanction" in a country.

If I'm reading this correctly, then there isn't much useful guidance offered in this "definition" of torture because all a society needs to say is that some horrendous treatment is a "lawful sanction" and then it's not torture.

But such an argument, as that in your final paragraph, would be a cynical abuse of the spirit of the law, wouldn't it?  I'm not saying it can't happen (indeed that seems to be what Ms. Rice was assertiing recently was our government's strategy).  I'm saying call it what it is, a cynical evasion of one's responsibilities as a signatory to the convention not to engage in torture.   

Well, it wouldn't be cynical if the society in question has traditionally considered, say, caning or whipping a person as a "lawful sanction" against certain types of crimes.  Other societies would certainly disagree saying that it's torture, but there wouldn't be anything cynical on the part of the society for saying that it's not.  Neither would there be anything illegal about it in the eyes of the UN because, as long as it's a "lawful sanction" in the country, it's not torture by this definition.  It might not even be against the unquantifiable "spirit" of this definition.

On the other hand, some societies might consider long imprisonment to be torture, or waiting years on death row, or the death penalty.  Our society disagrees and considers them "lawful sanctions."  And by this definition, those who impose the death penalty are not torturers, and the execution itself is not torture.

All I'm pointing out is that this "definition" of torture really isn't helpful in legally defining what is torture or what isn't because of an inherent instability.  This instability lies at the intersection societal norms re: the infliction of pain (physical or mental) and the desire for folks not to inflict any pain on one another at all.  What we're left with is what one society considers a "lawful sanction" another considers "torture."

So it looks like more work needs to be done, and this definition needs to be thought out a bit more if it's to be a useful legal guide.

As for your comment about jails, I doubt it would apply to "normal imprisonment," but Supermax facitlities may be a different matter.  Many have begun to raise the issue of whether or not they constitute torture--24 hour solitary confinement for years, 1 hour/day outside of cell, etc.  They may have a point.  The Convention addresses "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, ...intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as .... punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed.".  It may be time we ask whether the security needs embodied in the draconian supermax system might not be achieved in some other, and more humane, way.   These types of prisons came about without much public debate about the moral implications of such treatment, so far as I know.  My guess is that they were developed under a fairly utilitarian ethic.

It seems like discussions around this type of reasoning is what needs to lie behind societal decisions regarding punishment and what is or is not a "lawful sanction."  But it does seem to come down to a judgment call about precisely how much physical and mental pain doled out to an individual is acceptable within a society.  It appears that even the UN definition recognizes this weighing of pain, because it places the modifier "severe" within the definition itself.  That is a word that bespeaks the recognition of a quantitative distinction; not a qualitative one.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 07, 2009, 03:14:31 PM

As for your comment about jails, I doubt it would apply to "normal imprisonment," but Supermax facitlities may be a different matter.  Many have begun to raise the issue of whether or not they constitute torture--24 hour solitary confinement for years, 1 hour/day outside of cell, etc.  They may have a point.  The Convention addresses "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, ...intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as .... punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed.".  It may be time we ask whether the security needs embodied in the draconian supermax system might not be achieved in some other, and more humane, way.   These types of prisons came about without much public debate about the moral implications of such treatment, so far as I know.  My guess is that they were developed under a fairly utilitarian ethic.

Replace "Supermax facilities" with "waterboarding" and you see how ridiculous it is for people to say they have a cut and dried answer to the issue of torture. If it were so, then you would know whether Supermax facilities were appropriate or not, since torture is torture, period. Supermax isolation in some cases might be considered torture but it is merely a different degree of "normal imprisonment" and where one becomes the other is somewhat subjective. Your paragraph is full of phrases like "I would doubt" and "may be a different matter" and "they may have a point" and "it may be time we ask" and "might not be achieved" and all kinds of maybes, mights, and doubts. If you encountered someone who flat out said "torture is wrong, Supermax isolation is torture, therefore the lawyers who recommended it, the judges who sentenced it, and the guards who carried out ought to be tried, and if found guilty, serve time," I'm hoping you might have some qualms and would be on the side of those judges and guards against such an accusation. You don't want to defend Supermax or everything that goes on in high security prisons, much less be accused of defending torture, but nor do you want to declare them useless and criminal; you want a chance to think it through with careful definitions. You don't want a mob mentality with an obvious political agenda demanding that you either throw the judges in jail or admit you defend torture. That's where I am with GITMO. I tend to think waterboarding is torture and ought to be banned, but I also trust that those who implemented it are not stupid or evil and that they know more about it than I do, so the bar is set drastically high for me to call for them to be tried by a human rights tribunal. In the same way, I tend to think Supermax isolation is disturbing and in some cases might actually be torture, or at least fall under the UN definition of torture. But what to do about it? Yesterday I visited an 18 year old (not a member of my congregation) in prison. Nothing serious at first-- drunken joy-ride landed him in hot water, fear made him run from the law, and a bad attitude and fights in prison landed him in "the hole" for 140 days. 140 days with absolutely no contact-- no mail, no phone calls, no visits, no human interaction (meals through a slot, toilet in the middle of the cell) no sunlight, no media (one book a week) no nothing. My gut reaction to that is to ask how that can possibly be good for anything. But when I visited him he had a great attitude and admitted that being in the hole for that long had changed his outlook profoundly for the better. In one case maybe it would have driven a kid insane, in another embittered him beyond recall, but in this case it "worked", apparently. So I have to temper my criticism of coerced extreme isolation. Was the kid tortured? I would say no. But I'm not sure about the definitions and I don't think it fair to deride those who want definitions as somehow trying to excuse torture.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 07, 2009, 03:24:42 PM

All I'm pointing out is that this "definition" of torture really isn't helpful in legally defining what is torture or what isn't because of an inherent instability.  This instability lies at the intersection societal norms re: the infliction of pain (physical or mental) and the desire for folks not to inflict any pain on one another at all.  What we're left with is what one society considers a "lawful sanction" another considers "torture."

So it looks like more work needs to be done, and this definition needs to be thought out a bit more if it's to be a useful legal guide.

I think the work has been done.  The Convention has been around since 1985.  The US is listed as a signatory (the seemingly lowest level of recognition) but is listed as not yet having ratified the convention (whatever that means).
It would seem from a cursory reading of the entire text, in its full force, the convention is not only contingent upon local understandings of what is permissible but with the norms of international law and a system of UN investigation into complaints against signatories for not living up to the obligations.
Quote

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 07, 2009, 03:40:05 PM

As for your comment about jails, I doubt it would apply to "normal imprisonment," but Supermax facitlities may be a different matter.  Many have begun to raise the issue of whether or not they constitute torture--24 hour solitary confinement for years, 1 hour/day outside of cell, etc.  They may have a point.  The Convention addresses "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, ...intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as .... punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed.".  It may be time we ask whether the security needs embodied in the draconian supermax system might not be achieved in some other, and more humane, way.   These types of prisons came about without much public debate about the moral implications of such treatment, so far as I know.  My guess is that they were developed under a fairly utilitarian ethic.

Replace "Supermax facilities" with "waterboarding" and you see how ridiculous it is for people to say they have a cut and dried answer to the issue of torture. If it were so, then you would know whether Supermax facilities were appropriate or not, since torture is torture, period. Supermax isolation in some cases might be considered torture but it is merely a different degree of "normal imprisonment" and where one becomes the other is somewhat subjective. Your paragraph is full of phrases like "I would doubt" and "may be a different matter" and "they may have a point" and "it may be time we ask" and "might not be achieved" and all kinds of maybes, mights, and doubts. If you encountered someone who flat out said "torture is wrong, Supermax isolation is torture, therefore the lawyers who recommended it, the judges who sentenced it, and the guards who carried out ought to be tried, and if found guilty, serve time," I'm hoping you might have some qualms and would be on the side of those judges and guards against such an accusation. You don't want to defend Supermax or everything that goes on in high security prisons, much less be accused of defending torture, but nor do you want to declare them useless and criminal; you want a chance to think it through with careful definitions. You don't want a mob mentality with an obvious political agenda demanding that you either throw the judges in jail or admit you defend torture. That's where I am with GITMO. I tend to think waterboarding is torture and ought to be banned, but I also trust that those who implemented it are not stupid or evil and that they know more about it than I do, so the bar is set drastically high for me to call for them to be tried by a human rights tribunal. In the same way, I tend to think Supermax isolation is disturbing and in some cases might actually be torture, or at least fall under the UN definition of torture. But what to do about it? Yesterday I visited an 18 year old (not a member of my congregation) in prison. Nothing serious at first-- drunken joy-ride landed him in hot water, fear made him run from the law, and a bad attitude and fights in prison landed him in "the hole" for 140 days. 140 days with absolutely no contact-- no mail, no phone calls, no visits, no human interaction (meals through a slot, toilet in the middle of the cell) no sunlight, no media (one book a week) no nothing. My gut reaction to that is to ask how that can possibly be good for anything. But when I visited him he had a great attitude and admitted that being in the hole for that long had changed his outlook profoundly for the better. In one case maybe it would have driven a kid insane, in another embittered him beyond recall, but in this case it "worked", apparently. So I have to temper my criticism of coerced extreme isolation. Was the kid tortured? I would say no. But I'm not sure about the definitions and I don't think it fair to deride those who want definitions as somehow trying to excuse torture.

Which do you want Peter?  You complain when people make flat-out catagorical statement on one matter and when I make an observation regarding another matter, that it maybe torture, but needs more discussion you complain about that, too!  Fine.  I'm inclined to think supermax is torture.  As distinct from the young man whose story you relate, supermax has no end, those serving there are lifers.  There is no telos.  It cannot be said to be for their betterment or rehabilitation or anything like that.  Now what to do about supermax, I don't know.  It didn't happen at once, it evolved.  I was responding to a hypothetical with a hypothetical answer. 

Do you really think there is a moral equivalency between 140 days in solitary and 50 or 100 episodes of waterboarding someone -- who by the way had been held for more than 140 days in solitary confinement?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 07, 2009, 04:46:23 PM

Which do you want Peter?  You complain when people make flat-out catagorical statement on one matter and when I make an observation regarding another matter, that it maybe torture, but needs more discussion you complain about that, too! 

Do you really think there is a moral equivalency between 140 days in solitary and 50 or 100 episodes of waterboarding someone -- who by the way had been held for more than 140 days in solitary confinement?

To answer your second question first, no, there is no moral equivalency between the 140 days in the hole and the waterboarding because there is no equivalency between participating in a fistfight and plotting to murder thousands of people. I wasn't comparing the two in terms of magnitude. To answer your first question of which do I want, I thought I made it clear I want the second option-- that GITMO does not need flat-out categorical condemnation but a reasoned discussion with an acknowledgment of degrees and careful definitions. I wasn't complaining about your view of Supermax but calling it reasonable and using the same reasonableness to defend my take on GITMO. Just as you want to get rid of Supermax but don't have a better plan on hand need better definitions to make determinations about torture and certainly don't think the lawyers, judges and guards who send and keep people in Supermax should be tried as criminals, I want to get rid of GITMO but don't know what exactly to do about it, want more precise and workable definitions on the question of torture, and certainly don't want the administration lawyers, interrogators, and soldiers who sent and kept people there tried as criminals. 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 07, 2009, 06:04:32 PM

All I'm pointing out is that this "definition" of torture really isn't helpful in legally defining what is torture or what isn't because of an inherent instability.  This instability lies at the intersection societal norms re: the infliction of pain (physical or mental) and the desire for folks not to inflict any pain on one another at all.  What we're left with is what one society considers a "lawful sanction" another considers "torture."

So it looks like more work needs to be done, and this definition needs to be thought out a bit more if it's to be a useful legal guide.

I think the work has been done.  The Convention has been around since 1985.  The US is listed as a signatory (the seemingly lowest level of recognition) but is listed as not yet having ratified the convention (whatever that means).
It would seem from a cursory reading of the entire text, in its full force, the convention is not only contingent upon local understandings of what is permissible but with the norms of international law and a system of UN investigation into complaints against signatories for not living up to the obligations.

Then by this definition, waterboarding is not torture.  It was legally sanctioned via the legal briefs filed by the folks in the Bush administration.

Would you be comfortable with that result?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 07, 2009, 11:25:33 PM

Which do you want Peter?  You complain when people make flat-out catagorical statement on one matter and when I make an observation regarding another matter, that it maybe torture, but needs more discussion you complain about that, too! 

Do you really think there is a moral equivalency between 140 days in solitary and 50 or 100 episodes of waterboarding someone -- who by the way had been held for more than 140 days in solitary confinement?

To answer your second question first, no, there is no moral equivalency between the 140 days in the hole and the waterboarding because there is no equivalency between participating in a fistfight and plotting to murder thousands of people. I wasn't comparing the two in terms of magnitude. To answer your first question of which do I want, I thought I made it clear I want the second option-- that GITMO does not need flat-out categorical condemnation but a reasoned discussion with an acknowledgment of degrees and careful definitions. I wasn't complaining about your view of Supermax but calling it reasonable and using the same reasonableness to defend my take on GITMO. Just as you want to get rid of Supermax but don't have a better plan on hand need better definitions to make determinations about torture and certainly don't think the lawyers, judges and guards who send and keep people in Supermax should be tried as criminals, I want to get rid of GITMO but don't know what exactly to do about it, want more precise and workable definitions on the question of torture, and certainly don't want the administration lawyers, interrogators, and soldiers who sent and kept people there tried as criminals. 

I hear your concern.  I don't think the GITMO personnel are the major issue.  Following orders isn't supposed to be a defense, but in the end they're the tail of the snake.  The way to prevent future forays into this kind of policy is to address the reptile's head.

Certainly the "maxima culpa" doesn't belong to the clerks and guards, but what about the people who gave the orders? What about those who developed the legal justification?   Why doesn't someone have to bear the legal responsibility if the law was--and hear me, this has to be established--willfully and intentionally broken, well-intentioned motives notwithstanding?

I don't see why the lawyers, who should have known that this was too near the line to touch--let alone cross--should not have to shoulder the blame for bad lawyering and not putting their duty to the law first as officers of the court.
Obviously this is just my humble opinion but, when they were asked, if there could be legal use of waterboarding, they should have told their superiors, "Hell no!" and resigned if ordered to produce the justification anyway. 
But, their superiors apparently didn't have to give such an order, the lawyers (none to date have repudiated their work) were with the program and provided the justification.  Why then should they not share in the condemnation that falls upon those who approved an illegal policy that should never have been enacted? 

In the end it is a ridiculously complicated web.  And I used that word advisedly.  This isn't about a simple vertical chain of command.  There are important threads at a variety of levels.  Who is the perpetrator of the misdeed and who merely aided and abetted?   At worst, the GITMO people are probably only worthy of being called accessories, and only then if they had an active role in clear acts of torture. 

But, is it really acceptable if no one is held personally accountable for this?

And for the record, it isn't for me to decide who is accountable for what--though you may surmise that I have some strong feelings about who should be targets of investigation.  I'm content to let the legal system do its investigative and prosecutorial work.  What concerns me most are those who have no stomach for holding people accountable for this and who say we should just move on.  That is moral cowardice.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 07, 2009, 11:49:13 PM
I think the work has been done.  The Convention has been around since 1985.  The US is listed as a signatory (the seemingly lowest level of recognition) but is listed as not yet having ratified the convention (whatever that means).
It would seem from a cursory reading of the entire text, in its full force, the convention is not only contingent upon local understandings of what is permissible but with the norms of international law and a system of UN investigation into complaints against signatories for not living up to the obligations.

Then by this definition, waterboarding is not torture.  It was legally sanctioned via the legal briefs filed by the folks in the Bush administration.

Would you be comfortable with that result?

First, that assumes that the legal briefs were in themselves good legal arguments.  In our system, courts determine what the law is, not legal briefs.  They are only advice.  In this case, pretty bad advice.  Besides, as theologians, don't we know what the value of self-justification is?

Second, ratified or not, participants in the enforcement provisions or not, surely our signature to the defintions of the UN Convention itself must count for something.

I heard Gen. Brent Scowcroft (fmr. Natiional Security Advisor) speak with disdain for the DJ memos on Charlie Rose's program recently.  Something to the effect of saying the memos' definition of torture could only be met by something akin to the removal of a person's liver without anesthesia.  Clear hyperbole, but you get the point.  The memos were clearly not intending to hold our government to the highest standard expected by the language of the Convention.

Finally, if you are correct, that waterboarding is not torture--is it that it never was, or only isn't any longer?  If it never was then wouldn't we have to vacate the convictions of those the US tried and convicted of the crime of waterboarding?

Would you be comfortable with that result?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 08, 2009, 07:57:36 AM
Then by this definition, waterboarding is not torture.  It was legally sanctioned via the legal briefs filed by the folks in the Bush administration.

Would you be comfortable with that result?

First, that assumes that the legal briefs were in themselves good legal arguments.  In our system, courts determine what the law is, not legal briefs.  They are only advice.  In this case, pretty bad advice.  Besides, as theologians, don't we know what the value of self-justification is?

Second, ratified or not, participants in the enforcement provisions or not, surely our signature to the defintions of the UN Convention itself must count for something.

I heard Gen. Brent Scowcroft (fmr. Natiional Security Advisor) speak with disdain for the DJ memos on Charlie Rose's program recently.  Something to the effect of saying the memos' definition of torture could only be met by something akin to the removal of a person's liver without anesthesia.  Clear hyperbole, but you get the point.  The memos were clearly not intending to hold our government to the highest standard expected by the language of the Convention.

Finally, if you are correct, that waterboarding is not torture--is it that it never was, or only isn't any longer?  If it never was then wouldn't we have to vacate the convictions of those the US tried and convicted of the crime of waterboarding?

Would you be comfortable with that result?

I think we need to take a step back because the point I'm trying to make must still be unclear.

What I'm saying is that the UN definition itself has a structural ambiguity.  This is witnessed to by your first and last points.  That is, in your first point, you acknowledge (at least tacitly) that if the proper legal machinery operated to legally sanction a particular activity (e.g., waterboarding), then that affects its status as torture or not.  You are playing off the idea of the definition when it exempts "lawful sanctions" from its definition of torture.

Then, in your last point, you treat waterboarding irrrespective of its legal sanction by a particular government.  That is, whether waterboarding is always torture or not, and then ask me to but into the propriety or impropriety of US prosecutions thereof.  But you ask me this in the context of a discussion on the UN definition of torture, apparently no longer taking account of the interplay between "severe (mental or physical) pain" and "lawful sanctions" in that definition.

So my answer to your last question is: by the definition of torture propagated by the UN and quoted earlier, waterboarding is torture if a government has not legally sanctioned it but it is not torture if a government has.  Our prosecutions of folks who waterboarded others were legal if they were not following their government's "lawful sanctions" but illegal if they were.

Does this make clear what (one of) my problem(s) is with the UN definition?  That its definition of "torture" is dependent upon the legal status of a certain activity within a country for it to be recognized as torture or not?

A second problem that we have been discussing is how should "severe" pain be interpreted, and hence our discussions re: Supermax.

So the end result is that a signatory to the UN definition could waterboard someone (or whip or cane or ??) and not violate the convention as long as it was a "lawful sanction."  I find that problematic, and I attribute the problem to the definition itself.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 08, 2009, 08:59:30 AM
I think the idea of "lawful sanctions" regarding the definition of torture in a particular country might refer to practices (caning, Supermax isolation, etc.) that the country in question normally carries out on its own citizens as punishment. The problem might be that waterboarding is not part of our normal penal code but legally seems to have been a special exception in the case of this particular situation. However, by that view Saudi Arabia would not be torturing people by having them flogged. So the idea expressed upstream that once you get into specifics you either become like the Spanish Inquisition or else invite obedience to the letter but not the spirit of the law is unavoidable. If you get a restraining order, you have to specify how many feet away from something or somebody the accused must stay, and he can stay one inch further away all he likes. (Remember in the movie Cape Fear how the criminal learned the law in prison enough to obey the letter but not the spirit when he got out? When he was released he stalked his former defense attorney because that attorney had tried to obey the spirit of the law but not the letter by deliberately not mounting what he thought was a unjust legal defense of the criminal based on a technicality, thus causing the criminal to spend extra years in jail. In the end, the defense attorney owns up that what he had done in seeking to obey the spirit but not the letter of the law was itself contrary to the spirit of the law concerning the role of defense attorneys in the legal system.) You can't get people to obey the spirit of the law by not providing them with the letter of the law, and the letter of the law concerning torture is, as Brian S. might point out, ambiguous.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jakozak on May 08, 2009, 09:32:51 AM
There was a survey posted on the CNN website a few days ago that said Christians were more accepting of torture than other religions.  That doesn't surprise me in the least.  Christians are used to having their clergy change definitions of clear-cut doctrines.  If homosexuality is no longer a sin against the 6th Commandment, how can torture be a sin against the 5th?  If a particular church body can bless the "union" of two men, then why not bless the waterboarding of a terrorist bent on murder?   

Rev. Jack Kozak/Akron, Ohio

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 08, 2009, 09:43:27 AM
There was a survey posted on the CNN website a few days ago that said Christians were more accepting of torture than other religions.  That doesn't surprise me in the least.  Christians are used to having their clergy change definitions of clear-cut doctrines.  If homosexuality is no longer a sin against the 6th Commandment, how can torture be a sin against the 5th?  If a particular church body can bless the "union" of two men, then why not bless the waterboarding of a terrorist bent on murder?   

Rev. Jack Kozak/Akron, Ohio

For the record, I'm not among those "accepting of torture."  I'm saying that the UN's definition is inadequate and that we need a better one. 

This is the case because even with Peter's caveat mentioned above re: governments doing to non-civilians what they do to their own citizens, if a military dictatorship sanctioned the severing of a hand, whipping or even more ghastly techniques for use on its own citizens and applied this to non-citizens as well, then it would NOT be torture by the UN's definition.  Or at least best I can make out.

That's a problem.  Or maybe it's just me.  ???
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 08, 2009, 09:59:06 AM
Then by this definition, waterboarding is not torture.  It was legally sanctioned via the legal briefs filed by the folks in the Bush administration.

Would you be comfortable with that result?

First, that assumes that the legal briefs were in themselves good legal arguments.  In our system, courts determine what the law is, not legal briefs.  They are only advice.  In this case, pretty bad advice.  Besides, as theologians, don't we know what the value of self-justification is?

Second, ratified or not, participants in the enforcement provisions or not, surely our signature to the defintions of the UN Convention itself must count for something.

I heard Gen. Brent Scowcroft (fmr. Natiional Security Advisor) speak with disdain for the DJ memos on Charlie Rose's program recently.  Something to the effect of saying the memos' definition of torture could only be met by something akin to the removal of a person's liver without anesthesia.  Clear hyperbole, but you get the point.  The memos were clearly not intending to hold our government to the highest standard expected by the language of the Convention.

Finally, if you are correct, that waterboarding is not torture--is it that it never was, or only isn't any longer?  If it never was then wouldn't we have to vacate the convictions of those the US tried and convicted of the crime of waterboarding?

Would you be comfortable with that result?

I think we need to take a step back because the point I'm trying to make must still be unclear.

What I'm saying is that the UN definition itself has a structural ambiguity.  This is witnessed to by your first and last points.  That is, in your first point, you acknowledge (at least tacitly) that if the proper legal machinery operated to legally sanction a particular activity (e.g., waterboarding), then that affects its status as torture or not.  You are playing off the idea of the definition when it exempts "lawful sanctions" from its definition of torture.

Then, in your last point, you treat waterboarding irrrespective of its legal sanction by a particular government.  That is, whether waterboarding is always torture or not, and then ask me to but into the propriety or impropriety of US prosecutions thereof.  But you ask me this in the context of a discussion on the UN definition of torture, apparently no longer taking account of the interplay between "severe (mental or physical) pain" and "lawful sanctions" in that definition.

So my answer to your last question is: by the definition of torture propagated by the UN and quoted earlier, waterboarding is torture if a government has not legally sanctioned it but it is not torture if a government has.  Our prosecutions of folks who waterboarded others were legal if they were not following their government's "lawful sanctions" but illegal if they were.

Does this make clear what (one of) my problem(s) is with the UN definition?  That its definition of "torture" is dependent upon the legal status of a certain activity within a country for it to be recognized as torture or not?

A second problem that we have been discussing is how should "severe" pain be interpreted, and hence our discussions re: Supermax.

So the end result is that a signatory to the UN definition could waterboard someone (or whip or cane or ??) and not violate the convention as long as it was a "lawful sanction."  I find that problematic, and I attribute the problem to the definition itself.

So you're saying that if a government authorized attaching electrodes to a prisioner genitals that would be OK because it was authorized?  Your pushing the perceived ambiguity to the point of absurdity.  Under your reading the convention would have no meaning at all unless a government was stupid enough not to say the particular method of interrogation/torture in use was OK.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 08, 2009, 10:01:04 AM
There was a survey posted on the CNN website a few days ago that said Christians were more accepting of torture than other religions.  That doesn't surprise me in the least.  Christians are used to having their clergy change definitions of clear-cut doctrines.  If homosexuality is no longer a sin against the 6th Commandment, how can torture be a sin against the 5th?  If a particular church body can bless the "union" of two men, then why not bless the waterboarding of a terrorist bent on murder?   

Rev. Jack Kozak/Akron, Ohio



Perhaps the difference is that one is easily identifiable as a harm to a person against their will.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 08, 2009, 10:01:44 AM
So you're saying that if a government authorized attaching electrodes to a prisioner genitals that would be OK because it was authorized?

No, I most certainly do not think that is OK.  I think it is horrible and should be illegal.  I'm trying to advocate that there should be laws that clearly and without ambiguity make it so.

Your pushing the perceived ambiguity to the point of absurdity.  Under your reading the convention would have no meaning at all unless a government was stupid enough not to say the particular method of interrogation/torture in use was OK.

What in the definition quoted prevents such an interpretation?

If nothing, then I think we should agree that it needs to be fixed.

Or are there other places besides what Erik quoted that need to be a part of this discussion?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 08, 2009, 10:03:47 AM
I think the idea of "lawful sanctions" regarding the definition of torture in a particular country might refer to practices (caning, Supermax isolation, etc.) that the country in question normally carries out on its own citizens as punishment. The problem might be that waterboarding is not part of our normal penal code but legally seems to have been a special exception in the case of this particular situation.

I'm curious as to whether this is the case also.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 08, 2009, 10:11:22 AM
So you're saying that if a government authorized attaching electrodes to a prisioner genitals that would be OK because it was authorized?

No, I do not think that is OK.  I think it is horrible and should be illegal.  I'm trying to advocate that there should be laws that clearly and without ambiguity make it so.

Your pushing the perceived ambiguity to the point of absurdity.  Under your reading the convention would have no meaning at all unless a government was stupid enough not to say the particular method of interrogation/torture in use was OK.

What in the definition quoted prevents such an interpretation?

If nothing, then I think we should agree that it needs to be fixed.

Or are there other places besides what Erik quoted that need to be a part of this discussion?

Here is the more of the Convention, [full text at http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cat.html]


CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE
and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment

The States Parties to this Convention,
Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Recognizing that those rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person,
Considering the obligation of States under the Charter, in particular Article 55, to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Having regard to article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which provide that no one may be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
Having regard also to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1975 (resolution 3452 (XXX)),
Desiring to make more effective the struggle against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment throughout the world,
Have agreed as follows:
Part I
Article 1
1.   For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
2.   This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.
Article 2
1.   Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2.   No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3.   An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
Article 3
1.   No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
2.   For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.
Article 4
1.   Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
2.   Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.
Article 5
1.   Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to in article 4 in the following cases:
1.   When the offences are committed in any territory under its jurisdiction or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that State;
2.   When the alleged offender is a national of that State;
3.   When the victim was a national of that State if that State considers it appropriate.
2.   Each State Party shall likewise take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over such offences in cases where the alleged offender is present in any territory under its jurisdiction and it does not extradite him pursuant to article 8 to any of the States mentioned in Paragraph 1 of this article.
3.   This Convention does not exclude any criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with internal law.
Article 6
1.   Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is present, shall take him into custody or take other legal measures to ensure his presence. The custody and other legal measures shall be as provided in the law of that State but may be continued only for such time as is necessary to enable any criminal or extradition proceedings to be instituted.
2.   Such State shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts.
3.   Any person in custody pursuant to paragraph 1 of this article shall be assisted in communicating immediately with the nearest appropriate representative of the State of which he is a national, or, if he is a stateless person, to the representative of the State where he usually resides.
4.   When a State, pursuant to this article, has taken a person into custody, it shall immediately notify the States referred to in article 5, paragraph 1, of the fact that such person is in custody and of the circumstances which warrant his detention. The State which makes the preliminary inquiry contemplated in paragraph 2 of this article shall promptly report its findings to the said State and shall indicate whether it intends to exercise jurisdiction.
Article 7
1.   The State Party in territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found, shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.
2.   These authorities shall take their decision in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offence of a serious nature under the law of that State. In the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 2, the standards of evidence required for prosecution and conviction shall in no way be less stringent than those which apply in the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 1.
3.   Any person regarding whom proceedings are brought in connection with any of the offences referred to in article 4 shall be guaranteed fair treatment at all stages of the proceedings.
Article 8
1.   The offences referred to in article 4 shall be deemed to be included as extraditable offences in any extradition treaty existing between States Parties. States Parties undertake to include such offences as extraditable offences in every extradition treaty to be concluded between them.
2.   If a State Party which makes extradition conditional on the existence of a treaty receives a request for extradition from another State Party with which it has no extradition treaty, it may consider this Convention as the legal basis for extradition in respect of such offenses. Extradition shall be subject to the other conditions provided by the law of the requested State.
3.   States Parties which do not make extradition conditional on the existence of a treaty shall recognize such offences as extraditable offences between themselves subject to the conditions provided by the law of the requested state.
4.   Such offences shall be treated, for the purpose of extradition between States Parties, as if they had been committed not only in the place in which they occurred but also in the territories of the States required to establish their jurisdiction in accordance with article 5, paragraph 1.
Article 9
1.   States Parties shall afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in connection with civil proceedings brought in respect of any of the offences referred to in article 4, including the supply of all evidence at their disposal necessary for the proceedings.
2.   States Parties shall carry out their obligations under paragraph 1 of this article in conformity with any treaties on mutual judicial assistance that may exist between them.
Article 10
1.   Each State Party shall ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture are fully included in the training of law enforcement personnel, civil or military, medical personnel, public officials and other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment.
2.   Each State Party shall include this prohibition in the rules or instructions issued in regard to the duties and functions of any such persons.
Article 11
Each State Party shall keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture.
Article 12
Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committee in any territory under its jurisdiction.
Article 13
Each State Party shall ensure that any individual who alleges he has been subjected to torture in any territory under its jurisdiction has the right to complain to and to have his case promptly and impartially examined its competent authorities. Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given.
Article 14
1.   Each State Party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. In the event of the death of the victim as a result of an act of torture, his dependents shall be entitled to compensation.
2.   Nothing in this article shall affect any right of the victim or other person to compensation which may exist under national law.
Article 15
Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.
Article 16
1.   Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article 1, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. In particular, the obligations contained in articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 shall apply with the substitution for references to torture or references to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
2.   The provisions of this Convention are without prejudice to the provisions of any other international instrument or national law which prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or which relate to extradition or expulsion.
Article 17
1.   There shall be established a Committee against Torture (hereinafter referred to as the Committee) which shall carry out the functions hereinafter provided. The Committee shall consist of 10 experts of high moral standing and recognized competence in the field of human rights, who shall serve in their personal capacity. The experts shall be elected by the States Parties, consideration being given to equitable geographical distribution and to the usefulness of the participation of some persons having legal experience.
2.   The members of the Committee shall be elected by secret ballot from a list of persons nominated by States Parties. Each State Party may nominate one person from among its own nationals. States Parties shall bear in mind the usefulness of nominating persons who are also members of the Human Rights Committee established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and are willing to serve on the Committee against Torture.
3.   Elections of the members of the Committee shall be held at biennial meetings of States Parties convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. At those meetings, for which two thirds of the States Parties shall constitute a quorum, the persons elected to the Committee shall be those who obtain the largest number of votes and an absolute majority of the votes of the representatives of States Parties present and voting.
4.   The initial election shall be held no later than six months after the date of the entry into force of this Convention. At least four months before the date of each election, the Secretary-General of the United Nations shall address a letter to the States Parties inviting them to submit their nominations within three months. The Secretary-General shall prepare a list in alphabetical order of all persons thus nominated, indicating the States Parties which have nominated them, and shall submit it to the States Parties.
5.   The members of the Committee shall be elected for a term of four years. They shall be eligible for re-election if renominated. However, the term of five of the members elected at the first election shall expire at the end of two years; immediately after the first election the names of these five members shall be chosen by lot by the chairman of the meeting referred to in paragraph 3.
6.   If a member of the Committee dies or resigns or for any other cause can no longer perform his Committee duties, the State Party which nominated him shall appoint another expert from among its nationals to serve for the remainder of his term, subject to the approval of the majority of the States Parties. The approval shall be considered given unless half or more of the States Parties respond negatively within six weeks after having been informed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations of the proposed appointment.
7.   States Parties shall be responsible for the expenses of the members of the Committee while they are in performance of Committee duties.
 
On February 4, 1985, the Convention was opened for signature at United Nations Headquarters in New York. At that time, representatives of the following countries signed it: Afghanistan, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Senegal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay. Subsequently, signatures were received from Venezuela on February 15, from Luxembourg and Panama on February 22, from Austria on March 14, and from the United Kingdom on March 15, 1985.
(signatures)
 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 08, 2009, 11:04:38 AM
I agree with Scott, as usual, that I do not think torture is acceptable but I think the UN definitions need work, probably because they are attempts at getting consensus from too broad a range of understandings, which leads to problems in terms of what is taken for granted. My problem with this whole debate is that it seems focused not only arriving at a good policy and implementing it but placing blame. If we determined Supermax was inhumane, I most emphatically would not want to "hold accountable" those who designed it and worked there in good faith under the (now shown to be mistaken) impression that it was not inhumane. If the death penalty is abolished as cruel and unusual, I do not want our executioners and judges facing trials to be held accountable for their crimes. If and when the day comes when abortion is seen for what it is, I do not want a bunch of trials of abortion doctors who should obviously have known they were killing babies. I think a negative unintended consequence of the Nazi War Crime tribunals is that they came to right conclusions by sketchy and ill-defined means, and now we're trying to use such sketchy means to regulate not a defeated enemy after the fact but regular policy going forward, and we find such ill-defined means don't work very well. The Germans shared a general culture, history, and background with the Allies and so could be tried according to mutually understood standards. The UN is trying to do the same thing but without the commonalities of understanding. "I was only following orders," might not ultimately be a good defense for a Nazi to a Brit, because both shared a culture enough to judge the orders by. But it is a pretty good defense in most instances. I wouldn't even want the Saudi who wielded the whip to flog a prisoner tried in court for it after flogging was recognized as inhumane-- I would accept that he was only following orders and was not necessarily a monster, but someone who lived under laws that most of the world would find perverse.

There is no easy answer. Even illegalizing "harming someone against their will" invites all kinds of discussion. Is time spent in prison harming them, since it causes them to lose their job and possibly their marriage and irrevocably miss seeing their children grow up? Someone would argue yes. Another would plead, "well, what can you do to them then?" In the end it is tautology-- anything whatsoever done "against their will" is almost by definition perceived by them as "harming them." Some people are arguing that waterboarding doesn't actually "harm" the prisoner. And although I disagree, I can't argue with them by pointing to the harm it does. After all, people claim waterboarding obviously doesn't work by pointing out that they did it something like 183 times to one guy. Well, that means the same guy was able to withstand it 183 times-- it can't have been all that useful, but by the same logic it can't have been all that harmful, either.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: jpetty on May 08, 2009, 11:16:39 AM
I must say that I'm enjoying Pastor Speckhard's and Pastor Yakimow's creative arguments for why, gee, maybe this isn't really torture, and, in any case, let's spend a while "defining terms," but, if it comes right down to it, can we really blame people for merely "following orders"?  Let's just forget the whole thing.

I don't think most people are not that...nuanced.  Waterboarding has been considered torture for a very long time.  The previous administration willfully advocated for it and advised its use.  We have now found out about it, in which case we are obligated to prosecute.

If you have a rule, but there's no punishment for breaking it, then there's really no rule. 

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 08, 2009, 11:27:24 AM
I must say that I'm enjoying Pastor Speckhard's and Pastor Yakimow's creative arguments for why, gee, maybe this isn't really torture, and, in any case, let's spend a while "defining terms," but, if it comes right down to it, can we really blame people for merely "following orders"?  Let's just forget the whole thing.

And to be blunt, per your usual practice, you do not get the point of the conversation because what you wrote shows absolutely no grasp of what I have been saying.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: James_Gale on May 08, 2009, 11:27:41 AM
The legal issues at play here are quite complex.  

Here are a couple of other resources you all might want to consult.  

First, in giving its advice and consent to the Convention, the US Senate adopted a list of "reservations, declarations, and understandings."  You can find them in Annex 1 here:  www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/torture_annex1.html.  The Convention's text standing alone is not binding on the US as a matter of international law or as part of domestic US law.  It is a part of the US's international law obligations only as modified by Annex 1.  

Second, the Convention is not self-executing.  (See Annex 1, Section III(1))  That means that it does not automatically become part of our domestic law.  Separate legislative action had to be taken to accomplish that.  There is a US criminal statute prohibiting torture.  You can find the definitional section here:  www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00002340----000-.html.

Finally, all this language must be understood in the context of legal developments over the years.  One requirement among many required to prove "torture" is "specific intent", which the Obama Justice Department (from a brief in the Demjanjuk deportation case) defines as follows:

[T]orture is defined as “an extreme form of cruel and inhuman treatment and does not include lesser forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. . . . ” 8 C.F.R. § 1208.18(a)(2). Moreover, as has been explained by the Third Circuit, CAT requires “a showing of specific intent before the Court can make a finding that a petitioner will be tortured.”  Pierre v. Attorney General, 528 F.3d 180, 189 (3d Cir. 2008) (en banc); see 8 C.F.R. § 1208.18(a)(5) (requiring that the act “be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering”); Auguste v. Ridge, 395 F.3d 123, 139 (3d Cir. 2005) (“This is a ‘specific intent’ requirement and not a ‘general intent’ requirement” [citations omitted.] An applicant for CAT protection therefore must establish that “his prospective torturer will have the motive or purpose” to torture him. Pierre, 528 F.3d at 189; Auguste, 395 F.3d at 153-54 (“The mere fact that the Haitian authorities have knowledge that severe pain and suffering may result by placing detainees in these conditions does not support a finding that the Haitian authorities intend to inflict severe pain and suffering. The difference goes to the heart of the distinction between general and specific intent.”) [my bold italics and brackets]. . . .  

Lawyers can (and do) debate on and on about what does and does not constitute specific intent.

Policy makers obviously have to answer two different questions when it comes to "enhanced interrogation."  What is legal?  And what is morally right?  These are related but distinct questions.  We should keep the distinction in mind in this discussion.  
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 08, 2009, 11:28:15 AM
Here is the more of the Convention, [full text at http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cat.html]


CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE
and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment

The States Parties to this Convention,
Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Recognizing that those rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person,
Considering the obligation of States under the Charter, in particular Article 55, to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Having regard to article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which provide that no one may be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
Having regard also to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1975 (resolution 3452 (XXX)),
Desiring to make more effective the struggle against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment throughout the world,
Have agreed as follows:
Part I
Article 1
1.   For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
2.   This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.
Article 2
1.   Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2.   No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3.   An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
Article 3
1.   No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
2.   For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.
Article 4
1.   Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
2.   Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.
Article 5
1.   Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to in article 4 in the following cases:
1.   When the offences are committed in any territory under its jurisdiction or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that State;
2.   When the alleged offender is a national of that State;
3.   When the victim was a national of that State if that State considers it appropriate.
2.   Each State Party shall likewise take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over such offences in cases where the alleged offender is present in any territory under its jurisdiction and it does not extradite him pursuant to article 8 to any of the States mentioned in Paragraph 1 of this article.
3.   This Convention does not exclude any criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with internal law.
Article 6
1.   Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is present, shall take him into custody or take other legal measures to ensure his presence. The custody and other legal measures shall be as provided in the law of that State but may be continued only for such time as is necessary to enable any criminal or extradition proceedings to be instituted.
2.   Such State shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts.
3.   Any person in custody pursuant to paragraph 1 of this article shall be assisted in communicating immediately with the nearest appropriate representative of the State of which he is a national, or, if he is a stateless person, to the representative of the State where he usually resides.
4.   When a State, pursuant to this article, has taken a person into custody, it shall immediately notify the States referred to in article 5, paragraph 1, of the fact that such person is in custody and of the circumstances which warrant his detention. The State which makes the preliminary inquiry contemplated in paragraph 2 of this article shall promptly report its findings to the said State and shall indicate whether it intends to exercise jurisdiction.
Article 7
1.   The State Party in territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found, shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.
2.   These authorities shall take their decision in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offence of a serious nature under the law of that State. In the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 2, the standards of evidence required for prosecution and conviction shall in no way be less stringent than those which apply in the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 1.
3.   Any person regarding whom proceedings are brought in connection with any of the offences referred to in article 4 shall be guaranteed fair treatment at all stages of the proceedings.
Article 8
1.   The offences referred to in article 4 shall be deemed to be included as extraditable offences in any extradition treaty existing between States Parties. States Parties undertake to include such offences as extraditable offences in every extradition treaty to be concluded between them.
2.   If a State Party which makes extradition conditional on the existence of a treaty receives a request for extradition from another State Party with which it has no extradition treaty, it may consider this Convention as the legal basis for extradition in respect of such offenses. Extradition shall be subject to the other conditions provided by the law of the requested State.
3.   States Parties which do not make extradition conditional on the existence of a treaty shall recognize such offences as extraditable offences between themselves subject to the conditions provided by the law of the requested state.
4.   Such offences shall be treated, for the purpose of extradition between States Parties, as if they had been committed not only in the place in which they occurred but also in the territories of the States required to establish their jurisdiction in accordance with article 5, paragraph 1.
Article 9
1.   States Parties shall afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in connection with civil proceedings brought in respect of any of the offences referred to in article 4, including the supply of all evidence at their disposal necessary for the proceedings.
2.   States Parties shall carry out their obligations under paragraph 1 of this article in conformity with any treaties on mutual judicial assistance that may exist between them.
Article 10
1.   Each State Party shall ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture are fully included in the training of law enforcement personnel, civil or military, medical personnel, public officials and other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment.
2.   Each State Party shall include this prohibition in the rules or instructions issued in regard to the duties and functions of any such persons.
Article 11
Each State Party shall keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture.
Article 12
Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committee in any territory under its jurisdiction.
Article 13
Each State Party shall ensure that any individual who alleges he has been subjected to torture in any territory under its jurisdiction has the right to complain to and to have his case promptly and impartially examined its competent authorities. Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given.
Article 14
1.   Each State Party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. In the event of the death of the victim as a result of an act of torture, his dependents shall be entitled to compensation.
2.   Nothing in this article shall affect any right of the victim or other person to compensation which may exist under national law.
Article 15
Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.
Article 16
1.   Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article 1, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. In particular, the obligations contained in articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 shall apply with the substitution for references to torture or references to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
2.   The provisions of this Convention are without prejudice to the provisions of any other international instrument or national law which prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or which relate to extradition or expulsion.
Article 17
1.   There shall be established a Committee against Torture (hereinafter referred to as the Committee) which shall carry out the functions hereinafter provided. The Committee shall consist of 10 experts of high moral standing and recognized competence in the field of human rights, who shall serve in their personal capacity. The experts shall be elected by the States Parties, consideration being given to equitable geographical distribution and to the usefulness of the participation of some persons having legal experience.
2.   The members of the Committee shall be elected by secret ballot from a list of persons nominated by States Parties. Each State Party may nominate one person from among its own nationals. States Parties shall bear in mind the usefulness of nominating persons who are also members of the Human Rights Committee established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and are willing to serve on the Committee against Torture.
3.   Elections of the members of the Committee shall be held at biennial meetings of States Parties convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. At those meetings, for which two thirds of the States Parties shall constitute a quorum, the persons elected to the Committee shall be those who obtain the largest number of votes and an absolute majority of the votes of the representatives of States Parties present and voting.
4.   The initial election shall be held no later than six months after the date of the entry into force of this Convention. At least four months before the date of each election, the Secretary-General of the United Nations shall address a letter to the States Parties inviting them to submit their nominations within three months. The Secretary-General shall prepare a list in alphabetical order of all persons thus nominated, indicating the States Parties which have nominated them, and shall submit it to the States Parties.
5.   The members of the Committee shall be elected for a term of four years. They shall be eligible for re-election if renominated. However, the term of five of the members elected at the first election shall expire at the end of two years; immediately after the first election the names of these five members shall be chosen by lot by the chairman of the meeting referred to in paragraph 3.
6.   If a member of the Committee dies or resigns or for any other cause can no longer perform his Committee duties, the State Party which nominated him shall appoint another expert from among its nationals to serve for the remainder of his term, subject to the approval of the majority of the States Parties. The approval shall be considered given unless half or more of the States Parties respond negatively within six weeks after having been informed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations of the proposed appointment.
7.   States Parties shall be responsible for the expenses of the members of the Committee while they are in performance of Committee duties.
 
On February 4, 1985, the Convention was opened for signature at United Nations Headquarters in New York. At that time, representatives of the following countries signed it: Afghanistan, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Senegal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay. Subsequently, signatures were received from Venezuela on February 15, from Luxembourg and Panama on February 22, from Austria on March 14, and from the United Kingdom on March 15, 1985.
(signatures)
 


Thanks for posting this, Jim.  I'll get a chance to read it later in the day.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: jpetty on May 08, 2009, 11:28:42 AM
I must say that I'm enjoying Pastor Speckhard's and Pastor Yakimow's creative arguments for why, gee, maybe this isn't really torture, and, in any case, let's spend a while "defining terms," but, if it comes right down to it, can we really blame people for merely "following orders"?  Let's just forget the whole thing.

And to be blunt, as usual, you do not get the point of the conversation because what you wrote shows absolutely no grasp of what I have been saying.  Again, no surprise.

Do you realize that the only thing you've ever had to say to me is that I'm too dumb to know what you're talking about?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 08, 2009, 11:32:05 AM
I must say that I'm enjoying Pastor Speckhard's and Pastor Yakimow's creative arguments for why, gee, maybe this isn't really torture, and, in any case, let's spend a while "defining terms," but, if it comes right down to it, can we really blame people for merely "following orders"?  Let's just forget the whole thing.

And to be blunt, as usual, you do not get the point of the conversation because what you wrote shows absolutely no grasp of what I have been saying.  Again, no surprise.

Do you realize that the only thing you've ever had to say to me is that I'm too dumb to know what you're talking about?

Not necessarily dumb, but certainly demonstrating limited to no capability to understand what other people are saying.  And it's not just with me.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: jpetty on May 08, 2009, 11:44:51 AM
OK, who else thinks I'm too dumb to understand Pr. Yakimow?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 08, 2009, 11:49:34 AM
OK, who else thinks I'm too dumb to understand Pr. Yakimow?

Yet I said:

Not necessarily dumb, but certainly demonstrating limited to no capability to understand what other people are saying.  And it's not just with me.

You prove my point.

I have no idea how to discuss anything with someone who does not accurately reflect my positions.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 08, 2009, 11:57:30 AM
OK, who else thinks I'm too dumb to understand Pr. Yakimow?
I don't think you're too dumb to folllow, but for some other reason choose not to follow the discussion or make insightful contributions to it. The fact that you think Scott and I have been trying to say "let's just forget the whole thing" certainly demonstrates no grasp of the discussion and makes no edifying contribution. I won't speculate on your motives.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: jpetty on May 08, 2009, 12:02:07 PM
Isn't that exactly what you've been arguing.  You say that it's entirely clear that waterboarding is torture, but you guess it might be given certain conditions, and since we're all in doubt about this, we should define our terms better, and, in the meantime, move along without take further proceedings.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: jpetty on May 08, 2009, 12:03:20 PM
Should be "not entirely clear."  Sorry for the typing hiccup.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Team Hesse on May 08, 2009, 12:14:57 PM
I must say that I'm enjoying Pastor Speckhard's and Pastor Yakimow's creative arguments for why, gee, maybe this isn't really torture, and, in any case, let's spend a while "defining terms," but, if it comes right down to it, can we really blame people for merely "following orders"?  Let's just forget the whole thing.

And to be blunt, as usual, you do not get the point of the conversation because what you wrote shows absolutely no grasp of what I have been saying.  Again, no surprise.

Do you realize that the only thing you've ever had to say to me is that I'm too dumb to know what you're talking about?

Not necessarily dumb, but certainly demonstrating limited to no capability to understand what other people are saying.  And it's not just with me.

It's not dumb, but the reasoning and logic of presentation is so different that it's virtually impossible to have a meaningful conversation.  I noticed this early on when Pastor Petty entered the Forum, that it's not doable.  Perhaps in person conversation would be possible, but in this medium language and words need to be recognized as having certain meanings and drawing certain thought processes in common for there to be communication.  And meanings and thought processes are completely different (at least seemingly) between these participants.  I've run into this problem many times.  I used to think it was just me, but I've come to the conclusion there are two (at least) different approaches to linguistics and thought.  I've found where it's most noticeable is in discussions of original sin.  One either understands the import or one doesn't, and that difference in understanding leads to totally different approaches to everything.
Lou
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 08, 2009, 12:15:53 PM
Isn't that exactly what you've been arguing.  You say that it's [not] entirely clear that waterboarding is torture...

...per the UN definition of torture (pending my reading of the extra material posted by Jim above).

I also said that the UN definition of torture apparently (again, pending my reading of the extra material posted by Jim) would say that somebody cutting off finger joints one-by-one would not be torture according to its definition if a military junta said it was legal to do to its own citizens.

I also said this is wrong.

The point being that (pending my... you get the point [I hope]) we need a better definition than what the UN gives us because it cannot accomodate what are "obvious" instances of torture.

I'm all for fixing it.

...but you guess it might be given certain conditions, and since we're all in doubt about this, we should define our terms better, and, in the meantime, move along without take further proceedings.

If you could quote any comment from me on the above, please do.

Fact is that I haven't expressed any opinion on what should be done (whether to prosecute or not) with those who were involved in the waterboarding incidents.  And I don't plan to, mostly because I'm not knowledgeable about case law enough to have an informed opinion.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 08, 2009, 12:19:25 PM
Isn't that exactly what you've been arguing.  You say that it's entirely clear that waterboarding is torture, but you guess it might be given certain conditions, and since we're all in doubt about this, we should define our terms better, and, in the meantime, move along without take further proceedings.
No.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 08, 2009, 12:47:09 PM
So you're saying that if a government authorized attaching electrodes to a prisioner genitals that would be OK because it was authorized?

No, I most certainly do not think that is OK.  I think it is horrible and should be illegal.  I'm trying to advocate that there should be laws that clearly and without ambiguity make it so.
Do you think the ambiguity is great enough to allow the outrageous suggestion I made?
Quote

Your pushing the perceived ambiguity to the point of absurdity.  Under your reading the convention would have no meaning at all unless a government was stupid enough not to say the particular method of interrogation/torture in use was OK.

What in the definition quoted prevents such an interpretation?

A reading of the text that is done in "good faith."
In the end, that is my criticism of the way the convention and our existing laws were treated by the Bush administration, they were willfull and knowing "bad faith" interpretations of the restrictions of the law.  That's why the FBI folks wanted nothing to do with these methods.  Most of them were lawyers and either knew better or found the Office of Legal Counsel's opinions unconvincing.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 08, 2009, 12:56:20 PM

The point being that (pending my... you get the point [I hope]) we need a better definition than what the UN gives us because it cannot accomodate what are "obvious"

[/quote]

Until the re-definers of American policy got to work, I think it was pretty obvious to most people that waterboarding was torture.  I would venture a guess that if any of the candidates in the 2000 election had been asked if it were, they would have said yes.  Panic and/or zeal following 9/11 clouded better judgment.

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Iowegian on May 08, 2009, 01:13:54 PM
Until the re-definers of American policy got to work, I think it was pretty obvious to most people that waterboarding was torture.  I would venture a guess that if any of the candidates in the 2000 election had been asked if it were, they would have said yes.  Panic and/or zeal following 9/11 clouded better judgment.

Addressing a few points:

- I have come to agree, and perhaps the Obama Administration did as well, that 'torture' needs a more rigorous definition for personnel outside the U.S. Military.  "Torture" has been defined in the U.S. Military (that Army Field Manual) and we have tried and prosecuted members of the military under those regulations, particularly in the Abu Gahrib case.  (Yes, there are servicemen still sitting in prison for possibly 'just following orders'.)

- A great place to define these things would be in international treaties, but we (mostly) have taken umbrage with that as an affront to national sovereignty, particularly if it would possibly involve an international system of justice.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 08, 2009, 01:24:28 PM
In the end, that is my criticism of the way the convention and our existing laws were treated by the Bush administration, they were willfull and knowing "bad faith" interpretations of the restrictions of the law. 
And that, in the end, is why I think the topic is so politicized. When someone accuses the president of willful and knowing "bad faith" intrepretations, those who are inclined to think of the president as the sort of person who would do that tend to agree, and those who are inclined to give the president the benefit of the doubt hesitate to agree. The discussion too easily turns into a referrendum on whether Bush is evil.  It reminds of the "wag the dog" scenarios in the 90's when people accused President Clinton of taking military actions to manipulate the press and distract the public from domestic scandals. People who thought, "Yeah, that sounds like something Clinton would do," took the accusations seriously, while others thought, "Come on, now-- he wouldn't really do that." Neither arguer might have met the president of had any first-hand knowledge of why he did what he did; their position on it hinged at least in part on what they were inclined to think about the president. I am not inclined to think Bush likely to have willfully and knowingly broken the law in order to torture people knowing that it wouldn't yield any useful information. Others, apparently, think of Bush and consider that quite likely.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on May 08, 2009, 01:43:27 PM
in response to Peter's... yes, I think they might do that to advance themselves type thought...

that is a problem within our system of elections every quick couple of years.   A president or any elected offical may do something for the good of the country.  Fine.  You can judge the act.  But then when in good faith they have done something for the good of the country, they use what they have done to elect themselves or advance a party or a political point of view... now that can quickly call into question whether it was done for the good of the country. 

maybe we need to elect people for slightly longer terms with no re-elections possible.   And somehow fleece presidents and high office holders of their party once they are elected. 

Harvey Mozolak
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 08, 2009, 02:14:06 PM
In the end, that is my criticism of the way the convention and our existing laws were treated by the Bush administration, they were willfull and knowing "bad faith" interpretations of the restrictions of the law. 
And that, in the end, is why I think the topic is so politicized. When someone accuses the president of willful and knowing "bad faith" intrepretations, those who are inclined to think of the president as the sort of person who would do that tend to agree, and those who are inclined to give the president the benefit of the doubt hesitate to agree. The discussion too easily turns into a referrendum on whether Bush is evil.  It reminds of the "wag the dog" scenarios in the 90's when people accused President Clinton of taking military actions to manipulate the press and distract the public from domestic scandals. People who thought, "Yeah, that sounds like something Clinton would do," took the accusations seriously, while others thought, "Come on, now-- he wouldn't really do that." Neither arguer might have met the president of had any first-hand knowledge of why he did what he did; their position on it hinged at least in part on what they were inclined to think about the president. I am not inclined to think Bush likely to have willfully and knowingly broken the law in order to torture people knowing that it wouldn't yield any useful information. Others, apparently, think of Bush and consider that quite likely.

I'd like to think on this topic at least I'd feel the same way regardless of party or particular office holder.  In this case though there is really no way to discuss this without regard to who was president and on whose watch these things took place.  It is with the president that the proverbial buck stops.  I'm certainly not calling him evil, rather misguided and misinformed about our responsiblities under the law toward prisoners.

We still seem to be dancing around the two poles of the argument.

There is nothing to account for because waterboarding on its face is not torture.
There is nothing to account for because, even if it was torture, it was necessary to produce useful information.

My question once again, and the underlying question from the results of the Pew research, is this:  Are either of these positions defensible (forget the Pharisaical lawyering about the statutes) from a moral or religious viewpoint, as members of a religious community, when taking into account our best understandings of what is moral and our highest values and expectations of ourselves
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 08, 2009, 02:59:42 PM
In the end, that is my criticism of the way the convention and our existing laws were treated by the Bush administration, they were willfull and knowing "bad faith" interpretations of the restrictions of the law. 
And that, in the end, is why I think the topic is so politicized. When someone accuses the president of willful and knowing "bad faith" intrepretations, those who are inclined to think of the president as the sort of person who would do that tend to agree, and those who are inclined to give the president the benefit of the doubt hesitate to agree. The discussion too easily turns into a referrendum on whether Bush is evil.  It reminds of the "wag the dog" scenarios in the 90's when people accused President Clinton of taking military actions to manipulate the press and distract the public from domestic scandals. People who thought, "Yeah, that sounds like something Clinton would do," took the accusations seriously, while others thought, "Come on, now-- he wouldn't really do that." Neither arguer might have met the president of had any first-hand knowledge of why he did what he did; their position on it hinged at least in part on what they were inclined to think about the president. I am not inclined to think Bush likely to have willfully and knowingly broken the law in order to torture people knowing that it wouldn't yield any useful information. Others, apparently, think of Bush and consider that quite likely.

I'd like to think on this topic at least I'd feel the same way regardless of party or particular office holder.  In this case though there is really no way to discuss this without regard to who was president and on whose watch these things took place.  It is with the president that the proverbial buck stops.  I'm certainly not calling him evil, rather misguided and misinformed about our responsiblities under the law toward prisoners.

We still seem to be dancing around the two poles of the argument.

There is nothing to account for because waterboarding on its face is not torture.
There is nothing to account for because, even if it was torture, it was necessary to produce useful information.

My question once again, and the underlying question from the results of the Pew research, is this:  Are either of these positions defensible (forget the Pharisaical lawyering about the statutes) from a moral or religious viewpoint, as members of a religious community, when taking into account our best understandings of what is moral and our highest values and expectations of ourselves
But you're mixing things here. "There is nothing to account for..." to whom? If to God, then certainly there is much to account for all the way around, regardless of whether we define waterboarding as torture, but that is not a matter for the secular courts or the UN to stand in judgment over. If we're talking about giving an account to the UN or to our own courts and government, then the "Pharisaical lawyering" is necessary unless you think it is legalistic to defend people according to the law but not legalistic to accuse them according to the law.



 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 08, 2009, 03:26:48 PM
In the end, that is my criticism of the way the convention and our existing laws were treated by the Bush administration, they were willfull and knowing "bad faith" interpretations of the restrictions of the law. 
And that, in the end, is why I think the topic is so politicized. When someone accuses the president of willful and knowing "bad faith" intrepretations, those who are inclined to think of the president as the sort of person who would do that tend to agree, and those who are inclined to give the president the benefit of the doubt hesitate to agree. The discussion too easily turns into a referrendum on whether Bush is evil.  It reminds of the "wag the dog" scenarios in the 90's when people accused President Clinton of taking military actions to manipulate the press and distract the public from domestic scandals. People who thought, "Yeah, that sounds like something Clinton would do," took the accusations seriously, while others thought, "Come on, now-- he wouldn't really do that." Neither arguer might have met the president of had any first-hand knowledge of why he did what he did; their position on it hinged at least in part on what they were inclined to think about the president. I am not inclined to think Bush likely to have willfully and knowingly broken the law in order to torture people knowing that it wouldn't yield any useful information. Others, apparently, think of Bush and consider that quite likely.

I'd like to think on this topic at least I'd feel the same way regardless of party or particular office holder.  In this case though there is really no way to discuss this without regard to who was president and on whose watch these things took place.  It is with the president that the proverbial buck stops.  I'm certainly not calling him evil, rather misguided and misinformed about our responsiblities under the law toward prisoners.

We still seem to be dancing around the two poles of the argument.

There is nothing to account for because waterboarding on its face is not torture.
There is nothing to account for because, even if it was torture, it was necessary to produce useful information.

My question once again, and the underlying question from the results of the Pew research, is this:  Are either of these positions defensible (forget the Pharisaical lawyering about the statutes) from a moral or religious viewpoint, as members of a religious community, when taking into account our best understandings of what is moral and our highest values and expectations of ourselves
But you're mixing things here. "There is nothing to account for..." to whom? If to God, then certainly there is much to account for all the way around, regardless of whether we define waterboarding as torture, but that is not a matter for the secular courts or the UN to stand in judgment over. If we're talking about giving an account to the UN or to our own courts and government, then the "Pharisaical lawyering" is necessary unless you think it is legalistic to defend people according to the law but not legalistic to accuse them according to the law.


When I said in my question "from a moral or religious viewpoint," I thought it clear that for them sake of discussion it mean morally accountable addressing the subject in principle, setting the specific legal issues aside, for the moment.  Depending how one answers the moral question, it may or may not suggest a need for temproral accountability, that would come next; but if we cannot come to an consensus on the moral question, then there really is no point in discussing the matter legally.

Here we go:

We still seem to be dancing around the two poles of the argument.

There is no moral objection to the use of waterboarding because waterboarding on its face is not torture.
There is no moral objection to the use of waterboarding because, even if it was torture, it was necessary to produce useful information.

My question once again, and the underlying question from the results of the Pew research, is this:  Are either of these positions defensible (forget the Pharisaical lawyering about the statutes) from a moral or religious viewpoint, as members of a religious community, when taking into account our best understandings of what is moral and our highest values and expectations of ourselves (if not to say God's highest expectations)? 

Answering, of course, as citizens of both the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God.



Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 08, 2009, 06:04:17 PM
This came in an email yesterday:

Oh God, Many of our religious communities are complicit in an attack on your image in humanity by supporting torture.  On this National Day of Prayer, we seek to confess and repent of this grave sin and build communities of faith that reject torture.  We pray for the healing of our broken nation and commit ourselves to ensuring that America never tortures again.  “Amen.”

Is this a righteous prayer?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 08, 2009, 07:11:12 PM

There is no moral objection to the use of waterboarding because waterboarding on its face is not torture.
There is no moral objection to the use of waterboarding because, even if it was torture, it was necessary to produce useful information.

I don't know how I would respond to either of those proposals. My problem with the first one is the phrase "on its face" which, it seems to me, clouds the issue under the guise of simplifying it by seeking to declare whether or not waterboarding is torture without bothering to deliberate (all the Pharisaical lawyering) on the matter. I don't care what it looks like on its face, I want to know what it is. Lots of things are vile on the face of it-- slaughterhouses, prisons, clubbing seals-- but I'm not ready to make a moral objection to them until I study the matter beyond appearances. So I would simplify the proposed statement to "There is no objection to the use of waterboarding because waterboarding is not torture." I suspect that is a false statement, but I don't know for sure. I'm not an authority on the matter and would welcome further discussion. I would be very, very careful about what I declared was the Word of the Lord on the matter as a pastor.

The second statement is one that I'm inclined to flat-out disagree with in theory but probably agree with if it ever came to that in my personal experience. Remember, Bonhoeffer was a pacifist who tried to kill Hitler because he thought failure to do that would be moral cowardice, a flight from reality for the sake of one's own purity. I guess what I'm saying is that dispassionately I would welcome a law that forbade torture in any and every circumstance. If masked men abducted my daughter and I managed to tackle one of them while the others escaped in a van, I would feel justified in getting a little (okay, maybe more than a little) pain on him if that is what it took to get him to tell me where the van was going. And if the police arrived and demanded to know where they had taken my daughter and the masked man simply grinned at them and refused to say, and the police turned to me and, "well, he's not talking, there is nothing I can do," I would feel as though the police were not doing their job. I imagine the families of those men who were abducted and ritually beheaded in Iraq would not necessarily favor torture in the abstract, but if we had one of the captors' accomplices or relative in custody and we knew he knew their whereabouts, well, they might see a grey area.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 08, 2009, 11:29:41 PM

There is no moral objection to the use of waterboarding because waterboarding on its face is not torture.
There is no moral objection to the use of waterboarding because, even if it was torture, it was necessary to produce useful information.

I don't know how I would respond to either of those proposals. My problem with the first one is the phrase "on its face" which, it seems to me, clouds the issue under the guise of simplifying it by seeking to declare whether or not waterboarding is torture without bothering to deliberate (all the Pharisaical lawyering) on the matter. I don't care what it looks like on its face, I want to know what it is. Lots of things are vile on the face of it-- slaughterhouses, prisons, clubbing seals-- but I'm not ready to make a moral objection to them until I study the matter beyond appearances. So I would simplify the proposed statement to "There is no objection to the use of waterboarding because waterboarding is not torture." I suspect that is a false statement, but I don't know for sure. I'm not an authority on the matter and would welcome further discussion. I would be very, very careful about what I declared was the Word of the Lord on the matter as a pastor.

The second statement is one that I'm inclined to flat-out disagree with in theory but probably agree with if it ever came to that in my personal experience. Remember, Bonhoeffer was a pacifist who tried to kill Hitler because he thought failure to do that would be moral cowardice, a flight from reality for the sake of one's own purity. I guess what I'm saying is that dispassionately I would welcome a law that forbade torture in any and every circumstance. If masked men abducted my daughter and I managed to tackle one of them while the others escaped in a van, I would feel justified in getting a little (okay, maybe more than a little) pain on him if that is what it took to get him to tell me where the van was going. And if the police arrived and demanded to know where they had taken my daughter and the masked man simply grinned at them and refused to say, and the police turned to me and, "well, he's not talking, there is nothing I can do," I would feel as though the police were not doing their job. I imagine the families of those men who were abducted and ritually beheaded in Iraq would not necessarily favor torture in the abstract, but if we had one of the captors' accomplices or relative in custody and we knew he knew their whereabouts, well, they might see a grey area.

I think "on its face" is a pretty straightforward concept.  Is waterboarding by the nature of what is, that is, inducing in a person the panic and sensation associated with drowning, an apt illustration of the noun "torture"? That isn't merely what it looks like (simulating drowning), it is how the people who advocate its use describe its usefulness in getting people to talk.  To me, it seems a text-book definition of torture.

You write:  "I don't care what it looks like on its face, I want to know what it is. Lots of things are vile on the face of it-- slaughterhouses, prisons, clubbing seals-- but I'm not ready to make a moral objection to them until I study the matter beyond appearances."  This has been an active public discussion for more than two years.  There have been many detailed explanations of the nature of the procedure. Even training videos.  What more is it that you need to know to understand what waterboarding is?

Bonhoeffer (the pacifist) anguished over his participation in the plot against Hilter.  In the sense of conspiracy he could be said to be have "tried to kill Hitler."   Then again he was held to account for that participation.  He knew and accepted that risk.  Your point?

You offer a scenario to suggest that if you can't use pain, as an incentive to get the suspect to talk, it is tantamount to doing nothing to try and obtain information.  That is a false alternative.  "And if the police arrived and demanded to know where they had taken my daughter and the masked man simply grinned at them and refused to say, and the police turned to me and, "well, he's not talking, there is nothing I can do," I would feel as though the police were not doing their job."  You are correct if the police would say anything as absurd as that.  They certainly would not be doing their job.  Do you really think the suggestion that they would say that is credible?  They would get an expert interrogator to get him to talk, not behave like thugs looking for thier drug money.

"I imagine the families of those men who were abducted and ritually beheaded in Iraq would not necessarily favor torture in the abstract, but if we had one of the captors' accomplices or relative in custody and we knew he knew their whereabouts, well, they might see a grey area."  Of what value is this observation?!  We might be driven by impulses of rage, grief and anger, to any advocate any number of violent actions--yes indeed.  Are they understandable?  Of course.  Are they excusable?  Perhaps.  Are they righteous?
Is this how we teach people to evaluate what is a moral act? Is this what we use for criteria to determine how we should act? 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 09, 2009, 01:43:13 AM
I thought I was largely agreeing with you, though with some hesitations. The further discussion I had in mind was not about what waterboarding is but a theological/philosophical/ethical/legal discussion of the limits of interrogation, whether all deliberate infliction of pain is an absolute evil, and so forth. I notice that you resort to simply saying that the problem is solved-- all we have to do is "get an expert interrogator to get him to talk." What do you think they did at GITMO? What in the world is an "expert interrogator" if "enhanced interrogation technique" is just newspeak for torture? Seriously, what do you think such a person can do to get an unwilling person to talk that isn't terrifying, painful, harmful, dishonest, or anything that many Christians would call unacceptable? That's the discussion I want.

I recommend RC theologian Willian Cavanaugh's book Torture and Eucharist to anyone interested in this discussion even though my guess is that Cavanaugh would be as impatient as Jim is with my hesitations. But in the book Cavanaugh describes the nature and purpose of torture in ways that I don't think apply to the GITMO situation very well.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 09, 2009, 08:27:24 AM
And in my imaginary abduction scenario your counter-proposal that "they would get an expert interrogator to get him to talk" sounds like a total cop-out. What do you think they did at GITMO? What in the world is an "expert interrogator" if "enhanced interrogation technique" is just newspeak for torture?

By "expert interrogators" I was think of our military intelligence people.  For them waterboarding is not on the table as the Army Field manual forbids it.  I was thinking about FBI agents who interrogate kidnappers and other felons regularly without these "enhanced" methods, in fact, the FBI won't have anything to do with them.

Quote
Seriously, what do you think such a person can do to get an unwilling person to talk that isn't terrifying, painful, harmful, dishonest, or anything that many Christians would call unacceptable?

Law enforcement people get criminals to talk all the time without waterboarding them.  Terrorists, granted, are surely trained to resist interrogation.  What specifically can be done to get them to talk?  I don't know.  But I've heard credible people (FBI, Military, etc.) say it doesn't require terrorizing them with simulated drowning.

I think I understand your position.  You are reserving judgment about waterboarding.  It is not the thing itself which would cause you to object, but that the moral question of its use hinges upon its efficacy?  Is that a fair statement?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: vicarbob on May 09, 2009, 09:02:34 AM
Jumping late into this thread and perhaps a bit off the mark, "dishonest" methods of interrogation are lawful. The LEO  (law enforcement officer) can and does use 'untruths" "half-truths" and complete fabrications during interrogations. " I have a witness that puts you at the scene', "your partner in the other room just gave you up", "your DNA puts you there" are all commonly utilized in LE. (Perhaps not the FBI, "we"did the work, "they" looked for the camera's )
Maybe I have a witness, maybe not. The partner really isn't sayin' anything and the DNA was never collected. But "we" utilize "lies" all the time. LEO's can use "trickery". Waterboarding in Brooklyn was never the "preferred" method.
War is sinful, waterboarding is sinful, torture is sin-filled and crashing planes into towers is sinful. Walking into a village square with explosives strapped to your body isn't goin to get ya 10 virgins in paradise.
We should and must turn from sin and toward GOD. Its only by His Grace that this happens....little grace is found in warfare.
pax
Bob
"interrogated a few in my day"
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Team Hesse on May 09, 2009, 10:07:45 AM
Is this how we teach people to evaluate what is a moral act? Is this what we use for criteria to determine how we should act? 

I must admit to sensing a deep irony in this discussion.  It's been a good discussion but it highlights the problem of considering Christian faith simply a matter of the moral continuum. 

The irony in this discussion is that issues of nuance, definition, context, and outcome are being highlighted by LCMS pastors, while "the clear meaning of the text" is being pushed by an ELCA pastor.  If we were discussing abortion,  same-sex unions, or any one of a number of other "moral dilemmas," we would expect the roles to be reversed.  So in some ways, an ELCA pastor's insistence on examining how we teach morality is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. 

These discussions once again point to the fact that Christian faith (human fallenness and God's mercy) is a far different thing than Christian religion (how do we behave morally?).

Lou
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 09, 2009, 10:22:43 AM
Sorry for the multiple posts but my computer was acting up last and none of them were showing up, then all of them showed up this morning. I deleted the long string of identical or similar postings.

Cavanaugh's book touches on the torture taught at the School of the Americas. According to his footnotes some of the agencies, including military intelligence, not only helped design and run the school but publicly denied doing what they were doing there for years. Specifically, Army intelligence manuals contained instructions on torture techniques as recently as 1996 according to Cavanaugh. So your appeal to different agencies doesn't solve anything-- the FBI and military intelligence are no more inherently decent than administration officials. They were the very same "expert interrogators" you claim you would have called, except that they were also torture instructors.

I don't think a discussion of waterboarding can reach a real conclusion apart from a discussion of what is allowed and why. Are you sure you're okay with everything the army manual permits? How did the army manual make its determination as to what was on the list of banned practices?

My argument does not rest on the question of waterboarding's efficacy, which in many ways is beside the point. I brought it up to show that your argument was incomplete and therefore unpersuasive. I want an actual description of what an "expert interrogator" would do and why, and then compare that description to what people say about waterboarding. You've heard credible people claim that waterboarding is unecessary. Given that in other contexts I doubt you have blanket confidence in the ethics of the FBI or military intelligence (esp. regarding the School of the Americas) you seem to be using "credible" to refer only to people who reach your conclusion in this instance. Certainly many credible people have claimed that waterboarding was necessary, or not harmful or whatever. In my imaginary abduction scenario, you don't want to say the cops wouldn't get the information and you don't want to say they would torture (or otherwise behave in a gravely unethical manner) to get it, but then would would they do? I think that is essentially the same discussion as the one that bans waterboarding and I haven't heard it yet. Again, I think waterboarding should be banned, but until I have some criteria for saying that it is merely my own personal sense of what is right, which does not do when people are accused of crimes.  
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 09, 2009, 10:48:38 AM

The irony in this discussion is that issues of nuance, definition, context, and outcome are being highlighted by LCMS pastors, while "the clear meaning of the text" is being pushed by an ELCA pastor.  If we were discussing abortion,  same-sex unions, or any one of a number of other "moral dilemmas," we would expect the roles to be reversed.  So in some ways, an ELCA pastor's insistence on examining how we teach morality is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. 

These discussions once again point to the fact that Christian faith (human fallenness and God's mercy) is a far different thing than Christian religion (how do we behave morally?).

Lou
Lou, the big distinction I see is that the "text" is not Scripture in this case but a humanly-invented document (or documents) with varying claims to authority depending on whom you trust, adminstration lawyers, the FBI, military intelligence, the UN, etc. The big difference between Jim and me is, in the end, not very big on the matter of waterboarding specifically, and hinges in part on whom we're trying to be neigbor to, the detainees or the accused lawyers and interrogators, and whether we're speaking in legal terms or not.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 09, 2009, 10:59:48 AM
I must admit to sensing a deep irony in this discussion.  It's been a good discussion but it highlights the problem of considering Christian faith simply a matter of the moral continuum. 

The irony in this discussion is that issues of nuance, definition, context, and outcome are being highlighted by LCMS pastors, while "the clear meaning of the text" is being pushed by an ELCA pastor.  If we were discussing abortion,  same-sex unions, or any one of a number of other "moral dilemmas," we would expect the roles to be reversed.  So in some ways, an ELCA pastor's insistence on examining how we teach morality is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. 

These discussions once again point to the fact that Christian faith (human fallenness and God's mercy) is a far different thing than Christian religion (how do we behave morally?).

Lou

Given that my role in the discussion has been solely centered on pointing out a deficiency in the UN definition of torture and saying that we need a better one, issues of nuance, context, etc do come to the fore.  I was looking at a legal definition and making a legal argument (such as it was).

If someone who waterboarded another person came to me confessing his sin of waterboarding (or the sin of lying during an interrogation) and was seeking forgiveness, I would pronounce it.  That's the area of "human fallenness and God's mercy," and a different discussion than the one being had.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 09, 2009, 12:06:39 PM
If someone who waterboarded another person came to me confessing his sin of waterboarding (or the sin of lying during an interrogation) and was seeking forgiveness, I would pronounce it.  That's the area of "human fallenness and God's mercy," and a different discussion than the one being had.
This is an important point because my guess is Scott would forgive the repentant sinner only if the sinner was really repentant. And if he planned to go out and do the same things again the next day as a professional interrogator, well, that would betray a lack of repentance. So a Christian who goes into many fields (not just interrogation) needs to have his bearings, and those bearings are tough to find. For example, I'm trained in both artillery (blowing stuff up at long range) and psychological operations (potentially lying, deceiving, misrepresenting, or otherwise spreading information to make the enemy weaker, less unified, and more likely to give up without fighting). I understand the Confessions to allow me to do that within a just war tradition. But I also understand that it might have been possible for me to have to be court martialled rather than participate in what I was ordered to do. Though it never happened in my case, I'm very interested in such questions and I tend to get riled when people make them sound easy and obvious. I once heard Cavanaugh speak and he was very disdainful of RJ Neuhas and George Weigel as having perverted Catholic just war doctrine in the service of the Bush administration and the Iraq war. Cavanaugh's idea was that Roman Catholic soldiers should have refused en masse to fight because they should have known it was an unjust war. I stood up to question him on this point, pointing out that we entrust people to make these decisions and part of civilized society is living with the decisions of those in authority even when we think they manifestly got it wrong-- juries, judges, police, etc. Must Christian guards set free those prisoners whom they they think were wrongly convicted, or must they enforce unjust convictions? And at what point do they refuse to do their job, or at what point do certain jobs become off-limits for Christians?

These considerations are why I have wanted to separate out the discussion of waterboarding from the discussion of what should be done to those who engaged in it, unlike jpetty who drew a clear line between the fact that waterboarding occured to the incarceration of those who did it or Jim, who seemed, to me at least, in his newsletter article to claim that they had obviously sinned by engaging in it. It seemed to me a lot was being taken for granted.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: vicarbob on May 09, 2009, 12:38:10 PM

If someone who waterboarded another person came to me confessing his sin of waterboarding (or the sin of lying during an interrogation) and was seeking forgiveness, I would pronounce it.  That's the area of "human fallenness and God's mercy," and a different discussion than the one being had.[/quote]

Never, ever saw "this" as a sin.  Sinned alot, asked for received forgiveness, daily. 'Lying" during a police interrogation though, not sinful.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on May 09, 2009, 01:34:58 PM
is it not a sin, at least (tho no sin is least) a sin of omission? 

say I am holding something precious and fumble and drop it quite by accident, is that not based upon my sinful weakness and imperfection as a human being even tho I did not intend to drop it and was not fooling around with it?

Harvey Mozolak
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 09, 2009, 02:04:04 PM

If someone who waterboarded another person came to me confessing his sin of waterboarding (or the sin of lying during an interrogation) and was seeking forgiveness, I would pronounce it.  That's the area of "human fallenness and God's mercy," and a different discussion than the one being had.

Never, ever saw "this" as a sin.  Sinned alot, asked for received forgiveness, daily. 'Lying" during a police interrogation though, not sinful.
[/quote]
Why not? Because lying in general is not a sin or because in a police interrogation the end justifies the means?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 09, 2009, 05:43:56 PM
So you're saying that if a government authorized attaching electrodes to a prisioner genitals that would be OK because it was authorized?

No, I most certainly do not think that is OK.  I think it is horrible and should be illegal.  I'm trying to advocate that there should be laws that clearly and without ambiguity make it so.
Do you think the ambiguity is great enough to allow the outrageous suggestion I made?

I just read the additional material you posted and saw that none of it pertains to the definition of torture which is found at the beginning.

So to answer your question and speaking legally (well, at least to the best of my non-lawyer ability) and not morally or theologically, yes, it seems to me that the outrageous suggestion you made would be allowed if it was part of the "lawful sanctions" of the country in question.

While there is no country I know of that legally allows folks to do what you suggested, there are those who use whipping, caning and the severing of hands as legal sanctions, and those, too, would not be torture under this legal definition.

And to repeat, that is a problem.  It is not right and it should be fixed.  How that would occur I'm not sure.  It's not something I've thought long or deeply about, but perhaps the inclusion of certain examples of case law as a basis for reasoning would be helpful.  The apodictic stuff is good, but having concrete examples may be beneficial, too.

It strikes me in a similar manner as re: female genital mutilation that is practice in many parts of Africa, including multiple tribes in Kenya.  The tribes (esp. the old women) saw it as integral to their culture, while the wider Kenyan (and world) society saw it as abhorrent and outlawed it.  It is still practiced in violation of the law.  But this, too, is a case where a certain abhorrent practice is accepted in one society and not in another, and the larger society attempts to assert its will in the manner.  And rightly, too, because such a practice is horrible.

Your pushing the perceived ambiguity to the point of absurdity.  Under your reading the convention would have no meaning at all unless a government was stupid enough not to say the particular method of interrogation/torture in use was OK.

What in the definition quoted prevents such an interpretation?

A reading of the text that is done in "good faith."
In the end, that is my criticism of the way the convention and our existing laws were treated by the Bush administration, they were willfull and knowing "bad faith" interpretations of the restrictions of the law.  That's why the FBI folks wanted nothing to do with these methods.  Most of them were lawyers and either knew better or found the Office of Legal Counsel's opinions unconvincing.

Here I can agree with you because in the US, waterboarding has never been part of a legally sanctioned practice.  That someone would circumvent the way our society views waterboarding by the creation of legal briefs is to put it mildly, problematic.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: James_Gale on May 09, 2009, 06:34:45 PM
You all might also want to read Jay Bybee memo on the issue.  Many disagree with some of his conclusions.  But a reading of the memo shows just how complicated the issue is.

http://www.tomjoad.org/bybeememo.htm
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 09, 2009, 07:10:20 PM
You all might also want to read Jay Bybee memo on the issue.  Many disagree with some of his conclusions.  But a reading of the memo shows just how complicated the issue is.

http://www.tomjoad.org/bybeememo.htm

It's not so complicated if you think its wrong to do even if legal. 

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: James_Gale on May 09, 2009, 07:21:27 PM
You all might also want to read Jay Bybee memo on the issue.  Many disagree with some of his conclusions.  But a reading of the memo shows just how complicated the issue is.

http://www.tomjoad.org/bybeememo.htm

It's not so complicated if you think its wrong to do even if legal. 


I agree that the legal and moral questions, while related, are distinct.  I think that the moral questions also are complicated, but I respect the view you have advocated here.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 09, 2009, 07:43:50 PM
If someone who waterboarded another person came to me confessing his sin of waterboarding (or the sin of lying during an interrogation) and was seeking forgiveness, I would pronounce it.  That's the area of "human fallenness and God's mercy," and a different discussion than the one being had.
This is an important point because my guess is Scott would forgive the repentant sinner only if the sinner was really repentant. And if he planned to go out and do the same things again the next day as a professional interrogator, well, that would betray a lack of repentance. So a Christian who goes into many fields (not just interrogation) needs to have his bearings, and those bearings are tough to find. For example, I'm trained in both artillery (blowing stuff up at long range) and psychological operations (potentially lying, deceiving, misrepresenting, or otherwise spreading information to make the enemy weaker, less unified, and more likely to give up without fighting). I understand the Confessions to allow me to do that within a just war tradition. But I also understand that it might have been possible for me to have to be court martialled rather than participate in what I was ordered to do. Though it never happened in my case, I'm very interested in such questions and I tend to get riled when people make them sound easy and obvious. I once heard Cavanaugh speak and he was very disdainful of RJ Neuhas and George Weigel as having perverted Catholic just war doctrine in the service of the Bush administration and the Iraq war. Cavanaugh's idea was that Roman Catholic soldiers should have refused en masse to fight because they should have known it was an unjust war. I stood up to question him on this point, pointing out that we entrust people to make these decisions and part of civilized society is living with the decisions of those in authority even when we think they manifestly got it wrong-- juries, judges, police, etc. Must Christian guards set free those prisoners whom they they think were wrongly convicted, or must they enforce unjust convictions? And at what point do they refuse to do their job, or at what point do certain jobs become off-limits for Christians?

These considerations are why I have wanted to separate out the discussion of waterboarding from the discussion of what should be done to those who engaged in it, unlike jpetty who drew a clear line between the fact that waterboarding occured to the incarceration of those who did it or Jim, who seemed, to me at least, in his newsletter article to claim that they had obviously sinned by engaging in it. It seemed to me a lot was being taken for granted.

Police officers and other interrogators are permitted to lie when they question suspects. Though I don't think they can make false promises such as "if you confess to killing him, we'll see you just get probation."  It may be a sin.  Still, I don't see how this of this side discussion is relevant that is how it could reasonably be said to rise to the level of torture, even by analogy.

Guards couldn't set prisioners whom they believe were wrongly convicted.  That's not their office.  They are not the judge.  However, if they were convinced that the system of justice was so flawed as to be committing sin by serving as a guard, they have the option to find another line of work.  It is more complicated for soldiers, of course, who usually don't have the option to simply quit.  They do have the right to refuse to obey an unlawful order, but such an act may put them in severe jeopardy to say the least.

It is important to note that the title and closing line of my article was not "they" sinned, rather "We have sinned."

They (who ever they were--authorizers and actors) acted in our stead and in our behalf as agents of our government, so my point was a corporate sense of guilt is called for.
The previous president's adminstration, if not he himself, authorized the use of waterboarding among other techniques while at the same time maintaining that the US does not torture.  Is it not fair to cry foul at such a claim when the common understanding and general usage of the word torture would easily embrace or include things that the legal definition may not?  Was it not misleading at best and disingenuous at least to make such claims to the nation and the world?

Let's look at the ordinary sense of the word "torture."

Merriam-Webster's on-line dictionary gives the following
2. the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure.

Dictionary.com gives
1. the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.
2. a method of inflicting such pain.

Aren't these are consistent with defintion in the UN Convention?  
Therefore, isn't it fair to say that the polices of our government fall under the defintion of torture as it would be understood by any reasonable person in the street?

You "have wanted to separate out the discussion of waterboarding from the discussion of what should be done to those who engaged in it" in terms of how they are held accountable for these actions I can see that there are, as you have argued, varying degress of responsibility and perhaps they even need to be based on the degrees of the severity of the acts themselves.  But we cannot completely sever the action from the actor can we?  It seems to me the two judgments would have to relate to each other:  

This act was wrong.  You did wrong in doing it.
This act was not wrong.  You did no wrong in doing it.

Other conclusions are difficult or illogical

This act was wrong.  You did no wrong in doing it.
This would be a classical, I was just following orders defense.  Not impossible.  Perhaps responsiblity is mitigated but the wrong still stands as having been done by the actor.

This act was not wrong.  You did wrong in doing it.  
Maybe this is tenable if through carelessness or negligence such an act was not properly carried out, but then it wasn't really the "approved act" but some other that was the source of the wrong.

Help me see where I'm missing the point.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: revjagow on May 09, 2009, 09:20:50 PM
A number of months after we had moved to the D.C. area, my wife and I were watching some of the Senate hearings on torture after certain practices had come to light.  I wrote about it in my blog and quoted from a Christianity Today article (alas, unavailable to me now since I do not wish to pay the $30 library fee):

That issue [torturing those we believe have information vital to our national security] is not spelled out concretely in the Scriptures, so I will add in here that this is my own personal opinion, and not that of every Christian. The issue of torture, however, goes into some deep places of faith for me. A while back, Christianity Today had an extremely thoughtful commentary on Why Torture Is Always Wrong. I'd encourage you to read the whole article (it touches on what I believe are certain non-negotiables of the Christian faith), and see if you would agree. This article was written months ago, but one of the major players in this political drama was quoted. I think he spoke well to the issue and, in my mind, pinpointed where the Biblical and Constitutional values of American citizens intersect:

Sen. John McCain, who has led the Republican charge against torture, recently said, "This isn't about who they are. This is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies."

In a November Newsweek article, he put it this way: "What I … mourn is what we lose when … we allow, confuse, or encourage our soldiers to forget that best sense of ourselves, that which is our greatest strength—that we are different and better than our enemies, that we fight for an idea, not a tribe, not a land, not a king … but for an idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights."
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: vicarbob on May 09, 2009, 10:01:10 PM
I would agree with Jim, police interrogations and techniques used by those of us (or once upon a time) is not germaine to this thread which is about torture. For the record, I do not support "waterboarding" . (nor did I engage in or support hitting someone with the telephone book when no one was looking, but I did tell a suspect that once he confessed I would tell the prosecuator's of his "cooperation"......its called a signed confession!) He had committed 5 known murders and told me of 2 I didn't know about....good police work, no "torture" used.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Dan Fienen on May 09, 2009, 11:18:21 PM
One thing that I have found interesting is that in this thread and in another one that turned into a discussion of serving alcohol at church events, a number of posters were sure, no nuance, no extenuating circumstances could justify the practice being considered.  It was wrong and would always be wrong.  Yet some of these same people when it came to abortion or the blessing of homosexual relationship, or other moral issues were full of ambivilence, and eager to consider alternate opinions and interpretations of scripture, not to mention extenuating circumstances, that make the practice that had usually been condemned by Christians in the past perhaps acceptable now.  What makes these issues different than those?  (Is it at all significant that abortion and homosexual relationships have the approval or at least the sympathy of those who generally consider themselves on the liberal side of social issues and torture does not?  How alcohol fits into this I'm not sure.)

Dan
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 10, 2009, 12:10:27 AM
One thing that I have found interesting is that in this thread and in another one that turned into a discussion of serving alcohol at church events, a number of posters were sure, no nuance, no extenuating circumstances could justify the practice being considered.  It was wrong and would always be wrong.  Yet some of these same people when it came to abortion or the blessing of homosexual relationship, or other moral issues were full of ambivilence, and eager to consider alternate opinions and interpretations of scripture, not to mention extenuating circumstances, that make the practice that had usually been condemned by Christians in the past perhaps acceptable now.  What makes these issues different than those?  (Is it at all significant that abortion and homosexual relationships have the approval or at least the sympathy of those who generally consider themselves on the liberal side of social issues and torture does not?  How alcohol fits into this I'm not sure.)

Dan


In the most general of terms, the primary difference in this context is that we are talking about a government action (or action by government agents) and not the government approval or prohibition of actions of individual persons or in the personal sphere.

I recognize that this answer does not do full justice to the question posed.  I have in other threads discussed my views on the issues of abortion and homosexual relationships.  As a rule, I'm not shy about addressing them, but I suspect if I make any response about them here it will move this thread off this topic.  So while it might be interesting to explore the contrasting approaches to these other issues, I will refrain from doing so here.  I would respectfully acknowledge the question and would ask that others not pursue that particular argument, either by pressing the point made here by Dan, and I think earlier by Lou, or by offering a rejoinder to it.  Thank you.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Team Hesse on May 10, 2009, 01:14:27 AM
I respect the desire to avoid thread drift, and if this comment tends to drift the thread, I apologize, but in some ways I think the arguments being made avoid one underlying truth which should be stated:  there's probably no righteousness present in an interrogation.  Interrogation would not be necessary if sinners would confess; that would be the righteous thing to do.  Interrogation itself is tortuous -- one person is being confined and questioned against his will.   The necessity of drawing confession places the interrogator in the position of a violator of the 8th commandment -- he is of necessity to view the words of his interlocutor in a light that is not best construction.  The interrogator can lie, manipulate, and decieve, again all violations of the 8th.  The notion of any righteousness being present in an interrogation is, to my mind, pipe dreaming.  We live in a fallen world.  Now, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't do the best we know how and listen to those who may have a better idea, but let's not pretend we're "being good."  The best we're doing is curbing sin (first use of the law).  At the end of the day, all participants need confession and absolution.

I would probably be a "Dirty Harry" style interrogator myself.  Which is probably a good reason why I'm a pig farmer.

Lou
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 10, 2009, 03:21:43 AM
I respect the desire to avoid thread drift, and if this comment tends to drift the thread, I apologize, but in some ways I think the arguments being made avoid one underlying truth which should be stated:  there's probably no righteousness present in an interrogation.  Interrogation would not be necessary if sinners would confess; that would be the righteous thing to do.  Interrogation itself is tortuous -- one person is being confined and questioned against his will.   The necessity of drawing confession places the interrogator in the position of a violator of the 8th commandment -- he is of necessity to view the words of his interlocutor in a light that is not best construction.  The interrogator can lie, manipulate, and decieve, again all violations of the 8th.  The notion of any righteousness being present in an interrogation is, to my mind, pipe dreaming.  We live in a fallen world.  Now, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't do the best we know how and listen to those who may have a better idea, but let's not pretend we're "being good."  The best we're doing is curbing sin (first use of the law).  At the end of the day, all participants need confession and absolution.

I would probably be a "Dirty Harry" style interrogator myself.  Which is probably a good reason why I'm a pig farmer.

Lou

I'll drift with you for a bit....

What you say is very true on an personal basis.  "There is no one righteous, not one."  But I suggest that a look at the broader picture is important.  In our law I think we do try to provide a balance so that there is rightousness in our justice system, often described (as an adversarial* system).  In a very real sense the interrogator functions as "Satan," the accuser--later this role shifts to a prosecutor.  It is not his role to put the best construction on anything, for that our system usually provides a defender in some form.  The right to counsel is one way in which we seek to insure a righteousness in the process and protect our accused neighbors against possible excesses on the part of their accusers.

The goal of the legal system is to ensure that all--advocates, defendants and jurists--fulfill their responsiblities as members of the community and thereby maintain civil righteousness and temporal peace.

*This is distinct from our usual obligations under the 8th commandment to take our neighbor's part.  Still, I think our standard for criminal conviction of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt gives a nod to attempts to 'put the best construction on our neighbors actions'.  A vote for guity means that a juror is satisfied that those attempts have been exhausted and found wanting.

(I did want to avoid those other two subjects that get their fair share of attention elsewhere, but I'm not necessarily against all drift.)
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Charles_Austin on May 10, 2009, 03:27:55 AM
Dan Fienen writes:
One thing that I have found interesting is that in this thread and in another one that turned into a discussion of serving alcohol at church events, a number of posters were sure, no nuance, no extenuating circumstances could justify the practice being considered. It was wrong and would always be wrong.
I comment:
I am not one of those "number of posters." Serving alcohol at church events is not "wrong" in the sense of being inherently sinful or always illegal. It is just a bad practice, usually. I might even envision a time when it might be a good idea. But not often and not as a general policy.

Dan:
Yet some of these same people when it came to abortion or the blessing of homosexual relationship, or other moral issues were full of ambivilence, and eager to consider alternate opinions and interpretations of scripture, not to mention extenuating circumstances, that make the practice that had usually been condemned by Christians in the past perhaps acceptable now.What makes these issues different than those?
Me:
Drinking alcoholic beverages in and of itself is not a matter of interpretation of scripture. And I might be "ambivalent" about alcohol at church events; or I might not.

Dan:
(Is it at all significant that abortion and homosexual relationships have the approval or at least the sympathy of those who generally consider themselves on the liberal side of social issues and torture does not?  How alcohol fits into this I'm not sure.)
Me:
No connection. No significance. Conservatives tend to be more "anti-alcohol" than others, do they not? As I recall from the times the subject has arisen here, people from various and often differing viewpoints seem to agree that churchs should not sponsor events at which alcohol is served.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 12, 2009, 02:07:13 PM
I have given a quick reading to the Bybee memo.   It strikes me as disturbing. 

As we have discussed here it focuses on establishing what the definition of torture is or what kind of acts rise to that level, which seems also to be what concerns many about the use of the term “torture” in this thread.

The memo argues for the basic definition put forth as policy by the Bush administration:

The United States understands that, in order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering and that mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental pain caused by or resulting from (1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat that another parson will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.

In the end, Bybee's memo states it this way:

For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that torture as defined in and proscribed by Sections 2340-2340A, covers only extreme acts. Severe pain is generally of the kind difficult for the victim to endure. Where the pain is physical, it must be of an intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure. Severe mental pain requires suffering not just at the moment of infliction but it also requires lasting psychological harm, such as seen in mental disorders like posttraumatic stress disorder. Additionally, such severe mental pain can arise only from the predicate acts listed in Section 2340. Because the acts inflicting torture are extreme, there is significant range of acts that though they might constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment fail to rise to the level of torture.

The memo also points out that while the convention addresses itself to its purpose in preventing "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment," these are not regarded with the same level of concern since "torture" is singled out as being liable to criminal sanction and these other forms of treatment are not.

Such may be the case legally, but it still raises for me ethical and moral issues.

Whether or not criminal jeopardy attaches to the interrogators, if the treatment of suspects doesn't rise to the level of torture under the UN Convention against Torture [CAT], we are obligated as a matter of principle to "undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture" [CAT Article 16].  How does arguing that these things do not rise to the level of torture, address the moral offense that they may be aptly regarded as "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."  Don’t these terms themselves suggest a moral offense?  In what way, especially in light of Mr. Bybee’s memo acted to prevent such “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”  In point of fact, the argumentation of memo results in what amounts to advocacy for acts of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Granted the language of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" is possibly even more vague than "torture" but isn't the generality of the terms a virtue rather than a vice?  The point of this type of code is, after all, to protect persons from harm and abuse at the hands of others, specifically state actors.  Erring on the side of caution so as NOT to violate the code is a value consistent with the intent of the protective purpose, while on the other hand, narrowly defining what is proscribed seeks to limit and deny the application of the code to what could be easily a limitless number of possible variants of cruelty.  Particularly troubling is the notion that the position advocated by Bybee actually elevates the threshold for what is acceptable as torture by a re-characterization of the acts.  Under his definition what had formerly been described as "severe" must now also be characterized as "extreme" in addition to severe.  What is clear throughout is that he is seeking to decrease or circumscribe the number of acts which might be regarded as torture, so that the term may be applied only to an extremely limited number of actions.

One of the interesting defenses he uses is that courts have held certain acts of interrogation (or "softening up" for interrogation) may not rise to the level of torture but only [!] rise to the level of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

In sum, both the European Court on Human Rights and the Israeli Supreme Court have recognized a wide array of acts that constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but do not amount to torture. Thus, they appear to permit, under international law, an aggressive interpretation as to what amounts to torture, leaving that label to be applied only where extreme circumstances exist.

Ethically and morally, where is such a conclusion supposed to leave us?  Torture is bad and is proscribed.  Fair enough.  But since other things only rise to the level of "cruel, inhuman, or degrading," are we to conclude that these other things should not also be of deep moral or ethical import?  And if they have moral and ethical import, are they not also to be opposed?  Should they not also be regarded with grave suspicion or outrage when they are implemented by government authority?

Bybee’s memo is not seeking how to best implement or enhance the prohibitions of torture or the prevention of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but rather to show how and in what circumstances the government of the US may excuse itself for responsibility of abusing those it wants information from.

I particularly found the section on self-defense as a justification for these techniques, incredible--I would say laughable, but it isn't anything to laugh about.   

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: edoughty on May 12, 2009, 02:13:23 PM
I don't know if you folks get BBC America on your televisions, but last night there was a discussion of torture.  From an online transcript:

    MATT FREI: Welcome back to BBC World News America. It is a tradition for recently departed American leaders to fade quickly into the background and to avoid publicly criticizing their successors. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is definitely not sticking to that script. He's attacked Barack Obama's decision to end the harsh interrogation policies used by the Bush administration. Yesterday he used a Sunday talk show to reiterate his strong belief in the approach adopted after the 9/11 attacks, and to deny that they constituted torture. Listen.

    DICK CHENEY: If we had been about torture, we wouldn't have wasted our time going to the Justice Department.

    BOB SCHIEFFER: In retrospect, years have passed, you're now out of office, do you think we should have done some things differently back then? Or do you have any regrets about any of it?

    CHENEY: No regrets. I think it was absolutely the right thing to do. I'm convinced, absolutely convinced that we saved thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives.

    FREI: No regrets. So did the interrogation policy save lives? Or did they cause America to abandon its coveted spot on the moral high ground? Our contributing analyst Ted Koppel has been thinking about that question and the entire question of torture. He's here with his perspective today. Ted?

    TED KOPPEL: Thank you, Matt. We need a policy on torture, and it should be established soon before the next terrorist attack makes reasonable discussion impossible. The policy needs to be blindingly simple. Torture is always illegal, and those who use it will always be prosecuted. There's a back door, a weasel clause if you will -- there always is -- but I'll get to that in a moment. We thought we had a policy. President George W. Bush stated it with commendable clarity during a visit to Panama in 2005.

    GEORGE W. BUSH: We do not torture.

    KOPPEL: That turned out to be untrue. Water-boarding, for example, is a euphemism that's been with us for only a few years. The technique of simulated drowning, however, has a long and notorious history dating back to at least the Spanish Inquisition. When American soldiers used the technique in the Philippines more than 100 years ago, the euphemism was the "water cure." At any time and by any name, it was torture. Some prisoners of the Khmer Rouge, shackled hand in foot,  broke bones in their wrists and ankles, so great were their struggles to escape the agonies of simulated drowning. Interviewer Scott Hennen of radio station WDAY was probably unaware of that historical trivia when, in 2006, he had this exchange with then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

    HENNEN: Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?

    CHENEY: Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but I, for a while there I was criticized as being the Vice President for torture. We don't torture, that's not what we're involved in.

    KOPPEL: Well, we were involved in it, almost certainly will be again, and, rather than debating how many angels can writhe on the head of a pin, we should establish procedures that will at least minimize its use. Defining torture should be relatively simple. If we object to a technique being used on a captured American, we shouldn't use it, either. We also know that there are times when extraordinary circumstances -- what are sometimes called the "ticking time bomb scenario" -- will lead to the use of torture no matter what our public claims. Having said that, torture should be clearly and unambiguously against the law, as it is for those who safeguard our homes and streets domestically. Cases are thrown out of court because essential evidence was extracted under duress. Occasionally, brutal cops and corrections officers are even prosecuted and imprisoned. That has not led to the elimination of torture in our precincts and prisons, but it has been a deterrent. Let those who violate our stated national principles on torture be put on notice, it is against American law no matter where or under what circumstances it's employed, and violations of that law will lead to prison.

    Is it possible that a threat to national security and the lives of many Americans may at a subsequent trial be determined to have justified the wisdom of that law? May a presidential pardon be warranted? Perhaps. But moral clarity and America's standing in the world demand that the burden of proof be on those who can find no alternative to torture. Matt?

    FREI: Ted, how much allowance should there be made for the fact that a lot of these techniques and their legal justification were put in place just a few months or years after 9/11, when this country was in a significantly different mood to what it is today?

    KOPPEL: Matt, I think a euphemism is a euphemism. To call something an "enhanced interrogation technique" doesn't alter the fact that we thought it was torture when the Japanese used it on American prisoners, we thought it was torture when the North Koreans used it, we thought it was torture when the Soviets used it. It was torture when we use it.

    FREI: But there's still this culture of euphemism, what some people might say is, had they been more honest about what they should do in extreme circumstances, it might have been more acceptable to some people in this country?

    KOPPEL: I think fundamentally that's where my greatest disagreement with Vice President Cheney comes. You know, it's almost the moral equivalent of saying that rape is an enhanced seduction technique. It doesn't change the fact that it is a brutal and violent act, and it shouldn't change the fact when we're talking about torture either. Simply to call it something that sounds less brutal doesn't make any difference. And I would make one other point. If indeed the argument is that we have to employ such techniques because of the danger of what could be threatening thousands, or as the Vice President put it, hundreds of thousands of Americans, then why hesitate at the threshold of the dungeon? You might as well go all the way to the red-hot pokers then.

    FREI: But Vice President Cheney, former Vice President Cheney does channel or express a significant portion of opinion, public opinion, in this country, does he not?

    KOPPEL: I think he does, and I think that's all the more reason why this debate has to be carried out now, while there is at least less heat about it than there will be as soon as there is another terrorist attack in this country.

    FREI: Do you think there should be legal consequences?

    KOPPEL: Of course, there should be legal consequences -- not necessarily for those who acted in the past because they did have Justice Department justification, as misguided as I think that was. But some line needs to be drawn. We need to draw that line now and say, from here on in, understand torture may be used, but if it is, there will be, there must be legal consequences.

    FREI: Ted Koppel, thanks for your views.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 12, 2009, 03:43:51 PM
My original piece referenced the Statement of US Conference of Catholic Bishops supported by many mainline denominational leaders.  Here is the executive summary of a statement by Evangelicals, full text available at link
http://www.evangelicalsforhumanrights.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=44&Itemid=83 (http://www.evangelicalsforhumanrights.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=44&Itemid=83)

AN EVANGELICAL DECLARATION AGAINST TORTURE: PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS IN AN AGE OF TERROR

Executive Summary

1. Introduction: From a Christian perspective, every human life is sacred. As evangelical Christians, recognition of this transcendent moral dignity is non-negotiable in every area of life, including our assessment of public policies. This commitment has been tested in the war on terror, as a public debate has occurred over the moral legitimacy of torture and of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees held by our nation in the current conflict. We write this declaration to affirm our support for detainee human rights and our opposition to any resort to torture.

2. Sanctity of Life: We ground our commitment to human rights in the core Christian theological conviction that each and every human life is sacred. This theme wends its way throughout the Scriptures: in Creation, Law, the Incarnation, Jesus’ teaching and ministry, the Cross, and his Resurrection. Concern for the sanctity of life leads us to vigilant sensitivity to how human beings are treated and whether their God-given rights are being respected.

3. Human Rights: Human rights, which function to protect human dignity and the sanctity of life, cannot be cancelled and should not be overridden. Recognition of human rights creates obligations to act on behalf of others whose rights are being violated. Human rights place a shield around people who otherwise would find themselves at the mercy of those who are angry, aggrieved, or frightened. While human rights language can be misused, this demands its clarification rather than abandonment. Among the most significant human rights is the right to security of person, which includes the right not to be tortured.

4. Christian History and Human Rights: The concept of human rights is not a “secular” notion but instead finds expression in Christian sources long before the Enlightenment. More secularized versions of the human rights ethic which came to occupy such a large place in Western thought should be seen as derivative of earlier religious arguments. Twentieth century assaults on human rights by totalitarian states led to a renewal of “rights talk” after World War II. Most branches of the Christian tradition, including evangelicalism, now embrace a human rights ethic.

5. Ethical Implications: Everyone bears an obligation to act in ways that recognize human rights. This responsibility takes different forms at different levels. Churches must teach their members to think biblically about morally difficult and emotionally intense public issues such as this one. Our own government must honor its constitutional and moral responsibilities to respect and protect human rights. The United States historically has been a leader in supporting international human rights efforts, but our moral vision has blurred since 9/11. We need to regain our moral clarity.

6. Legal Structures: International law contains numerous clear and unequivocal bans on torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. These bans are wise and right and must be embraced without reservation once again by our own government. Likewise, United States law and military doctrine has banned the resort to torture and cruel and degrading treatment. Tragically, documented acts of torture and of inhumane and cruel behavior have occurred at various sites in the U.S. war on terror, and current law opens procedural loopholes for more to continue. We commend the Pentagon’s revised Army Field Manual for clearly banning such acts, and urge that this ban extend to every sector of the United States government without exception, including our intelligence agencies.

7. Concluding Recommendations: The abominable acts of 9/11, along with the continuing threat of terrorist attacks, create profound security challenges. However, these challenges must be met within a moral and legal framework consistent with our values and laws, among which is a commitment to human rights that we as evangelicals share with many others. In this light, we renounce the resort to torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees, call for the extension of procedural protections and human rights to all detainees, seek clear government-wide embrace of the Geneva Conventions, including those articles banning torture and cruel treatment of prisoners, and urge the reversal of any U.S. government law, policy, or practice that violates the moral standards outlined in this declaration.

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Bergs on May 14, 2009, 11:07:45 AM
On a personal note, I wish to thank Rev. Krauser and others involved for thoughtful posts on this issue.  It forced me to really examine my own beliefs on this issue and I hope come out with a thoughtful response if asked.  Torture raises all kinds of emotions. 

Earlier this week on MSNBC I saw Dick Cheney’s daughter defending him and declaring that waterboarding is not torture.  Is it possible that someone sincerely believes such a statement to be true?  I believe they can.  Just as I believe that a reasonable person can believe that abortion is not murder. Others here perhaps cannot understand how a person can believe one or the other or both statements. 

Pastor Krauser’s original note to the congregation determines that under no circumstance should waterboarding be employed and penance must be rendered by the nation to atone for this crime.  He sets a high standard for a democratic nation.  Being President of the United States, a powerful position of a mighty nation, is a tough job that few here can imagine even if you think you can.  The responsibility is mind-numbing.  Try and put yourself into that seat to really see how you might respond.  Do it on a really stressful day too.  Try and put together a scenario where the timeline is short, the consequences are really high, the resources are short, i.e. really bad stuff.  Can you really envision yourself being completely principled in not even seriously considering waterboarding?

There is no way we will know now if information from Khalid Sheik Mohamed could have been obtained elsewhere.  Without all of the information being released, it is tough to know.  We’ve been given just a taste of the info that the President had.  However, in Rev. Krauser’s writing, the ends would never justify the means regarding this issue so it is a moot point. 

Like war, I do not believe torture can ever be justified by the church catholic.  It is always wrong and a vivid demonstration of human brokenness.  Volumes are written by theologians trying to explain what a “Just War” looks like.  I believe they all fail to justify using violence to achieve any means.  Attempting to theologically justify when to torture is also doomed to failure.  Both attempts might limit and define the when’s, how’s, and why’s. Still I cannot see how we can justify war and torture when the founder of our faith would innocently suffer a tortuous death on the cross.

Still our basic human condition makes war and torture (and abortion, divorce, etc.) inevitable in my opinion.  Others might disagree with the word inevitable but certainly must agree that such activities are extremely likely given human frailness. This likelihood prompts theologians to spend a lot of effort justifying such activities.  They are obviously trying to figure out how to square these inevitable activities with our Christian faith.  So what is a Christian citizen of this nation to do?

Rev. Krauser calls for national repentance and looks to the courts for justice against the perpetrators.  It is a high standard that is being set and sternly preached.  Such strictness and sternness can be a slippery slope as the comedian Jon Stewart found in his April 28, 2009, interview of Clifford May.  It led to Stewart calling President Truman a war criminal for dropping the A-bomb.  Later Stewart apologized but I think such a high standard does lead to such a conclusion requiring no apology.

Finally, my hope here is not to condemn anyone but more give some thoughts to this discussion.  The entire whirlwind around waterboarding finds many with very high moral thoughts and others with baser desires to make political hay.  In closing, I will quote a man with whom I usually disagree. In this instance, I am in agreement though not with any pride or Christian justification.  As a citizen of a democracy, the statement below is not unreasonable.  The polling of American citizens does not surprise me or disappoint me either. 

Quote
And I'd like to interject a note of balance here. There are times when we all get in high dudgeon. We ought to be reasonable about this. I think there are probably very few people in this room or in America who would say that torture should never, ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are at stake. Take the hypothetical: If we knew that there was a nuclear bomb hidden in an American city and we believed that some kind of torture, fairly severe maybe, would give us a chance of finding that bomb before it went off, my guess is most Americans and most senators, maybe all, would say, Do what you have to do. So it's easy to sit back in the armchair and say that torture can never be used. But when you're in the foxhole, it's a very different deal."

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Senate Judiciary Committee on June 8th, 2004
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4CWk5LfoH0&feature=email

Brian J. Bergs
Minneapolis, MN
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: vicarbob on May 18, 2009, 11:59:16 AM
Perhaps Pr Krauser the Sec'y of the MNYS and writer of a resolution presented to our assembly this past weekend could share how that resoultion about "torture" faired?
I belive his original whereas' passed, but the resolved was amended, by what was known as the "Barnett ammendment". BTW, there was a bit of confusion about just was being actually voted on. I was NOT the only one confused... ;), although some shared that the "exchange" between this writer and the bishop at the microphone did reveal that there can be moments of levity even amid serious dialogue. :D
then again a Candidate for Ordination should always make a bishop laugh, no????
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 19, 2009, 03:46:29 PM
For those who wish to know what came of our discussion at our synod assembly, the following resolution was adopted:

SA2009.05.09   IN SOLIDARITY WITH ALL VICTIMS OF TORTURE

RESOLVED, that as followers and members of Christ who was beaten, mocked and crucified, we declare ourselves to be in solidarity with all victims of torture, and we call upon all nations and human institutions, beginning with those of our government, to formally abjure all forms of interrogation and punishment which diminish the integrity of the human person through the willful application of extreme pain or psychological abuse. We call upon all nations and institutions, beginning with our own, to confess publicly and in detail the dehumanizing actions undertaken in their name and under their authority, so that the truth may be known and reconciliation may be possible

It is not the "sternly preached" standard I had drafted (as Brian Bergs describes it).  Though it hits many of the same notes.  It makes no reference to prosecution, but rather adopts the language of "truth and reconciliation."  It is probably as good as we could do, given the parameters of the debate possible in a synod assembly.  Yet, it concerns me that it does not address prosecution in any way.  What does it mean to be in solidarity with victims, if it does not include a call for justice?  And what does justice for victims mean if it does not include some kind of meaningful accountability and sanction before the law for those who have created the victims? 

The path of "truth and reconciliation" that we saw taken in South Africa did indeed offer a new paradigm to address a deep and protracted history of social injustice.  I would not gainsay that process.  It was an important and powerful lesson.

The situation we face, however, is hardly that of South Africa.  We are not talking about acts which occurred over generations or were perpetrated against thousands of victims.  The wounds here have not been inflicted upon the fabric of the society itself.  There are discrete and knowable victims; there are discrete and knowable persons of authority who initiated and authorized the unlawful use of torture by attempting to redefine it as within the law.  These crimes can be prosecuted without implicating hundreds or thousands of persons as defendants. 

Like a "truth and reconciliation" process it requires us to face squarely and without equivocation that our government can do wrong and that our officials, even if they are doing what they believe to be necessary, can be guilty of breaking the law. 

As a community that speaks the language of theology, we speak of law regularly and often vigorously.  As Lutherans we recognize and affirm the divine mandate of the power given to the proper authorities to wield the sword.  At the same time we have not been nearly so clear about what to say, and more importantly what to do, when the proper authorities wield the sword improperly.  In the age of the Confessions, the age of monarchy, this was largely left for God to sort out.  In our secular age and in the age of democracy, can we rely on the "fear of God" to keep our authorities from abusing their authority?  Or do we, as the agents of God who put the authorities in office, have the responsibility not only to hold them accountable for the use of their powers, but also to wield the sword of the law against them, just as they wield it over the populace in general when they commit unlawful acts?  If school principals abused incorrigible delinquent teens because they believed they had knowledge about other students who were selling drugs or bringing weapons on to campus--they too might be acting to increase the security of all and might save lives but surely we would endorse their prosecution as having overstepped their authority and as having committed assault against the teens. 

The most fearful idea that comes out of all of this discussion of waterboarding and torture is the assertion that if this was authorized it was therefore legal.  We are a nation that cherishes the notion of inalienable rights even if we're not always in agreement what they are.  The principle of such rights must mean that the assertion by the government that is has the authority to do whatever it believes is necessary is always open to challenge.  When government and its officials are found to have gone beyond the rule of law, they should be held to account.  If the transgression is simply administrative, the sanctions may be only administrative as well.  But if they, by their actions, have committed what amounts to a criminal assault against an individual or individuals, why should they not have to face the same kind of sanctions for such an assault that you or I would face in a common criminal proceeding?

As for the "ticking bomb" justification.  I frankly think it is a fantasy.  But even granting it, it must be regarded as an exception to the rule.  But we should be clear, the burden of proof would remain on those who seek the exception.  They must demonstrate the necessity of the exception to someone other than themselves.  It is unacceptable that they would be granted the exception simply by asserting the need for it.  We dare not allow the exception to frame the rule, for if we do there will be no way to make a rule that has any meaning at all. 

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Eileen_Smith on May 19, 2009, 04:10:06 PM
But we do need to understand that there are arguments to be made on the side that waterboarding is not torture.  Rather than heckle a speaker at an assembly for such a few - I am saddened we cannot listen to one another.  The following appeared this morning on nationalreview.com where one can find the full article by Andrew C. McCarthy.  I am not defending the practice - except to point out that the courts have opined on this matter in the past.  That being said - as children of God can we not practice forgiveness rather than bringing down the wrath of prosecution to the fullest extent of the law! 

... Torture, however, is not a general-intent crime. It calls for proof of specific intent. As I recently recounted, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals explained the difference in its Pierre case last year: to establish torture, it must be proved that the accused torturer had “the motive or purpose” to commit torture. Sharpening the distinction, the judges used an example from a prior torture case — an example that thoroughly refutes Holder’s attempt to downgrade torture to a general-intent offense: “The mere fact that the Haitian authorities have knowledge that severe pain and suffering may result by placing detainees in these conditions does not support a finding that the Haitian authorities intend to inflict severe pain and suffering. The difference goes to the heart of the distinction between general and specific intent.”

To state the matter plainly, the CIA interrogators did not inflict severe pain and had no intention of doing so. The law of the United States holds that, even where an actor does inflict severe pain, there is still no torture unless it was his objective to do so. It doesn’t matter what the average person might think the “logical” result of the action would be; it matters what specifically was in the mind of the alleged torturer — if his motive was not to torture, it is not torture.

One might have expected Holder to know that. The argument was used in a DOJ filing before the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals only three weeks ago. Indeed, the Haitian example cited by the Third Circuit is quoted here, word-for-word, from the brief filed by Holder’s own department.

The bottom line is, Rep. Lungren skillfully steered Attorney General Holder into the truth: As a matter of law, CIA waterboarding — like the same waterboarding actions featured in Navy SEALs training — cannot be torture because there is no intention to inflict severe mental or physical pain; the exercise is done for a different purpose. When Rep. Gohmert’s questioning made it crystal clear that Holder’s simplistic “waterboarding is torture” pronouncement was wrong, the attorney general — rather than admitting error — tried to change the legal definition of torture in a manner that contradicted a position the Justice Department had just urged on the federal courts. It seems that, for this attorney general, there is one torture standard for Bush administration officials, and another one for everybody else.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 19, 2009, 05:01:43 PM
... Torture, however, is not a general-intent crime. It calls for proof of specific intent. As I recently recounted, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals explained the difference in its Pierre case last year: to establish torture, it must be proved that the accused torturer had “the motive or purpose” to commit torture. Sharpening the distinction, the judges used an example from a prior torture case — an example that thoroughly refutes Holder’s attempt to downgrade torture to a general-intent offense: “The mere fact that the Haitian authorities have knowledge that severe pain and suffering may result by placing detainees in these conditions does not support a finding that the Haitian authorities intend to inflict severe pain and suffering. The difference goes to the heart of the distinction between general and specific intent.”

To state the matter plainly, the CIA interrogators did not inflict severe pain and had no intention of doing so. The law of the United States holds that, even where an actor does inflict severe pain, there is still no torture unless it was his objective to do so. It doesn’t matter what the average person might think the “logical” result of the action would be; it matters what specifically was in the mind of the alleged torturer — if his motive was not to torture, it is not torture.


I'm sorry, I think that it is an evasion of moral responsibility to say that when one is waterboarding for the sake of interrogation, the intention is not to inflict pain, the intention is to elict information.  It may be a legal justification, but it is not morally credible, as if one could be clearly distinguished from another.  They are actions and results in concert.  True, the infllctiion of pain or suffering is not the end (if that is what is meant by intent) the torturer is seeking, but it is a means to it.  If it were not inflicting pain or suffering on the person being interrogated what exactly then is its purpose?  It is pain and suffering--in the language of psychological conditioning--it is negative stimulus "A" designed to lead to desired response "B".  That is the motive.  What is at issue in torture shouldn't be the motive, the issue is the severity of the negative stimulus.  By closely circumscribing the defintion of torture by intent, one could administer almost any level of pain or suffering - say by scalding or some such means and not meet the defintion.  It is absurd.  If the courts have made such a ruling, they are plainly wrong.  Any law that is proposes to prevent torture but defines it so narrowly is at cross purposes with itself for it will prevent almost nothing.

If what you state it is the law, that intent is standard by which torture is determined, then our acceptance of the UN Convention Against Torture, and Cruel, Inhuman and Segragding Treatment is a sham and a joke. 

Simply put, how do you strap someone down, put a gag in their mouth, and pour water on the gag without the intent to cause pain or suffering in that act? You're not acting to make them more comfortable are you?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Dan Fienen on May 19, 2009, 05:15:50 PM
What is the effect of confining a person to a small space, and restricting their movement, activity, and access to people?  Is it to make them more comfortable?  Is it to increase their enjoyment of life?  Yet that is routinely done not only to those convicted of crime (and we might question the morality of the dehumanizing effect of making people wear uniform clothing, restricting their space, privacy, activity, and access to things that most people take for granted in their lives) but also to some who have only been accused of a crime.  Does that count as torture?  If not, why not?

Dan
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 19, 2009, 05:43:55 PM
I stand solidarity with Scott on that. ::) To see how silly it is claim solidarity with someone with whom you obviously have no solidarity, try doing it in the reverse direction. Proclaim your solidarity with the rich and see what difference it makes. Or when you're sick, proclaim your solidarity with the healthy. It does nothing.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 19, 2009, 06:41:51 PM
I stand solidarity with Scott on that. ::) To see how silly it is claim solidarity with someone with whom you obviously have no solidarity, try doing it in the reverse direction. Proclaim your solidarity with the rich and see what difference it makes. Or when you're sick, proclaim your solidarity with the healthy. It does nothing.

Sorry, I deleted that post about 30 seconds after posting it.  I figured, "Why bother?"  If it's still in my copy / paste on my other computer, I'll see if I can't reproduce it so folks know what you're talking about...
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 19, 2009, 06:45:46 PM
Here it is.  Saved from the cut / paste function...

...we declare ourselves to be in solidarity with all victims of torture...

I have to say that when I read language like this, I recall a conference held in Nairobi re: identifying and being in solidarity with the poor.  Lutheran pastors from international congregations all over the world congregated to Nairobi to talk about poverty, take day trips into the slums, and so to "identify" and stand in "solidarity" with the poor.  Oh, they were staying at one of the best hotels in Nairobi, and a good chunk of the conference was held at one of the best game lodges, and, oh, a couple thousand dollar 10 day (as I remember) game drive at some of the best game reserves in the country was optional.

Which is to say, I really have no idea what language like this means.  Does it mean that somebody objects to torture?  Ok.  I can understand that.  Or does it mean that you will advocate for them?  That I can understand, too.  But those involve different words.

Somehow these descriptors don't strike me as being as serious as a claim to being in "solidarity with" somebody.  Instead, to be in "solidarity with" somebody would seem to be a claim to experience the same situation they feel, sorta like with the conference on poverty, an actual living in the slums for the rest of your life, renouncing all international contact and all monies held elsewhere, and with it all hope of ever escaping Kibera (the largest slum in Nairobi).  That would be "solidarity with," it seems to me.

Barring this (i.e., actually being tortured), or, I suppose, agreeing fully with the goals of the folks at places like Gitmo, I really don't know what the term means in this context.

The funny part is that, without ever claiming to be in "solidarity with" anyone, we were able to do quite a bit to alleviate the suffering caused by poverty in Nairobi and elsewhere via micro-finance projects as well as other mechanisms.

In any case, the "solidarity with" language is a bit of rhetoric that makes me  ::)

Sorry.  Count this as a rant against misuse of the English language.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 19, 2009, 08:38:35 PM
What is the effect of confining a person to a small space, and restricting their movement, activity, and access to people?  Is it to make them more comfortable?  Is it to increase their enjoyment of life?  Yet that is routinely done not only to those convicted of crime (and we might question the morality of the dehumanizing effect of making people wear uniform clothing, restricting their space, privacy, activity, and access to things that most people take for granted in their lives) but also to some who have only been accused of a crime.  Does that count as torture?  If not, why not?

Dan

We've been over this...  Normal punishments (as in the opposite of "cruel and unusual punishments") for crime are excluded from the defintion of torture in the UN Convention (as they are excluded from the prohibtion against "cruel and unusual punishment" in our constitution).  However, those that inflict severe physical or psychological pain are not so excluded.

What counts as torture in your book?  Or is it, as your comment suggests, a trivial subject that doesn't really matter?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 19, 2009, 11:07:27 PM
What is the effect of confining a person to a small space, and restricting their movement, activity, and access to people?  Is it to make them more comfortable?  Is it to increase their enjoyment of life?  Yet that is routinely done not only to those convicted of crime (and we might question the morality of the dehumanizing effect of making people wear uniform clothing, restricting their space, privacy, activity, and access to things that most people take for granted in their lives) but also to some who have only been accused of a crime.  Does that count as torture?  If not, why not?

Dan

We've been over this...  Normal punishments (as in the opposite of "cruel and unusual punishments") for crime are excluded from the defintion of torture in the UN Convention (as they are excluded from the prohibtion against "cruel and unusual punishment" in our constitution).  However, those that inflict severe physical or psychological pain are not so excluded.

What counts as torture in your book?  Or is it, as your comment suggests, a trivial subject that doesn't really matter?
But prison clearly inflicts severe psychological pain on many people. The only thing that makes it legal is that it is, well, legal. The guards put people into solitary confinement knowing full well that those people are terrified of it and are traumatized by it. But if we ever conclude it is torture, I don't want the guards who put people there thinking it wasn't torture (despite the obvious evidence of terror and trauma) put on trial. So the verdict comes down to the guards that the psychological trauma of extreme, prolonged isolation is not necessarily torture. The verdict came down to the interrogators that waterboarding was not torture. What is the difference?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 20, 2009, 12:29:01 AM
What is the effect of confining a person to a small space, and restricting their movement, activity, and access to people?  Is it to make them more comfortable?  Is it to increase their enjoyment of life?  Yet that is routinely done not only to those convicted of crime (and we might question the morality of the dehumanizing effect of making people wear uniform clothing, restricting their space, privacy, activity, and access to things that most people take for granted in their lives) but also to some who have only been accused of a crime.  Does that count as torture?  If not, why not?

Dan

We've been over this...  Normal punishments (as in the opposite of "cruel and unusual punishments") for crime are excluded from the defintion of torture in the UN Convention (as they are excluded from the prohibtion against "cruel and unusual punishment" in our constitution).  However, those that inflict severe physical or psychological pain are not so excluded.

What counts as torture in your book?  Or is it, as your comment suggests, a trivial subject that doesn't really matter?
But prison clearly inflicts severe psychological pain on many people. The only thing that makes it legal is that it is, well, legal. The guards put people into solitary confinement knowing full well that those people are terrified of it and are traumatized by it. But if we ever conclude it is torture, I don't want the guards who put people there thinking it wasn't torture (despite the obvious evidence of terror and trauma) put on trial. So the verdict comes down to the guards that the psychological trauma of extreme, prolonged isolation is not necessarily torture. The verdict came down to the interrogators that waterboarding was not torture. What is the difference?

But we're not talking about solitary confinement, we're talking about strapping someone to a board, forcing a rag into their mouth and then pouring water on the rag.

We knew and have known that this is torture.  The OLC memos were an attempt to "rehabilitate" it for current use.   If it had already been understood as an appropriate and legal technique there would have been no need for the infamous OLC memos.  Rather than trying to give the fullest meaning to the Convention on torture, they chose to apply the most restrictive meaning, i.e. that is they rather than construing the Convention to restrict what was permissible, they construed the Convention to restrict what it applied to.  They represent a shameful, cynical, contemptuous, and might we say, antinomian exercise in reasoning. 


Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Dan Fienen on May 20, 2009, 01:01:20 AM
Thinking back to something Pr. Petty (I think) said on another thread about Christianity not being about morality but ethical living which he then defined with reference to Freud and existentialism, what business is to to us as church people being involved in debates about torture.  According to Pr. Petty, morality is about designating good guys and bad guys, Christianity is about forgiveness and grace.  Surely this discussion with the drive toward establishing guilt and designating certain people as "bad guys" because of it and calling for their punishment has nothing to do with the Gospel which is the proper business of the church.

Now as American citizens each of us could have something to say about the morality of authorizing or performing torture - or whether this counted as torture - but that is in the realm of civil righteousness and politics.  It that we are supposed to be discussing here?

If teaching morality and urging people to be moral and urging sanctions against those who break morality is part of the Christian faith, say so.  But do not pretend that Christianity does not teach morality and then turn around and as churchmen and women call for morality.

Dan
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Dan Fienen on May 20, 2009, 01:03:09 AM
What is the effect of confining a person to a small space, and restricting their movement, activity, and access to people?  Is it to make them more comfortable?  Is it to increase their enjoyment of life?  Yet that is routinely done not only to those convicted of crime (and we might question the morality of the dehumanizing effect of making people wear uniform clothing, restricting their space, privacy, activity, and access to things that most people take for granted in their lives) but also to some who have only been accused of a crime.  Does that count as torture?  If not, why not?

Dan

We've been over this...  Normal punishments (as in the opposite of "cruel and unusual punishments") for crime are excluded from the defintion of torture in the UN Convention (as they are excluded from the prohibtion against "cruel and unusual punishment" in our constitution).  However, those that inflict severe physical or psychological pain are not so excluded.

What counts as torture in your book?  Or is it, as your comment suggests, a trivial subject that doesn't really matter?
But prison clearly inflicts severe psychological pain on many people. The only thing that makes it legal is that it is, well, legal. The guards put people into solitary confinement knowing full well that those people are terrified of it and are traumatized by it. But if we ever conclude it is torture, I don't want the guards who put people there thinking it wasn't torture (despite the obvious evidence of terror and trauma) put on trial. So the verdict comes down to the guards that the psychological trauma of extreme, prolonged isolation is not necessarily torture. The verdict came down to the interrogators that waterboarding was not torture. What is the difference?

But we're not talking about solitary confinement, we're talking about strapping someone to a board, forcing a rag into their mouth and then pouring water on the rag.

We knew and have known that this is torture.  The OLC memos were an attempt to "rehabilitate" it for current use.   If it had already been understood as an appropriate and legal technique there would have been no need for the infamous OLC memos.  Rather than trying to give the fullest meaning to the Convention on torture, they chose to apply the most restrictive meaning, i.e. that is they rather than construing the Convention to restrict what was permissible, they construed the Convention to restrict what it applied to.  They represent a shameful, cynical, contemptuous, and might we say, antinomian exercise in reasoning. 




Then we must be very careful to clearly draw the line between what is a legitimate action that causes discomfort or worse, and what is torture.

Dan
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 20, 2009, 01:34:25 AM
Thinking back to something Pr. Petty (I think) said on another thread about Christianity not being about morality but ethical living which he then defined with reference to Freud and existentialism, what business is to to us as church people being involved in debates about torture.  According to Pr. Petty, morality is about designating good guys and bad guys, Christianity is about forgiveness and grace.  Surely this discussion with the drive toward establishing guilt and designating certain people as "bad guys" because of it and calling for their punishment has nothing to do with the Gospel which is the proper business of the church.

Now as American citizens each of us could have something to say about the morality of authorizing or performing torture - or whether this counted as torture - but that is in the realm of civil righteousness and politics.  It that we are supposed to be discussing here?

If teaching morality and urging people to be moral and urging sanctions against those who break morality is part of the Christian faith, say so.  But do not pretend that Christianity does not teach morality and then turn around and as churchmen and women call for morality.

Dan

Yes, I think we are in the realm of civil rightousness and possibly politics (depending on how we're using the word).  There will always be an overlap.  I certainly think civil righteousness can embrace both ethical living and morality.  We are not other-worldly Christians, we live in this world and we are called upon by Jesus to love our neighbor (Is that a Word of Law or a Word of Grace?  Is it both?). 

I think it dangerous to too strictly hold that "morality is about designating good guys and bad guys, Christianity is about forgiveness and grace."  I suspect that there was a lot of this kind of thinking that led many RC Bishops to seek to deal
"pastorally" with sexual abusers in the priesthood rather than turning them over to the authorities to answer for their crimes against minors. 

If a crime against our neighbor goes unpunished, and we do not speak out against that injustice, who will be their neighbor?

It is true that, as the church, we do not wield the sword.  Nor should we.  Nevertheless shall we not urge those who do wield the sword (rulers, judges, magistrates, etc.) to do their duty, just as we urge pastors, parents, children, teachers, masters, servants, etc. to do theirs?  Though, it may be that, not all Christians will at all times agree as to how one fulfills that duty in any given circumstance.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: vicarbob on May 20, 2009, 09:30:23 AM
"Standing in solidarity with " caused many to stop and reflect upon what was being said in the Krauser Resolution as it was presented to the MNYS Assembly. And correct me if I am wrong, but last year i was "blasted" I mean "corrected " on this forum when I brought 'satisfaction" as an element of reconcilation. Oh, no we Lutheran's don't attach 'satisfaction" to the Sacrament of absolution (those of us who hold that it is indeed a Holy Mystery)
Pray tell the difference then in demanding prosecution for all those "involved". Isn't that demanding 'satisfaction"?
As the pastor who rose and spoke in opposition to this clause said, "I Stand  not in solidarity with terrorists". To which I suggest, the Assembly responded with a solid AMEN and thus the new "resolves" were added and voted upon. At least that's how I understand what we did.
Pax,
Bob
BTW and certainly not "torture" many of us missed a very special bishop from the 'other" side whose pastoral presence is always a welcomed and appreciated addition to our assemblies. Missed ya dude! Was it because the "L" train didn't go to Melville?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 20, 2009, 02:24:27 PM
"Standing in solidarity with " caused many to stop and reflect upon what was being said in the Krauser Resolution as it was presented to the MNYS Assembly. And correct me if I am wrong, but last year i was "blasted" I mean "corrected " on this forum when I brought 'satisfaction" as an element of reconcilation. Oh, no we Lutheran's don't attach 'satisfaction" to the Sacrament of absolution (those of us who hold that it is indeed a Holy Mystery)
Pray tell the difference then in demanding prosecution for all those "involved". Isn't that demanding 'satisfaction"?
As the pastor who rose and spoke in opposition to this clause said, "I Stand  not in solidarity with terrorists". To which I suggest, the Assembly responded with a solid AMEN and thus the new "resolves" were added and voted upon. At least that's how I understand what we did.
Pax,
Bob
BTW and certainly not "torture" many of us missed a very special bishop from the 'other" side whose pastoral presence is always a welcomed and appreciated addition to our assemblies. Missed ya dude! Was it because the "L" train didn't go to Melville?

The forgiveness of Christ is not contingent on satisfaction, however in general we counsel the penitent to do what ever they can to make restitution and make "it right" as they may be able (some crimes, such as murder can never be made "right") with those whom they have sinned against.  As with any penance (traditionally understood), this is to be seen as a first step in a new direction (repentance) in the new life in Christ, not as a "requirement" for forgiveness.

We do not speak this way when we address sin in the civil realm however.  There we not only expect satisfaction, there it is required and exacted. Temporal crimes are met with temporal punishments.  To deny this would mean that the church opposes fines, probation, prisions and the like.  This the church has never done, as far as I know.  Restitution is often a part of the civil equation.  (Even the church when it has been robbed through embezzlement seeks the restitution of what was taken.)  What there is room for "pardon" in the law, in most cases it is not a free and unmerited pardon, but rather more of a partial remission granted in lieu of some mitigating factor, which suggests that the pardon is in some sense earned.  This is not, however, how we speak of the pardon we receive from God.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: vicarbob on May 21, 2009, 12:02:51 AM

We do not speak this way when we address sin in the civil realm however.  .
[/quote]

 :o :o :o :o :o
 ??? ??? ??? ???

You mean the Church speaks with two-tongues???
Sin is sin
period
The CHURCH best speak the same in both realms ,otherwise it has no authority speaking at all ,Jim


BTW on the complete aside, heard from george, but can't say anything else.
First McCain, then ++Irl, now George.....now we are like the mainlaine churches, we're loosing members!!!!!!
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 21, 2009, 01:01:25 AM


We do not speak this way when we address sin in the civil realm however.  .

 :o :o :o :o :o
 ??? ??? ??? ???

You mean the Church speaks with two-tongues???
Sin is sin
period
The CHURCH best speak the same in both realms ,otherwise it has no authority speaking at all ,Jim


BTW on the complete aside, heard from george, but can't say anything else.
First McCain, then ++Irl, now George.....now we are like the mainlaine churches, we're loosing members!!!!!!

I think you missed my point.  There are two ways of dealing with sin and sinners, one is ecclesial, one is secular.  But as Lutheran Christians we endorse and support both ways of dealing with sin.  Though generally in the civil realm we speak of crime and criminals instead of sin and sinners, but we are speaking of the same people and the same hurtful and destructive acts.

As the church we expect our clergy to hear the confessions of the sinner/criminal and say, "Your sins are forgiven, rise.  Go and sin no more."
But this is not what we expect the civil magistrate to say, indeed if he or she did, with any regularity we would call for thier impeachment.  What we expect of the magistrate, hearing perhaps exactly the same confession, "I accept your confession, you are sentenced to three years confinement (or some other appropriate sentence)."   We would not accuse that magistrate of underming the Gospel.  In the same way wouldn't fault a priest for failing the Gospel, if he identifies in court a mugger whom he witnessed assaulting an elderly woman.  But, if the same mugger went to confession, he would be dealt with somewhat differently, but this would not prevent the priest from participating in the trial and testifying to what he himself witnessed.  He, of course, could not speak of what he learned in the confession.

In their pronouncments of sentences, civil judges do not diminish the proclamation of the church; nor should the church's granting of forgiveness diminish the just exercise of thier office.  That's my meaning.  Belief in the saving forgiveness of God does not mean the church has no business calling for criminals to be justly punished for their crimes, though we may counsel that justice is not always absolute but is best served when tempered by mercy.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: vicarbob on May 21, 2009, 10:05:42 AM
But Jim, i think I do get your point and still disagree. What was presented by the MNYS Assembly was a public act for public action by the Church (as She is refelected in the assembly of some 215 congregations). The original 'Krauser" resolution called for criminal prosecution of those involved. The Church was seeking then "satisfaction" and not I submit, forgiveness, reconciliation and mercy.
While "we" can and must stand up against those and those actions which harm others, "we" must always be first a voice of the Gospel.
When the ELCA enters into the public areana, as she must, she does so as "Church" and not, I submit a private/secular entity. Justice and mercy first and foremeost. "Justice" for the Church is absolution, offered in the Name of the Triune God. We cannot shout, "No Justice no Peace" or act in any way which may resemble such an understanding.
Last year the Assembly had a resolution concerning alledged police brutility in NYC placed before it for action. It too, contained language which in fact "judged" the actions of certain police officers when the criminal justice had already renederd a decision which found in favor of the police action. Thankfully, the 'resolved" were amended.
As a deacon, i am called to serve, and by the grace of GOD will continue to do so as a presbyter. When an injustice is done, i will (and have been) one who is called to act.
I would welcome the MNYS Assembly and the CWA to also publically condemn Islamic extremeists, African dictators slaughtering hundreds of thousands, and for Coptic Christians who had their pigs slaughtered.
I do commend you and others Jim for public debate. And mercy
pax,
Bob
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 21, 2009, 02:10:00 PM
But Jim, i think I do get your point and still disagree. What was presented by the MNYS Assembly was a public act for public action by the Church (as She is refelected in the assembly of some 215 congregations). The original 'Krauser" resolution called for criminal prosecution of those involved. The Church was seeking then "satisfaction" and not I submit, forgiveness, reconciliation and mercy.
While "we" can and must stand up against those and those actions which harm others, "we" must always be first a voice of the Gospel.
When the ELCA enters into the public areana, as she must, she does so as "Church" and not, I submit a private/secular entity. Justice and mercy first and foremeost. "Justice" for the Church is absolution, offered in the Name of the Triune God. We cannot shout, "No Justice no Peace" or act in any way which may resemble such an understanding.
Last year the Assembly had a resolution concerning alledged police brutility in NYC placed before it for action. It too, contained language which in fact "judged" the actions of certain police officers when the criminal justice had already renederd a decision which found in favor of the police action. Thankfully, the 'resolved" were amended.
As a deacon, i am called to serve, and by the grace of GOD will continue to do so as a presbyter. When an injustice is done, i will (and have been) one who is called to act.
I would welcome the MNYS Assembly and the CWA to also publically condemn Islamic extremeists, African dictators slaughtering hundreds of thousands, and for Coptic Christians who had their pigs slaughtered.
I do commend you and others Jim for public debate. And mercy
pax,
Bob

The intent of my resolution was to call upon the proper authorities to fulfill their responsibilities to bring alleged criminals to justice.  If that is what you mean by "a public act for public action by the Church," yes it was.  But the church does that all the time as a "public church" (the new buzz term) addressing society, calling at times for government action to address various concerns:  health crises, poverty, social injustice, issues of education or environment, prayer in schools, the death penalty and the like.    The proposed resolution did not call upon the church to apply any of its discipline against the alleged torturers.  There was no call for anyone to be excommunicated or the like.  The original resolution was seeking civil action by civil authorities against alleged transgressors of civil law.  As the church, we may well offer them forgiveness, that does not mean we cannot and should not call for the conviction and incarceration of those who commit serious crimes as a community of faith.

Quote
I would welcome the MNYS Assembly and the CWA to also publically condemn Islamic extremeists, African dictators slaughtering hundreds of thousands, and for Coptic Christians who had their pigs slaughtered.

As vile and worthy of condemnation as the things you mention may be, our condemnation of them would probably have only a limited effect since those who did them are not accountable to us as foreign powers or agents.  In such cases, as with apartheid, we called upon others to join us in condemnation and actions (divestment, etc.) so that they may have an effect.  These are distinct and different from an address to our govenment which acts on our behalf and in our name, and which should and ought take note of petitions for redress from its citizens.  It would seem to me ever more urgent and appropriate for us to address petitions to them, who are at least morally accountable to "we the people."  Since the victims here are non-citizens and their "rights" to contest their detention and their treatment are, at best, in dispute, the orginial resolution was a call on behalf of those who for whatever reasons are essentially unable to call for justice on the own behalf.

In hindsight, for the sake of balance, the orginial resolution should probably have also clearly stated that those held by our government for alleged acts of terrorism, i.e. the subjects of the alleged torture (as well as others), should also be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for any crimes they may have committed.

Quote
"Justice" for the Church is absolution, offered in the Name of the Triune God.
I don't understand what you mean by this.  Yes, for their sins, torturers, for example, may be given absolution by the church.  How does that represent "justice" for them, and even more how does that represent "justice" for those who were tortured?  I don't see how absolution can be said to be granting "justiice";  mercy, forgiveness, pardon--yes.  But unmerited grace is not justice except in the understanding that without such grace there is no way to fulfill the law that always accuses us and finds us wanting.  That is the "righteousness of God."

What is your vision for the church's role vis-a-vis the secular law?  Can we only speak to civil law that offers aid, assistance or sustenance (that is law that grants favors but makes no demands)?  Is it improper for the church to press charges against someone who embezzles from it, testifies against someone who sexually abuses one of its members, advocate for civil marriage rights for gays and lesbians (apart from a determination whether or not the church should officiate as such rites), or publically discuss whether or not a given war may or may not be just?  Can the church speak within society of and/or to issues of civil law?  Whether or not the state and society will take these words to heart under our separation of church and state, I cannot say.  But certainly that fact alone should not prevent us from collectively and individually raising our voices in advocacy for a more just society.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: racin_jason on May 21, 2009, 05:59:10 PM
Festival of Homelitics is having their annual conference where I live  (http://www.goodpreacher.com/festival) I stopped by today, looking forward to hearing some good preaching, a good organ and hoping that I might even connect with some Lutherans, who are few-and-far between here in the South. 

I did hear some great preaching. I did connect with some Lutherans, including a very enjoyable lunch with three veterans of our profession (who all happened to be seminex grads and had some great stories about Fred Danker et al).

But I also was exposed to some putrid Litanies during worship.

I've never been big on litanies.  They tend to have a lot of "we" language, and I'm satisfied with reading the Psalm responsively. But this was way worse than trading "we" statements 8 times before the prayer of the day.

Check this out:
All: We show the seams, the cracks, the gaping ugly fissures of our living.
Voice 1: Dip the brushes of your spirit into the divine womb waters.

Another one:
Repairer of our breaks, you are our slip, the epoxy of our brokeness

And my favorite:
We sprint and dash and scamper in a maddened frenzy to find ourselves, until our spirits trickle and dribble.

Clergy conferences might be considered, for some at least, an occasion for attempting innovation in worship, I get that. I also get that this conference is primarily attended Methodists, and they seem more enamored by using a Litany or Call to Worship than most Lutherans are.

But having this type of thing foisted upon me made for a less-than-edifying worship experience. Could somebody put together some sort of litany-police, to monitor and weed-out this type of abuse? Some of you here advocate putting together a magisterium.  If a magisterium had the muscle to prevent such litanies, i might consider suporting getting one started.

Can somebody here explain to me what litanies are and how they function in worship?  There isn't a worship dictionary online or off that has given me a clear, satisfactory answer.   
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: vicarbob on May 22, 2009, 10:56:14 AM
Jim, "my" vision of the Church is of little consequence. The LORD has already commanded the vision, ...to Love the LORD our God and one another as He has first loved us". That is GOD's vision, that is GOD's determination, that is GOD's charge to His people, the Church.
The reality of our sinfullness causes us not to first embrace what the LORD commands, but to appropriate for ourselves "our" determinations, "our" values".
Yes, the CHURCH must always stand alongside and be guided by the holy Scriptures, continuelly being revealed by the Holy Spirit through unmerited grace. My "concern" is that when the Church speaks in the civil areana, the kingdom on the left, the world in which we live, we proclaim the Kingdom on the right......already and not yet. In doing so we must be consistant and that "consistancy" appears to be lacking. Abortion is reduced to a 'social statement", yet clearly GOD commands we shall not murder.....we ignore the LORD when it comes to divorce.
Why does the RCC and the EOC speak with "authority" while those of us in the ELCA are at best a page 55 commentary in the news media? Because we have abandoned the WORD of GOD and placed our own 'spins", which change quite frequently. No as the wind of the Spirit blows, but as 'our" sinfulness blinds us, at times.
I will and do stand in solidarity with those seeking "equal rights under the law", I will, by the grace of GOD ask His blessings upon sacred covendants vocied and lived by His children. is this 'inconsistant', i struggle daily. We all struggle daily and are empowered to act solely becasue of the Spirits call to action in service of one another.
I always am enlighted and challenged to consider and re-consider things as a result of your and others posting and i thank you for the opportunity to think ,reflect and pray upon all that has been offered.
pax,
Bob
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Weedon on May 23, 2009, 11:20:59 PM
Suggestion:  before talking of torture, I suggest we all watch this video:

http://www.persecution.tv/media/tfc/player.html

Pr. Richard Wurmbrand's testimony.  Might serve for a bit of perspective.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 24, 2009, 02:08:55 AM
Suggestion:  before talking of torture, I suggest we all watch this video:

http://www.persecution.tv/media/tfc/player.html

Pr. Richard Wurmbrand's testimony.  Might serve for a bit of perspective.


Let me add these excerpts from the essay:  A Survivor's View  of Tortue by Dianna Ortiz, OSU, printed inTorture Is a Moral Issue edited by George Hunsinger.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 2008.  Sr. Ortiz was tortured by members of the Guatamalan security forces when George H. W. Bush was president.

...I was asked by others, friends as well as strangers, not whether I was receiving any justice from my government but whether I had forgiven my torturers.  I wanted the turth.  I wanted justice.  They wanted me to forgive, so that they could move on.  I suppose, once I forgave, all would be well--for them.  Christianity, it seemed, was concerned with individual forgiveness, not social justice.... (p. 24)

      I lived in a world created by my torturers.  They had told me, as so many other tortured persons have been told, "Even if your survive what we have done to you and tell the world, no one will believe you.  No one will care."  That is the world I lived in:  No one cared.  No Law, no God, no justice, no peace, no hope.... (p. 24)

     Somehow we must find a way to convince the American people that to support torture, either actively or passively, repeats the brutality of the past.  It puts us in the company of the Stalins, the Hilters,the Pinochets, and the Argentine generals, who also found ethically comfortable reasons to torturing.
     Together let us live by the words of Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer:  "Thou shall not be a victim; Thou shalt not be a perpetrator; and Thou shall never, but never, be a bystander." (p. 26)


If we are not certain what it means to be "in solidarity" with those who have been tortured, it seems to me, these passages are a good place for our deliberation on that question to begin.

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 24, 2009, 12:40:36 PM
Let us stipulate, then, that those who engaged in waterboarding at GITMO should be punished out of a sense of secular justice. They should have known they were crossing the line even though they had no intent to torture, thought it was not torture, followed very strict safetly guidelines, and caused no lasting physical harm to anyone. Part of secular justice involves proportionality. What punishment should the interrogators get that would satisfy justice? And what punishment should the terrorists get? Because if trhey don't get the same magnitude-of-crime/magnitude-of-punishment ratio, then secualr justice has not done its duty. So what do we recommend would be fair?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Eric Swensson on May 24, 2009, 12:53:18 PM
I've been ignoring this for several reasons, but I do want to ask if all of this is about the "torture" of three people, or is this about some other torture?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Charles_Austin on May 24, 2009, 03:08:21 PM
Does it matter? The folks actually taking part in this discussion seem to be having a good time.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 24, 2009, 07:19:22 PM
Let us stipulate, then, that those who engaged in waterboarding at GITMO should be punished out of a sense of secular justice. They should have known they were crossing the line even though they had no intent to torture, thought it was not torture, followed very strict safetly guidelines, and caused no lasting physical harm to anyone. Part of secular justice involves proportionality. What punishment should the interrogators get that would satisfy justice? And what punishment should the terrorists get? Because if trhey don't get the same magnitude-of-crime/magnitude-of-punishment ratio, then secualr justice has not done its duty. So what do we recommend would be fair?

I've spoken to this before but is a disingenuous evasion to say that the people conducting the interrogations had no intention to torture.  To say that there was no intent to torture when using the technique of waterboarding is absolutely absurd!  What exactly was the intent?  To obtain information, yes--but what was the purpose of the waterboarding? It was a means to obtaining the information.  How does it presume to do that?  By subjecting the subject to a severe simulus designed to highten fear, terror, discomfort, anxiety, using psychological if not physical pain.  Sounds pretty close to the defintion of torture in the CAT to me.  To say there was no intent to torture in waterboarding is like saying I had no intent to rob the bank, the teller just gave me all the money in her cash drawer when I pointed my gun at her, I just happend to have it in my hand when I went to make a withdrawl.

I have no knowledge of what the legal consequences for participating in abuse of prisoners is.  I suppose if they gave evidence helpful to the prosecutors in building a case against those who gave the orders they might get consideration.
Maybe we should give a pass to the people who held the guy down and did the deed.  They were just following orders.  What about the people who gave the orders?  What about the people who OKed the policy? Should they get a pass too?  Your anger is mis-directed against those of us who think justice demands that those who were responsible for initiating the actions in the first place.  It would be better focused if it were directed against the boys at the top who set this sorry chapter in motion.  It is interesting that to this day, no one in the government has openly stated that it was their decision and that they gave the order; no one has taken responsibility.  Why do you suppose that is?  5th Amendment priviledge perhaps? 

NO one, not anyone I've talked to has said that proven terrorist should get anything but the fullest of what ever punishments the law provides for them.  Raising it here is a red herring.  But, now that you have, what is often overlooked here is that the use of coercive interrogations may so taint the cases against the alleged terrorists that it may be legally impossible to try and convict them of anything.  What will we say of this boneheaded, hamfisted, immoral policy when that happens? 

Because we arrest bad people who deserve prosecution and imprisonment, that doesn't mean we can commit crime of abuse (i.e. torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment) against them while they are in custody. 
Your question of what the prisioners get for their crimes has nothing to do with what punishments interrogators who violated our international commitments not to torture.

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 24, 2009, 07:29:38 PM
I've been ignoring this for several reasons, but I do want to ask if all of this is about the "torture" of three people, or is this about some other torture?

It's not about the torture of three people, per se.  It is about the use of torture in principle, as it seems to represent not only for many a clear violation of what we thought were our values, it also seems a fairly straightfoward violation of a reasonable reading of the CAT and a contradition of our governemnts assertion that the US does not torture.  What credibility or meaning does that declaration have if we authorize and justify this practice?

For that reason I''ve tried to keep us focused on waterboarding for the sake of clarity in the discussion.  If we cannot come to an agreement on something as specific as that, it doesn't seem likely that we will easily move though a discussion of things like hooding, stress positions, sleep deprivation and the like. 

For my own part, since you asked, it seems to me that we should, since we did sign=on to the UN CAT, make good on our agreement to prevent cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as well, about which our national scorecard doesn't seem too impressive either.

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 24, 2009, 08:36:50 PM
Jim, intent to torture is part of the definition of the word, and many people do unspeakable things with the intent to torture. That was not the case at Gitmo. Intent is a key legal consideration. If you pooh-pooh the definition of the word as a disingenuous evasion, then why all the zeal for the letter of law when it comes to punishment? If the dentist was hurting me, it makes all the difference if he was doing it to fix my teeth or doing it to vent his rage against girlfriend or because he hates pastors, or whatever. In books about torture, the prisoner doesn't get out of it by spilling the beans. They want you tortured, dehumanized, reduced to nothing. Again, that wasn't the case at Gitmo.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Eric Swensson on May 24, 2009, 10:43:44 PM
Jim, during eight years of war they "tortured" three people in waterboarding. That seems, well, miniscule. Isn't this blowing up of it into a national pastime just another symptom of "Bush Derangement Syndrome"? And why is this the business of Synod Assemblies? 

Eric
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Charles_Austin on May 24, 2009, 10:55:49 PM
So what is the permissible number of people who can be tortured before we are concerned? You say three isn't enough. Twelve? Twenty? Five Hundred? how many?
I'd say if we have a policy that allows us to torture one person, it's wrong.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 24, 2009, 11:26:02 PM
So what is the permissible number of people who can be tortured before we are concerned? You say three isn't enough. Twelve? Twenty? Five Hundred? how many?
I'd say if we have a policy that allows us to torture one person, it's wrong.
Me too. Now we need to define torture. The working definitions on the table all included the intent to torture as one of things that make it torture, sort of like the intent to murder is one of the things that makes it murder. But now those definitions have been discarded as mere evasions, so once again in agreeing with you that torture is wrong I would want to see a definition. Otherwise we're back to imprisoning the guy who shot the Victoria's Secret catalogue for distributing pornography to minors, since he obviously knew his stuff was pornographic and knew the ads were on display in the mall where minors hang out. That photographer might be a slimeball for all I know, but I don't want him accused or tried or found guilty until I see a definition of the law he violated. And I'll bet it includes intent to sexually arouse the viewer among other criteria. And I have the same sense about the interrogators. What can they do that isn't torture or otherwise immoral but does make people talk?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Michael Slusser on May 25, 2009, 12:13:24 AM
This weekend in Chicago I heard an excellent presentation by Professor Paul Blowers (Disciples of Christ, Emmanuel School of Religion) on pity and mercy, and how these clashed with Roman ideas.

When we are treating people without empathy or pity, without regard for God's extraordinary gracious love for them as manifested in Jesus Christ (who let us torture him), I think that what is going on is neither legitimate interrogation or punishment, but torture.

Peace,
Michael
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 25, 2009, 12:21:24 AM
So what is the permissible number of people who can be tortured before we are concerned? You say three isn't enough. Twelve? Twenty? Five Hundred? how many?
I'd say if we have a policy that allows us to torture one person, it's wrong.
Me too. Now we need to define torture. The working definitions on the table all included the intent to torture as one of things that make it torture, sort of like the intent to murder is one of the things that makes it murder. But now those definitions have been discarded as mere evasions, so once again in agreeing with you that torture is wrong I would want to see a definition. Otherwise we're back to imprisoning the guy who shot the Victoria's Secret catalogue for distributing pornography to minors, since he obviously knew his stuff was pornographic and knew the ads were on display in the mall where minors hang out. That photographer might be a slimeball for all I know, but I don't want him accused or tried or found guilty until I see a definition of the law he violated. And I'll bet it includes intent to sexually arouse the viewer among other criteria. And I have the same sense about the interrogators. What can they do that isn't torture or otherwise immoral but does make people talk?

Rubbish.  Felony murder is the crime charged when a death occurs within the commission of another felony.  Say two burglars are ransacking a house and is discovered by the owner.  A struggle ensues.  The owner receives a blow to the head and is killed at the hands of one of the intruders.  Both are charged with murder (not just the one who struck the blow but both), eventhough there was no intent to murder when they entered the house, perhaps not even when the fatal blow was struck. 

Quote
What can they do that isn't torture or otherwise immoral but does make people talk?

I can imagine that there are any number of things but laying hands upon the suspect and doing violence to them is excluded.  What is so difficult to grasp in that?

Quote
intent to torture is part of the definition of the word, and many people do unspeakable things with the intent to torture. That was not the case at Gitmo. Intent is a key legal consideration. If you pooh-pooh the definition of the word as a disingenuous evasion, then why all the zeal for the letter of law when it comes to punishment? If the dentist was hurting me, it makes all the difference if he was doing it to fix my teeth or doing it to vent his rage against girlfriend or because he hates pastors, or whatever. In books about torture, the prisoner doesn't get out of it by spilling the beans. They want you tortured, dehumanized, reduced to nothing. Again, that wasn't the case at Gitmo.

The CAT definition actually speaks to the intent:
  1. For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions. [/color=maroon]

The "intent" can indeed be and often is to "dehumanize" or "reduce to nothing" as you say; it may begin in a process of interrogation but get out of hand--that is why it is banned because it is so insidious and corrosive of the humanity not only of the victim but the perpetrator.  But it certainly seems clear in the convention that the understanding of torture is not limited to only acts done as vindictive punishments or purely for the purposes of degregation.

The convention also speaks of torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering...is intentionally inflicted...for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession."   
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: carlvehse on May 25, 2009, 12:30:54 PM
On Memorial Day, PowerlLine Blog has a discussion and some excerpts from a column by Col. Leo Thorsness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_K._Thorsness), who received a Medal of Honor for his aerial combat actions during a Vietnam War mission, and was later shot down in 1967 by the North Vienamese and tortured for 18 days and then periodically until his release in 1973.  The discussion link is Leo Thorsness: Torture thoughts on Memorial Day (http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2009/05/023640.php).  It also provides a link, among others, to another discussion of the book, Surviving Hell: A POW's Journey (http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2008/12/022359.php).   

Col. Thorsness states:

If someone surveyed the surviving Vietnam POWs, we would likely not agree on one definition of torture. In fact, we wouldn't agree if waterboarding is torture. For example, John McCain, Bud Day and I were recently together. Bud is one of the toughest and most tortured Vietnam POWs. John thinks waterboarding is torture; Bud and I believe it is harsh treatment, but not torture. Other POWs would have varying opinions. I don't claim to be right; we just disagree. But as someone who has been severely tortured over an extended time, my first hand view on torture is this:

Torture, when used by an expert, can produce useful, truthful information. I base that on my experience. I believe that during torture, there is a narrow "window of truth" as pain (often multiple kinds) is increased. Beyond that point, if torture increases, the person breaks, or dies if he continues to resist.


Someone with more expertise than Col. Thorsness may wish to comment on his views.
 
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Team Hesse on May 25, 2009, 01:23:30 PM
The convention also speaks of torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering...is intentionally inflicted...for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession." 

Torture, like beauty or love, lies in the eyes of the beholder, does it not?

What constitutes 'severe'?  What constitutes intentionality? 
I remember reading about a lockdown (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3942/is_200309/ai_n9269738) at an ELCA Youth Gathering to obtain a confession from some of the youth there over something someone said that offended somebody else.  Was that torture -- to be incarcerated against their will, although the vast majority were admittedly innocent ?  Indeed many had no idea what the infraction was that was causing their incarceration and were helpless to provide the answers being sought.  Did they suffer?  Did the ELCA torture these kids to try to get information in this  manner?

For someone who is claustrophobic, to sit in a small space is torture; to others, it's not.  Our grandson thinks he's being tortured if he's left in his crib to nap when he wants to be out.  Some would say to sit on the 11th floor at the Higgins Road center as the only "homophobe" on a task force could be considered torture.  What say you?

While there are some things that all would agree constitutes torture, where the line is on what exactly constitutes torture in any given situation is probably impossible to define.

Lou


Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 25, 2009, 02:36:06 PM
The convention also speaks of torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering...is intentionally inflicted...for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession." 

Torture, like beauty or love, lies in the eyes of the beholder, does it not?

What constitutes 'severe'?  What constitutes intentionality? 
I remember reading about a lockdown (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3942/is_200309/ai_n9269738) at an ELCA Youth Gathering to obtain a confession from some of the youth there over something someone said that offended somebody else.  Was that torture -- to be incarcerated against their will, although the vast majority were admittedly innocent ?  Indeed many had no idea what the infraction was that was causing their incarceration and were helpless to provide the answers being sought.  Did they suffer?  Did the ELCA torture these kids to try to get information in this  manner?

For someone who is claustrophobic, to sit in a small space is torture; to others, it's not.  Our grandson thinks he's being tortured if he's left in his crib to nap when he wants to be out.  Some would say to sit on the 11th floor at the Higgins Road center as the only "homophobe" on a task force could be considered torture.  What say you?

While there are some things that all would agree constitutes torture, where the line is on what exactly constitutes torture in any given situation is probably impossible to define.

Lou

There is nothing severe in the examples you suggest and IMHO they do not contribute but rather trivialize the discussion.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 25, 2009, 02:46:56 PM
On Memorial Day, PowerlLine Blog has a discussion and some excerpts from a column by Col. Leo Thorsness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_K._Thorsness), who received a Medal of Honor for his aerial combat actions during a Vietnam War mission, and was later shot down in 1967 by the North Vienamese and tortured for 18 days and then periodically until his release in 1973.  The discussion link is Leo Thorsness: Torture thoughts on Memorial Day (http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2009/05/023640.php).  It also provides a link, among others, to another discussion of the book, Surviving Hell: A POW's Journey (http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2008/12/022359.php).   

Col. Thorsness states:

If someone surveyed the surviving Vietnam POWs, we would likely not agree on one definition of torture. In fact, we wouldn't agree if waterboarding is torture. For example, John McCain, Bud Day and I were recently together. Bud is one of the toughest and most tortured Vietnam POWs. John thinks waterboarding is torture; Bud and I believe it is harsh treatment, but not torture. Other POWs would have varying opinions. I don't claim to be right; we just disagree. But as someone who has been severely tortured over an extended time, my first hand view on torture is this:

Torture, when used by an expert, can produce useful, truthful information. I base that on my experience. I believe that during torture, there is a narrow "window of truth" as pain (often multiple kinds) is increased. Beyond that point, if torture increases, the person breaks, or dies if he continues to resist.


Someone with more expertise than Col. Thorsness may wish to comment on his views.
 

Can someone explain to me why "harsh treatment" of captives would be OK?

And if harsh treatment is OK...exacltly how do we define that and how would we draw lines between that and torture?

The point of the CAT is that (severe) pain, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment is not appropriate.

Are we going to go down that path that splits hairs between what's harsh and what's cruel?

Let's just be honest, for those who offer such rationalizations.  You think to do these things to another human being can be justified.

To the Col. I would ask, "So you think it was appropriate that you were waterboarded?  The people who did so had perfect justification to do so and got the information they expected out of you?  It was a good thing?
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 25, 2009, 03:11:28 PM
To the Col. I would ask, "So you think it was appropriate that you were waterboarded?  The people who did so had perfect justification to do so and got the information they expected out of you?  It was a good thing.

This person has a different view than you (and has experienced a bit more than you have on this issue, I would think), and you question him in this way.  If he were on this board or, better yet, in the same room with you, would you really ask this question of him and put it as you have above?  Do you really think that his apprehension of what it means to be waterboarded is unnuanced or perfectly unproblematic, or that his position came about as a result of little deliberation, a matter of his glossing over his considerable real-world experience?

I guess your view of those with whom you stand in "solidarity" (which, best I can tell, means to "advocate for" and "listen to") doesn't extend to the Colonel, because you're ignoring and belittling his view, even as you earlier posted something about the need to listen to folks who have undergone these experiences.

I'm not quite sure where you find the right to do this (perhaps by achieving a sense of a superior moral position because you have declared yourself in "solidarity with" victims of torture [not actually experiencing what they experience, however]?), but it doesn't seem particularly respectful to the man nor consistent with your own stated views.

In any case, I bet the Colonel would probably have a response to your question that would be worth listening to, and for that reason, the question itself could be redeemed.

The discussion that would be worth hearing (not like the one on this thread which seems to me to be largely a matter of giving folks a chance to condemn others) would be between Colonel Thorsness, Bud Day and John McCain.  Now that would be instructive and beneficial.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 25, 2009, 09:03:42 PM
Just finished the lead article of the June issue of Commentary. I encourage anyone to go to www.commentarymagazine.com to check it out free. I'll try to link it below, but for some reason it won't let me cut and paste, so you might have to go to the main page and click on the article.

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/special-preview--the-gitmo-myth-and-the-torture-canard-15154

Of course, one of the leading intellectual publications in America might not be a credible source for some people, but I find it fairly persuasive, especially given what I know about the nature of propaganda.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Team Hesse on May 26, 2009, 09:47:55 AM
Let's just be honest, for those who offer such rationalizations.  You think to do these things to another human being can be justified.

Yeah, let's just be honest.
Everything this side of the eschaton falls short; nothing can be justified, except in Jesus Christ.  The problem with social justice zealots is that they get a bee in their bonnet that some particular 'injustice' needs to be obliterated.  The problem with that is, the only way to obliterate sin is to obliterate sinners.  I don't "support torture."  But there are all kind of things that torture people and unless you've walked in the shoes of those who have been tortured, you really can't "stand in solidarity" -- it all boils down to posture and hot air.  The justice advocacy of the ELCA really irritates me.  If one really wanted to show solidarity, one would go volunteer to take the place of the person who is going to be waterboarded.  When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were tossed in the fiery furnace, the Lord showed true solidarity with them -- he was there in the furnace.  You don't show solidarity by sitting in an air-conditioned room in Orlando bloviating about the injustice of it all...

My son-in-law got back a year ago from 2 tours of duty in Iraq.  I know he will live the rest of his life with questions and anxieties resulting from that experience.  Can I understand any of that?  Barely.  But I've read enough and heard enough to know that those things haunt people and influence their lives forever.  And the reality is, we're all haunted and influenced, and in some cases, tortured by things that have happened to us.

LMH
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: vicarbob on May 26, 2009, 10:09:03 AM
AMEN
And May the LORD continue to forgive those who sin......each and every one of us.
Good men and women will disagree and debate such issues and need to do so......however at the end of the day, it is the LORD who justifies, not assembly resoultions and 'whereas".
I would not go so far as to say that those who repeatedly author these resoultions are full of "hot air" but are faithful people raising questions and inviting discernment.
Any of us who listened to Pr Weedon's attachement of the Romanian pastor who was tortured for Christ can not ever be the same, IMHO. MNYSis sending two pastors to romania in september, GOD bless their ministry among those who have suffered such oppression.
One of the most moving experiences recalled by the good witness of the Gospel , was as he retold the story of the RCC "presiding" over a ritual set to mimic the Holy Eucharist, inthe most vial manner one could imagine. The pastor recalls that the priest placed his head on the shoulder of the pastor and made what I heard to be a 'confession of dispare". Whose shoulder was the priest resting upon....."en persona Christi".
At one posting I queried as to any Lutheran's experiencing the "appearance" of the BVM during times of trials. CHRIST Himself was with these prisoners of torture and when He is with us, no need to send Mom !
Pax,
Bob
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Iowegian on May 26, 2009, 10:56:19 AM
To the Col. I would ask, "So you think it was appropriate that you were waterboarded?  The people who did so had perfect justification to do so and got the information they expected out of you?  It was a good thing.

Probably more to the point, a better question for the Col. would be "If the shoe were on the other foot, just how long of a prison sentence would you have served?"
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: carlvehse on May 26, 2009, 11:55:48 AM
For ALPB Forum posters who like to ask presumptuous questions to Medal of Honor winners, Col. Thorsness has given his email address on the internet: lthorsness@earthlink.com

Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Scott6 on May 26, 2009, 11:59:30 AM
For ALPB Forum posters who like to ask presumptuous questions to Medal of Honor winners, Col. Thorsness has given his email address on the internet: lthorsness@earthlink.com

When you email him, I think that there's a number of us who would be interested in his responses.  So I would request that those who have questions they are addressing to him would share his responses with us here.  Thanks for the help.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 26, 2009, 01:05:19 PM
Let's just be honest, for those who offer such rationalizations.  You think to do these things to another human being can be justified.

Yeah, let's just be honest.
Everything this side of the eschaton falls short; nothing can be justified, except in Jesus Christ.  The problem with social justice zealots is that they get a bee in their bonnet that some particular 'injustice' needs to be obliterated.  The problem with that is, the only way to obliterate sin is to obliterate sinners. 

You are absolutely correct.  We cannot obliterate sin or injustice.  But we can and should call for the enforcement of laws designed to keep criminal acts and injustice in check.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: MaddogLutheran on May 26, 2009, 01:33:12 PM
Let's just be honest, for those who offer such rationalizations.  You think to do these things to another human being can be justified.

Yeah, let's just be honest.
Everything this side of the eschaton falls short; nothing can be justified, except in Jesus Christ.  The problem with social justice zealots is that they get a bee in their bonnet that some particular 'injustice' needs to be obliterated.  The problem with that is, the only way to obliterate sin is to obliterate sinners. 

You are absolutely correct.  We cannot obliterate sin or injustice.  But we can and should call for the enforcement of laws designed to keep criminal acts and injustice in check.
Which, taking you at your word, takes us back to the legal definition of torture.  Not just some moral "I know it when I see it" standard.  Stating the obvious, criminal acts and injustice often are two different things.  As has been pointed out upstream, quoting a treaty on torture is insufficient, as that only identifies a signatory nations responsibility, not the specific criminal law.  And in criminal law, there is the concept of criminal intent, but I'll leave that to lawyers, which brings me to...

My previous paragraph highlights something that again has been blurred in this thread, our responsibilities and authority with respect to the Two Kingdoms.  It seems to me, you are mixing the two, trying to apply a "What would Jesus do?" black/white right/wrong, to a matter of secular Left Kingdom law which is murky.  Murky in large part because the case law on torture in the U.S. is exceedingly thin, so that these "up to the edge" issues have not been settled.  As a Left Kindgom matter, from a Right Kingdom perspective of justice, it is wrong for people like you to pronounce, without a clear understanding of the law (such as it is) or the particular circumstances of specific people, that people are guilty of torture under civil law and therefore deserve punishment.  That is what I am hearing advocated by you in this thread, Pr. Krauser, and I'll go out on a limb that this is why Prs. Speckhardt and Yakimow have been hen-pecking you about such details that may seem to trivialize or dismiss the topic, when in fact it is just the opposite.  When one uses the Church's moral authority as a prop to call for a specific criminal investigatory outcome, by what appears to be the Church's standards and not what the law is at the time of the infraction, that is a bridge too far.  People may be guilty of torture under U.S. law, but it is not the Church's place to prejudge that based on our own moral outrage.

When this thread turned this direction before last weekend, this really started to bother me.  I've been mulling this over trying to come up with an adequate response (and managed to leave out the parallel with late-term partial birth abortion, for now).

Sterling Spatz
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 26, 2009, 01:41:56 PM
To the Col. I would ask, "So you think it was appropriate that you were waterboarded?  The people who did so had perfect justification to do so and got the information they expected out of you?  It was a good thing.

This person has a different view than you (and has experienced a bit more than you have on this issue, I would think), and you question him in this way.  If he were on this board or, better yet, in the same room with you, would you really ask this question of him and put it as you have above?  Do you really think that his apprehension of what it means to be waterboarded is unnuanced or perfectly unproblematic, or that his position came about as a result of little deliberation, a matter of his glossing over his considerable real-world experience?

I guess your view of those with whom you stand in "solidarity" (which, best I can tell, means to "advocate for" and "listen to") doesn't extend to the Colonel, because you're ignoring and belittling his view, even as you earlier posted something about the need to listen to folks who have undergone these experiences.

I'm not quite sure where you find the right to do this (perhaps by achieving a sense of a superior moral position because you have declared yourself in "solidarity with" victims of torture [not actually experiencing what they experience, however]?), but it doesn't seem particularly respectful to the man nor consistent with your own stated views.

In any case, I bet the Colonel would probably have a response to your question that would be worth listening to, and for that reason, the question itself could be redeemed.

The discussion that would be worth hearing (not like the one on this thread which seems to me to be largely a matter of giving folks a chance to condemn others) would be between Colonel Thorsness, Bud Day and John McCain.  Now that would be instructive and beneficial.

I will acknowledge the harshness of the questions.  But I find the Col.'s statements incomprehensible.  I find it incomprehensible that a person who was subjected to such treatment could advocate its use...which he does in the linked article.  Left out in the prior post was the place where he himself acknowledged that persons may differ in their conclusion as to whether waterboarding was torture.  He even admits he would be wrong.  I believe he is.

For the record, I would say that in waterboarding he was tortured, and that he should not have been waterboarded and that those who did it to him were (war) criminals.  Would that he could say the same.  What would you say?
 
I can have empathy for him for the waterboarding and the other abuses he suffered, some apparently worse, because in his remarks he does describe himself as having been tortured.   But if my questions about his position toward waterboarding seem indifferent to his own experience, it is because his judgment about it seems relatively indifferent, or at least that was the impression by the post which referenced it---harsh, but not torture.  He may have been strong enough to withstand it and didn't "crack" under its effect.   If that is the case he was heroic and brave beyond imagining.  Unfortunately for him, that probably meant the application of techniques even worse, because for his interrogators there were no boundaries they could not cross.  Our purpose in calling for and supporting laws against such practices is to make it clear that there are boundaries and that those who cross them will be held accountable for the actions, if and when the day comes when they no longer have the upper hand. 

I would hope the Col. would expect his interrogators to be prosecuted if they could be found.  Surely, it shouldn't be simply dismissed as "one of those things that happens in war."

Most striking I find this section from the linked article:
Everyone has a different physical and mental threshold of pain that he can tolerate. If the interrogator is well trained he can identify when that point is reached - the point when if slightly more pain is inflicted, a person no longer can "hold out," just giving (following the Geneva Convention) name, rank, serial number and date of birth. At that precise point, a very narrow torture "window of truth" exists. At that moment a person may give useful or truthful information to stop the pain. As slightly more pain is applied, the person "loses it" and will say anything he thinks will stop the torture - any lie, any story, and any random words or sounds

This torture "window of truth" is theory to some. Having been there, it is fact to me. While in torture I had the sickening feeling deep within my soul that maybe I would tell the truth as that horrendous pain increased. It is unpleasant, but I can still dredge up the memory of that window of truth feeling as the pain level intensified.
 

The laws and conventions against torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment exist because a civilized society rejects the notion that pain should willfully be inflicted on defenseless persons (captives) for such purposes.  That there are those in this world who will not acknowledge or accept those principles does not make them (the principles) wrong.  To license them because the enemy uses them is a bargain with the devil, an attempt to cast out Satan by Satan.  I can see no reason why Christians should endorse or approve of such practices.

Col. Thorsness also says this:

Our world is not completely good or evil. To proclaim we will never use any form of enhanced interrogations causes our friends to think we are naïve and eases our enemies' recruitment of radical terrorists to plot attacks on innocent kids, men and women - or any infidel. If I were to catch a "mad bomber" running away from an explosive I would not hesitate a second to use "enhanced interrogation," including waterboarding, if it would save lives of innocent people.  

When he says "To proclaim we will never use any form of enhanced interrogations causes our friends to think we are naïve" does he mean our friends who have also signed the UN CAT and have enacted laws against "torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment"?  Or does he mean the repressive dictatorships for whom we provided training and instruction in techniques of "enhanced interrogation" in the last several decades?  Which group do you want for friends?

Curiously the final quotation from Col. Thorsness is this "Publicizing our enhanced interrogation techniques only emboldens those who will hurt us."

I don't understand.  He says that proclaiming that we will never use any form of enhances interrogations" is detrimental.  Publicizing our enhanced interrogation techniques is also detrimental.  Huh?  If he means specific techniques, I doubt there are many surprises on that score, after all isn't one of the main arguments is that the enemy uses such methods also?  And how is it that it would embolden them?  Because they would be incensed at our actions?  Hmmm.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Jim_Krauser on May 26, 2009, 01:54:25 PM
Let's just be honest, for those who offer such rationalizations.  You think to do these things to another human being can be justified.

Yeah, let's just be honest.
Everything this side of the eschaton falls short; nothing can be justified, except in Jesus Christ.  The problem with social justice zealots is that they get a bee in their bonnet that some particular 'injustice' needs to be obliterated.  The problem with that is, the only way to obliterate sin is to obliterate sinners. 

You are absolutely correct.  We cannot obliterate sin or injustice.  But we can and should call for the enforcement of laws designed to keep criminal acts and injustice in check.
Which, taking you at your word, takes us back to the legal definition of torture.  Not just some moral "I know it when I see it" standard.  Stating the obvious, criminal acts and injustice often are two different things.  As has been pointed out upstream, quoting a treaty on torture is insufficient, as that only identifies a signatory nations responsibility, not the specific criminal law.  And in criminal law, there is the concept of criminal intent, but I'll leave that to lawyers, which brings me to...

My previous paragraph highlights something that again has been blurred in this thread, our responsibilities and authority with respect to the Two Kingdoms.  It seems to me, you are mixing the two, trying to apply a "What would Jesus do?" black/white right/wrong, to a matter of secular Left Kingdom law which is murky.  Murky in large part because the case law on torture in the U.S. is exceedingly thin, so that these "up to the edge" issues have not been settled.  As a Left Kindgom matter, from a Right Kingdom perspective of justice, it is wrong for people like you to pronounce, without a clear understanding of the law (such as it is) or the particular circumstances of specific people, that people are guilty of torture under civil law and therefore deserve punishment.  That is what I am hearing advocated by you in this thread, Pr. Krauser, and I'll go out on a limb that this is why Prs. Speckhardt and Yakimow have been hen-pecking you about such details that may seem to trivialize or dismiss the topic, when in fact it is just the opposite.  When one uses the Church's moral authority as a prop to call for a specific criminal investigatory outcome, by what appears to be the Church's standards and not what the law is at the time of the infraction, that is a bridge too far.  People may be guilty of torture under U.S. law, but it is not the Church's place to prejudge that based on our own moral outrage.

When this thread turned this direction before last weekend, this really started to bother me.  I've been mulling this over trying to come up with an adequate response (and managed to leave out the parallel with late-term partial birth abortion, for now).

Sterling Spatz

I have feelings about the outcome, as almost any observer does when one hears a report of an arrest or indictment.  But I am not the judge nor jury.  Case law is thin, thankfully, because until now there have not been many instances of reported conduct that raises the question as to whether our laws or treaties have been violated in this area.  My call is not for the outcome, but for the process.  I want the lawfulness of this policy to be arbitrated by a neutral court to acertain the facts and the verdict of the law.  To date the legal definition of torture has been simply that of the previous administration to itself.  I believe it is fair to call for the legal system to rule as to whether the self-critiquing judgment of the previous administration was correct or in grave error.

As I said before, I don't believe I'm confusing the kingdoms.  I'm not asking the courts to measure our government's conduct by the standard of "what would Jesus do," but to judge the actions of our policy makers and its implementing agents against that of a good faith reading of the law and treaty obligations of our nation.  But as a Christian citizen, I may use that "what would Jesus [have us] do" standard in advocating what our policy should be.
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Michael Slusser on June 03, 2009, 02:07:55 PM
Who would have thought to find waterboarding in the Bible (though no doctor was around to revive Benhadad by CPR or use of a defibrillator)? "But on the morrow he took the coverlet and dipped it in water and spread it over his face, till he died. And Haz'ael became king in his stead." (2 Kings 8.15).

Peace,
Michael
Title: Re: Support for torture?
Post by: Richard Kidd, STS on June 03, 2009, 03:45:33 PM
Who would have thought to find waterboarding in the Bible (though no doctor was around to revive Benhadad by CPR or use of a defibrillator)? "But on the morrow he took the coverlet and dipped it in water and spread it over his face, till he died. And Haz'ael became king in his stead." (2 Kings 8.15).

Peace,
Michael

Good one Michael. I wonder if that was one of the verses that Rumsfield put in the documents to George Bush to justify the War and torture?
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-bible25-2009may25,0,163380.story ???