Enhanced Interrogation is Torture.

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto is a policy analyst and part-time dungeon master. When not talking endlessly about matters of public policy, he is a dungeon master on the NWN World of Avlis

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36 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon says:

    So what?

    If no one in gov’t is willing to indict and prosecute, it doesn’t matter.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      That is a problem, but it’s not the whole issue. Being upfront and public about this makes it harder for a country to sweep things under the rug, pretend it never happened, and then do it again. Consider the Truth and Reconciliation approach in South Africa–they exposed the bad behavior and crimes, but primarily to expose it, not to indict, convict, and punish people. In so doing they minimized the lingering resentments of either side. Not that I don’t think Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, at least, should have been punished, but this is at least a quarter loaf rather than no loaf.

      And this report will be referenced in just about every historian’s and political scientist’s assessment of the BushII presidency. It’s what history will remember, and while that may not be sufficient, it does matter.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        Do you teach national security policy at all?

        This report is REALLY nicely done, and has a very nice step by step chronology starting with Clinton.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          No. I’ve seriously considered doing such a course, or one focusing on Intelligence, but I simply can’t fit it into my schedule or commit the prep time to it. It’s a “maybe 10 years from now” thing. But I do intend to read the report, and may assign it, or at least portions, when (if, actually) I teach Presidency again, since much of my presidency course is focused on the consequences of the increase in presidential power attendant to the combination of the primary system and the rise of the national security state.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I’m not that familiar with the Constitution Project. Do they have that kind of credibility?Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Yes. They’ve enlisted high profile people, including former politicians, and they remain carefully bipartisan. Their constituency, so to speak, is the rule of law. The appropriate scholars take them seriously, and will take this report seriously (they’re nearly all primed to believe it from the get-go anyway) and cite it. At least that’s my reasonably educated prediction.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          They’re pretty much the most active rule of law related think tank/study group in DC and by far the most non-partisan. They’ve worked with a wide variety of people ranging across the ideological spectrum when filing Amici briefs in national security cases. They’re not perhaps as controversial or public as say the ACLU or Cato, but they’ve worked with both and they’re quite good at their jobs.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        You’re correct James, but let’s get down to brass tacks.

        You really think it will be harder for the US to do it again? I’m calling BS on that. How many times have we found out about stuff the gov’t has done years later and then we allow it to happen again?

        If there is no punishment for the deed, there is little deterence. Oh, and you should include Obama in your last comments. He’s just as guilty as all the rest, if only for his failure to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Damon,

          You’re correct that I should include Obama.

          But you’re not wholly correct in saying there’s no punishment. High profile people hate being publicly denigrated, and every president is deeply concerned about his place in history. It’s not sufficient punishment, but to say it’s not punishment at all is to ignore the actual costs, and the perspective of future presidents considering how such actions will affect them.

          Imprisonment and fines aren’t the only way to punish people. I assume you’re not married, or you’d know that! (Just joking, friend.)Report

          • Avatar George Turner says:

            Public denigration is the punishment we usually reserve for anyone who runs for office, but since every election produces a fresh crop of volunteers, I question its utility as a deterrent.

            In contrast, when Vlad the Impaler ass-piked 20,000 Ottoman soldiers it had a profound effect and helped save Europe. Did it stain his reputation in the history books? Certainly. But whereas many politicians would volunteer to go back and fight Hitler, precious few would dare lead forces against Count Dracula. He still inspires fear.Report

            • Avatar Barry says:

              “In contrast, when Vlad the Impaler ass-piked 20,000 Ottoman soldiers it had a profound effect and helped save Europe. Did it stain his reputation in the history books? Certainly. But whereas many politicians would volunteer to go back and fight Hitler, precious few would dare lead forces against Count Dracula. He still inspires fear.”

              Do you have a point which is any way, shape or form relevant to the modern world?Report

              • Avatar Wardsmith says:

                Let’s all buy the nice fellow(s) who bombed the finish line at the Boston Marathon a lovely latte and ask him nicely if he has any friends out there conspiring to do the same at the next major public event shall we?Report

              • Avatar Barry says:

                And WTF does that have to do with anything?

                I think that my argument has been made quite nicely, since the torture fans can’t come up with arguments worth a rat’s *ss.Report

          • Avatar Damon says:

            James,

            I’ve been married so I know what you mean 🙂 Perhaps it’s a matter of degree. Some “social” condemnation or a few drops in a politician’s favorability rating is not enough. Oh the horrors! The only thing that has any real lasting impact and serves as a deterrent is incaration, fines, or a needle.

            And what about all the unnamed supporters who wrote the legal opinions, implement the policies etc. They aren’t, for the most part, public, so the public thinking poorly of them really isn’t a big deal. Now, perhaps, public shaming of these underlings MIGHT be sufficient if they were universally shunned…..Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              And the ones that are well-known keep their tenure, get assigned required courses so students can’t shun them, and become right-wing celebrities.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Since those particular guys are not directly on the tax payer payroll, I’ll take a pass on them, only noting that what’s good for one side is good for the other.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                But they were the ones who substantially wrote the legal opinions that allowed such behavior…

                And then there’s people like Jay Bybee who are now freaking appeals court judges, ugh.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                John Yoo was on the taxpayer payroll at the time and still is.Report

        • Avatar Barry says:

          “You really think it will be harder for the US to do it again? I’m calling BS on that. How many times have we found out about stuff the gov’t has done years later and then we allow it to happen again?”

          The more we ignore it, the easier it will be to do it again.Report

  2. Avatar Russell M says:

    this is not really a surprise. and crazy glad this is in the public record as respectable serious people telling the truth we all know and some(at times most) of us try to bury. my self included because i don’t want to think my america tortures.Report

  3. Avatar Dave says:

    There’s not a lot I can say, but there’s a lot for me to read. I read a lot on this subject circa 2005-2007 and understood the case law quite well. I remember reading the OLC memos that redacted some of the Bush Administration’s more obnoxious legal positions. I shake my head to this day.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      What’s your view on the imperative to prosecute and the failure to respond to it? Mine is that it can’t really be denied, but that those who (not wrongly) make a practice of stressing Obama’s failure in this regard tend to completely pass over the short-and-medium-term disruptions, both political and also for government functionality, that a full legal accounting for these acts would have likely brought about. This is not to excuse the failure, but just to say that the discussion around it has been incomplete (in part necessarily, because those considerations are of course speculative and deniable).Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Well yes. Essentially whatever politician decides (and has the power to) try and bring this mess to full accountability will find their entire career consumed by it. Either it’ll take their entire career and their full term(s) to bring it to light and punish the offenders (if they succeed) or it’ll end their career (if they fail).

        It’s not surprising that Obama chose not to go down this hard unrewarding path. It’s probably a pity he didn’t but it’s not surprising and now that he’s laid down in it the smell of it is on him too.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          That’s fine, but what if I don’t care how it affects Barack Obama or his legacy, but how it affects (or would have affected) our polity, politics, and the functionality of our government? Again, I’m not saying whatever effect that is outweighs the need to have legal accountability for illegal acts of this magnitude. I’m just saying the whole question of these effects tends to get tossed aside by those who really want to stress the import of that failure.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Yes I agree. What it boils down to is Obama could have had a national scandal over torture for the past 4-5 years or he could have accomplished what he accomplished over the past 4-5 years.

            Now I mean obviously for libertarians and civil libertarians that sounds like win-win but for liberals it sounds like a pretty lousy deal. Especially considering that if he’d spent his first four years up to his ears in this mess he’d have probably been a one term president.

            But for the nation, I dunno if I can say with certainty what would be better for it in the long term. Obama certainly hasn’t done anything that’d strike terror into the hearts of future politicians facing the choices Bush Minor and his clique faced.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              Y’all have, I suppose read the report, right?

              From a cultural point of view the Obama Administration does seem to have done a decent job of taking torture of the to-do list of the institutions responsible for intelligence collection. Whether or not this will have a decent effect on disarming the torture enablers in the media and politics is debateable, but from an institutional pov there’s a real reluctance to engage in that behavior again.

              I guess the question is: Would prosecution have actually worked or would it have simply done the extra mile of embedding torture as part of the Republican platform even further than it is now? There’s always been a strain of torture being justified even in law enforcement for the sake of obtaining confessions and “nailing the bad guys” and I’m not sure if a four year circus where Bush and Co. were essentially villified on one hand as war criminals and martyred on the other as brave defenders of patriotic blahblahblahism would have been a good outcome.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                These are members of the species of question I’m saying should be discussed. I ultimately come down with the view that at the end of the day there’s nothing that can replace criminal prosecution by the state as a deterrent to future similar offenses. But I very much agree that the costs of that course in this case would have been real, and discussion of them by advocates has been perfunctory at most. (Open to corrective citation as to that last impression.)Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Yeah what MD said.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I’d add, though, that even on this question, there is diversity of opinion about what approach would be/have been best among those who think that not enough was done to establish deterrence and accountability, viz.:

                http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2013/04/16/how-do-we-keep-from-torturing-again/?hpid=z3

                So in addition to there being costs to the prosecution path that were underdiscussed, or the discussion of which tended to be delegitimized by accountability advocates by being cast as nothing but a distracting, illegitimate obstacle to real accountability (i.e. prosecution), it’s also not the case that there is/was a binary choice between prosecution and no accountability at all.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Maybe, I’d like to think that if Obama had actually hauled the reality of what Bush and Co did blinking and shivering naked into the open that the electorate would have rejected it, and Bush, and anyone who defended him (and, let us not forget, likely a non-trivial segment of the Democratic Party leadership that Bush got to at least tacitly go along with it).

                Granted as a policy matter Obama has ended torture and put in some mild reluctance to get back into it. But nothing would chill future politicians like the honest to God(ess?) thought of being prosecuted or handed over to the Hague or who knows what else for allowing torture. Compared to that Obama’s changes, while important, are somewhat milquetoast.

                But I don’t doubt for a second that battle would have been all consuming and far from forgone. The GOP would have been fighting for their lives, if they lost that fight it might potentially have destroyed their party. They wouldn’t have held back.

                And considering Obama’s …. mmm shall we say fighting record… perhaps he was wise to avoid that battle.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                As a practical matter, there’s an entire political party that considers torture to be an acceptable method of treating terrorists, who ran a presidential candidate with a professed desire to “Double Gitmo” just last year, and as a practical matter despises people without American citizenship, as evidenced by the excessive focus on citizenship based rights seen by the likes of Rand Paul and even Ted Cruz. These folks are then backed by a media that hates using the word “torture” for anything done by the American government, and will go to great lengths to avoid its use in reporting debates about enhanced interrogation techniques.

                That is to say, I don’t think the American people would have overwhelmingly rejected it, any more than they seem to recoil at police brutality against say Occupy protesters or warrantless surveillance.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                There’s a big difference between the GOP defending the vague nonsense they defend now and the GOP defending the explicit and clearly shown reality of what they actually authorized. I do think even their own base would quail at it.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Have you read the sort of things that Vince Flynn or whatever his name is and the other second/third generation “technothriller” guys like to write? That’s like red meat neocon republicanism and they explicitly love torture. So too do the 24 fanatics.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                And I should say they love these things not because it’s fiction, but in spite of it.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I haven’t, but I do believe, perhaps erroniously, that if not the GOP base then the center of the electorate would balk if all the gauzy fog produced by the classified redacted hidden top secret crap was pulled back off of what Bish Minor did.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Would just like to open this question back up to Dave if he would like to weigh in – I was interested to get his thoughts if he wants to share them at all.Report