Torture Fatigue

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28 Responses

  1. Avatar mark says:

    The whole thing is completely unthinkable. I was brought up to understand that the reason the US was a different country, a good country, and successful where others failed was exactly that we did NOT spy on our own citizens, have secret jails, torture prisoners, etc. Those were the things that made us the good country we were. Admittedly, I was taught those things 40 years ago. Now the methods and the justification given for them (national security) are exactly those given by the USSR back in those days.Report

  2. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I think the more important point is:
    1. How do you convince them that the detainees being tortured are “people” per se that are equal in standing and rights as Americans. (This seems to be the essential point of “oh they’re only foreigners.”)
    2. How do you convince these people that what they’re advocating IS torture. (Aside from of course, strapping them to a table and waterboarding them.)Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      We’re going to have to see a videotape of “them” doing it to American Soldiers posted to the web.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        They’ll claim there was some difference.

        I don’t know, “we” use mineral water that can’t possibly harm them while “they” used unfiltered water on American soldiers and thus they’re morally culpable.

        Or that Jack Bauer does it one way (“our” way) and the terrorist way is wrong or something like that.

        There’s plenty of ways to segregate behavior based on preconceived notions.Report

    • Avatar Zach says:

      “Aside from of course, strapping them to a table and waterboarding them.”

      I suspect that there are going to be a slew of pro-waterboarding campaign ads this cycle. Any candidate running up against that should challenge their opponent to go through a week of SERE training… say that they’ll pay for the consultant or whatever.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        I’m sure they’d find some way of turning that into a pro-torture meme. I have no faith in the public’s ability to call a rat a rat anymore.Report

      • Avatar Zach says:

        It’s also worth noting that torture isn’t banned because it’s horrible. It’s banned because torturing to exact a tactical advantage is even more horrible. That’s why commanders are charged with war crimes and not the people who actually go about with the torturing.Report

  3. Avatar Zach says:

    As far as we know, torture did stop after it became public. That’s the best evidence of Cheney, Thiessen, etc’s cowardice. They didn’t have the balls to continue their blatantly illegal program of torture, illegal detention, kangaroo prosecutions, etc. They could’ve sped up the legal process to try and get judicial approval of their twisted view of the law. They didn’t. They could’ve ignored court orders. They didn’t. They could’ve tried to keep everything secret. They didn’t. There was plenty of time to get military commissions set up and actually try detainees, yet it rarely happened.

    So, now they’re saying Obama is letting the terrorists win because the clock’s finally run out on being able to do things illegally.

    The worst example is probably Binyam Mohammed (the British detainee who was released in February 2009). The Bush administration was ordered by a District Court to turn over evidence to back up their habeas case. They didn’t, and instead started up the process of releasing him to Britain. He informed his lawyer that he was headed home at the end of 2008, and news of this was leaked on the very last working day of the Bush administration (lost in the inauguration shuffle). Last week, Thiessen had the gall to say it’s Obama’s fault that Mohammed is walking free today and spouting anti-American propaganda.Report

    • Avatar David Schaengold says:

      Yes, true. What I meant was that I was assuming torture would stop and there would be no chance of its return. This doesn’t seem to the be the case now. Added “for good” in the first paragraph to clarify that.Report

  4. Avatar Silus Grok says:

    I agree 100% with the post — and am completely bewildered by the path we’ve taken as a country.

    But I find it odd / poetic / foreboding / ironic that you’d reference Roe vs Wade in the post. I hope I’m not alone in finding it such, that the party that will stand on its head for “the right to life” for the unborn can throw sanctity of life to the wolves when it’s in the name of “security”. Yes, I know the arguments. I just find them uninspired and uninspiring.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Does the diagnosis that the battle is fundamentally lost rest solely on the lack of a public consensus on the question, or is does it presume that because that consensus hasn’t been achieved, we can therefore assume that when power is turned back to the party of torture the regime will be resumed? I can understand the latter, as criminal investigations, which have been avoided thus far, are the only way to deter recidivism. But if the definition of having lost is just not having run the table in the public discourse, I think that is a likely self-defeating standard as a vocal minority merely has to persist in any form to inflict such defeat. Even so I think it is too early to despair of the possibility of such a victory.Report

    • Avatar David Schaengold says:

      I did indeed mean the latter. Just as we can expect the Democrats and Republicans revoke and reapply the Mexico City Policy, we seem to be reaching a point where torture will disappear and reappear with election cycles.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        I would say the biggest problem here is that it’s only a matter of if, not when there will be another relatively large terrorist attack on US soil from someone.

        I suppose the question will be: who is in power at the time and are they torturing?

        I’m concerned that if it’s the Democrats and the answer is no, that the pendulum would swing irrevocably to the other side.Report

        • Avatar David Schaengold says:

          I think you’re right. The right made a concerted if ultimately unsuccessful attempt to make hay of Ft. Hood and the Underwear Bomber by chalking them up to Obama’s “weakness.” I can imagine that this tactic would prove much more successful in the wake of a large attack.Report

  6. We just posted on a similar topic (but exploring the interplay between torture, civil rights, and even racism).


  7. Avatar North says:

    Well certainly part of the fault lies with Obama. When he was sworn in he pretty much had a choice; he could spend at least his first term trying to uproot and destroy the Bush torture policy or he could any of the other things he considered important. We need to recognize that had he actually gone after the torture regime the Republicans would have risen in frenetic revolt because if they lost that fight they’d be devastated. Watergate would have been nuthin compared to this.

    Obama in his above and beyond it all way appears to have decided to try and ignore the issue and do other stuff. I don’t like it but that appears to be what he’s decided on. Lets face it also, the public really isn’t clamoring for him to investigate. No, it looks like the populace would really rather not know. The small part that actually cares about the issue passionately of course is in favor of torture.

    Still, who knows, maybe Obama is just gathering the pieces together for one huge broadside on it. Holder has been kind of ambigous on the whole mess.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      My assumption is that he wants to keep that card in his hand.

      Just in case.

      After all, what if there’s a ticking time bomb…?Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Maybe, but I think that if he wanted to preserve torture as an option he’d be tamping down harder on all the leaks and investigations that’s going on in DoJ.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Torture prosecutions, interestingly enough are something the executive branch can probably do without congressional approval…

      Not that I’m saying it’d be something to drag out if the congressional majorities get so thin as to not even have a chance of passing, but just saying…Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Quite so, but you can rest assured that if the lid ever comes off of the barrels on the torture issue that all other business in DC will come to a halt until it’s hashed out.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          If you have four years…and probably one year to get legislative stuff done…why not save the executive stuff till you can dispense with congressional support?Report

          • Avatar North says:

            I’m with you there practically speaking Nob. Is it possible that Obama is essentially sitting on the issue until he’s gotten what he can out of congress and then he’ll deal with the torture issue on the down slope of his term? Absolutely. In some ways it’d be highly practical. That said he has displayed an almost ridiculous fetish for avoiding confrontation and avoiding putting himself down on one side of a position and then fighting for it. I suspect/fear he might just be a serial compromiser.Report

  8. Avatar steve says:

    Nob nails it. Torture prosecutions would have stopped everything else.

    I agree with your general post. I am dismayed that Republicans have become the torture party. They once had a leader who said something like, “military necessity does not admit of cruelty.” Besides the moral issue, it is a loser on the pragmatics. Petraeus has consistently embraced a values approach, as have most COIN people. Torture is couterproductive in these long term, asymmetrical conflicts.


  9. Avatar Rufus says:

    I’m starting to wonder if some of this isn’t driven by a need to maintain some sort of political advantage over the Democrats. Certainly the argument has always been that Democrats are weak when it comes to war and so, if they’re in charge of a war, they’ll surrender and have the Taliban over for tea. But the reality seems to me to be that, no matter who’s in charge, they’re going to do roughly the same thing, which amounts to taking the advice of the joint chiefs of staff. So, maybe the GOP sees this as one area in the War on Terror in which they can distinguish themselves and keep arguing the Democrats are “weak”.

    Admittedly, though, I find the fact that we’ve gone from people arguing: “Torture is wrong and we should only use it in the most extreme situations!” to arguing: “They’ve just arrested some kid with bombs and they haven’t tortured him yet?!” to be, well, completely insane.Report