Author Topic: Support for torture?  (Read 21544 times)

Harvey_Mozolak

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #30 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
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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #31 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
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edoughty

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #32 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

pterandon

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #33 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.


DCharlton

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #34 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. 
« Last Edit: May 06, 2009, 10:10:05 AM by DCharlton »
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peter_speckhard

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #35 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.   

Iowegian

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #36 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.

DCharlton

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #37 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
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Iowegian

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #38 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.

DCharlton

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #39 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
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Michael Slusser

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #40 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
« Last Edit: May 06, 2009, 10:46:18 AM by Michael Slusser »
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Pr. Jerry Kliner

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #41 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

Pr. Jerry Kliner

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #42 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

Team Hesse

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #43 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

jpetty

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #44 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.