Christopher Hitchens waterboards himself

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134 Responses to “Christopher Hitchens waterboards himself”

  1. FoetusNail says:

    Thanks, you all seem very interesting. I’m an middle-aged boomer with very young kids who finds this all very alien. I was a machine builder and artist, and usually worked in field service or R&D, so BB is right up my alley, though I’m obviously naive as to the workings of these sites.

    • Antinous says:

      Contrary to popular belief, at least half the really regular commenters are 50 or older. And moderation is usually a little smoother, but we’ve had more than double the usual number of comments over the last two days.

  2. FoetusNail says:

    BTW GARYB50, how does this nano sized sample confirm, or disprove, the percentage of Americans that approve of torturing terrorists? This is a country of poorly educated people with little knowledge of their own history. Furthermore, they do not appear to have any desire to learn anything about the rest of the world. Americans are also, in my view, predominately religious fanatics little different from their Jewish or Muslim counterparts. Since generally two-thirds of Americans support the death penalty it would not suprise me they also support torture. We are conditioned by our entertainment to accept beating it out of them to save the day. If it works in movies and television it must work in real life. Right?

  3. Anonymous says:

    We didn’t need Hitchen to do this. If waterboarding were not effective the US and other countries with the same approach to torture wouldn’t use it.
    Simple logic: waterboarding = effective means waterboarding = torture.

    Why else would we do it in the first place?

  4. garyb50 says:

    FOETUSNAIL: OK, I accept that. But I maintain he (Hitchens) has not changed his position Vis A Vis Iraq, the war on terror or any of our Mideast debacle. The only thing he has changed his views on is that waterboarding is torture. Something I knew all along. Something some people in this thread don’t care one bit about. 55% of our fellow ‘citizens’ are in favor of torturing terrorists – and as FLAMINGPHONEBOOK has asserted over and over you don’t even have to be a terrorist ! ! !

    FLAMINGPHONEBOOK would say: Why Not Torture Everyone?

  5. proto says:

    It’s impressive that he did this, even with the magic hand-signal escape. But it would have been more useful to find out what he’d be willing to say to make it stop.

    Could Hitchens be induced to speak some secret truth? Would he just say anything to make it stop? Would the ‘administrators’ of the technique then even believe him? Would they then drop the technique if it proved unreliable?

    These are the important questions, and it would be interesting to find out — but I don’t want to. I don’t want to be the country that does this, and I’m disappointed and a little stunned that we even have this conversation.

  6. FoetusNail says:

    I would have never suspected that either. Yes, that was bizarre; though as I really have no frame of reference I had no opinion as to the smoothness, or not, of the moderation. I did not read much of what I assume to be your record breaking thread. Once again, thanks for taking the time to respond, it puts a human touch on what to often seems so disembodied.

  7. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Foetusnail (73), I’m looking at the backstage side of this thread, and I can’t see any sign that an earlier comment of yours was censored, moderated, disemvowelled, or anything else. You were briefly censured, out front here, but that’s about it.

    Have I misunderstood you, or should I keep looking for a technical glitch?

    I do understand your frustration with Flaming Phonebook. His foot shall slide in due time.

    Proto @26:

    It’s impressive that he did this, even with the magic hand-signal escape. But it would have been more useful to find out what he’d be willing to say to make it stop.

    That’s a question with a known answer: he’d be willing to say anything, and it wouldn’t take long to get him there. An equally important point: he would, just as quickly, develop a nearly supernatural ability to figure out what his interrogators wanted to hear, and give it to them.

    This is why no one who knows from real intelligence-gathering operations has any use for testimony extorted via torture, and no respect for torture enthusiasts.

    Where do people get this belief that torture is efficacious? From Hollywood, that’s where. Any time you hear people talk about torture in terms of “scenarios,” they’re talking about movies.

    Torture is a scriptwriters’ plot device. It enables you to condense what would otherwise be a lot of exposition into a little handwaving: “We’ve caught the guy who knows where the bomb is hidden, and the clock is ticking.” This turns figuring out what the bad guys are up to, and stopping it, into a single on-off button: get this guy to talk. When you stop and think about how much information you’d need in order to be sure of all those points, you start to see what a contrived set-up it is. (Second-order exercise: think about how likely it is that you could have the masses of information necessary to support those conclusions, and yet have no idea where the bomb might be located.)

    Flaming Phonebook is a classic case of someone who’s gotten all his information from movies. Notice his comment @40:

    And there is a pre-arranged signal to stop waterboarding at Gitmo: tell the questioner what he wants to know.

    See what I mean? If I liked him better, I’d be embarrassed for him.

    Anonyman @45 had the right response to that:

    Regardless of its veracity? Regardless of whether or not the prisoner in question actually knows something about the information in question?

    There’s a reason you always see mob types torturing victims in movies. It’s thug behavior perpetrated by thugs. Unfortunately, unlike the movies, torture is more likely to get whatever the victim thinks the thug wants to hear, the truth rarely enters into it.

    Flaming Phonebook’s comeback was a classic:

    Then how does one get the truth?

    Answer: using normal investigative techniques, real interrogation (the non-violent kind real interrogators do), accumulating evidence — you know, all the stuff that actually works.

    Scenario: we have a person in custody, he has a piece of information we need to get, but is completely committed to not letting us get it.

    See what I mean about “scenario”? Though we’d know anyway that that’s from the movies, not the real world.

    We don’t care about his safety, rights, or the consequences; we simply need the datum.

    We’re still in the movies. What we’ve now established is that we are the bad guys.

    How exactly do we get it?

    Since this is a deeply contrived movie scenario, we do whatever it takes to set up the climax. Don’t forget to look for the blinky red LED readout counting down the seconds.

    In real life, torturing someone for information about where a bomb is hidden will get you a lot of completely unreliable intel, because the guy will tell you absolutely anything he thinks will make you stop doing what you’ve been doing to him. You’ll waste your time and resources trying to follow up those leads. If you really want to find the bomb, conventional investigative techniques are the way to go.

    Could Hitchens be induced to speak some secret truth?

    Sure. He could be induced to speak six of ‘em. If the interrogator knew the secret truth he wanted Hitchens to confirm, and Hitchens didn’t know it, Hitchens would divine it and tell it to him.Would he just say anything to make it stop?He unquestionably would do so.

    Would the ‘administrators’ of the technique then even believe him?

    Not if they were looking for genuine intel.

    Would they then drop the technique if it proved unreliable?

    That depends on what they’re trying to do.

    Flaming Phonebook @47:

    By the same token, some number of them are guilty. It’s just as wrong to fail to torture those people as it is to torture the innocent.

    Being guilty of anything means you should be tortured? Not true. In fact, it’s explicitly prohibited in the Bill of Rights. You’ve also forgotten about the principle of being innocent until proven guilty. Worse, you’ve forgotten that you’re using information gathering as an excuse for torture, and have moved on to advocating torture as a universal punishment.

    You fall into the same error at #56:

    Right, but what process will make him give us the information? I’m accepting for the moment that torture doesn’t work. What does?

    Standard interrogation. Standard investigative techniques. It’s why they’re standard.

    if, after investigation, and trial, and appeal, and review, we determine that the accused is absolutely guilty, how do we go back and retroactively apply the punishment that he should have been suffering during the investigation and trial?

    See? You’ve slipped up again, and are advocating torture as a universal punishment for everyone who is suspected or accused of crimes. You’re not a patriot; you’re a radical totalitarian who wants to suborn and overthrow our system of law and government.

    Anonymous @60:

    Who gives a shit about waterboarding? The reason torture is used is to obtain false confessions. That is what the Soviets, Japanese, Germans, christ! everybody! used and currently uses it for.

    This administration did not expect to get usable info – they wanted stuff they could use for propaganda purposes.

    I’d rather not believe something like that. Unfortunately, obtaining false confessions is one of the only things torture is good for, and a lot of people know it.

    Flaming Phonebook again @69:

    Our country (USA) is founded upon such beliefs that it is better that 100 guilty men go free than one innocent be wrongfully punished.

    Let us say that I patriotically –

    No. Not patriotically. What you’re advocating is contrary to everything America stands for, and is specifically prohibited by our central body of law.

    I swear, if your parents weren’t secretly paying us off, we’d never let you hang out here.

    – dissent from that belief. The punishment of innocents is an injustice, but the freedom of guilty people is doubly so–once in that they don’t suffer for their crimes, and again in that they are free to commit more crimes.

    Wow. You know as much about law as you do about criminal investigation, which in both cases ought to be expressed as a negative number. That theory of yours is characteristic of the nastier sorts of tyrannies. The American legal system would find it abhorrent.

    Raised by wolves @70: I like the theory that he’s actually a troll.

    Eustace @73: Me too. I’ve disliked Christopher Hitchens for years. But I’ve got to respect someone who gets himself waterboarded twice.

    Takuan @87, we’ve missed you. Get Antinous to tell you what’s gone down.

    Foetusnail @92: Now, there’s a nuanced comment. I admire it.

    Antinous @100: And so the mystery is solved: the ninja-like assistant moderator unpublished and republished the comment without leaving a trail. I’m glad to get that settled — or rather, to find it doesn’t need settling.

  8. genericvox says:

    50 or older? Really? Wow…

  9. noen says:

    Seems like he had a fairly mild version of it too.

  10. markfrei says:

    I really think we should move towards tickle torture. It works and sounds so innocuous…

  11. AGF says:

    ooo. i didn’t know about baby chimps – now I’m going to have nightmares Takuan.
    Foetusnail – you said (a long time ago – sorry) “I believe the links I attempted to provide earlier adequately disprove the man lacking empathy for his fellow human beings. We must understand he does not see these hateful, murderous, misogynists as his fellows.” I think that is the BIG problem. That shows me a lack of empathy. It’s easy to have empathy for our friends, it’s hard to have it for ‘bad guys.’ but we need it. Especailly when it’s so hard to know what’s true and who the bad guys really are. – Anyway you seem like a really thoughtful person – so do kow I’m just talking to you. Nothing harsh intended!
    I do really respect that Hitchens actually got himself waterboarded and changed his mind publically.

  12. noen says:

    No one is counting electrons here

    What? Drats, now I have to start all over again.

  13. SeamusAndrewMurphy says:

    Ha Ha to # 17; “Safe” and “Effective” torture!

    The P.R. Firm for Procter and Gamble couldn’t have done better!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Who gives a shit about waterboarding? The reason torture is used is to obtain false confessions. That is what the Soviets, Japanese, Germans, christ! everybody! used and currently uses it for.
    This administration did not expect to get usable info – they wanted stuff they could use for propaganda purposes.

  15. FoetusNail says:

    I know this will bring some excrement my way, but as far as Hitchens opinion on our invasion of Iraq, in many ways he is right. When you listen carefully to his argument it can be somewhat compelling. He readily admits Bush has bungled the effort, but his argument, to me, seems to be this battle is unavoidable and the longer we wait to confront these murderous bastards the worse it will be. I was against this illegal invasion from the beginning because I knew then what is now obvious to too few, that once this battle is begun there will be no end in sight. This does not mean it was ever avoidable, it’s just we don’t have the stomach for the huge amount of bloodshed this idealogical fight will entail. We are responsible for a small percentage of the dead in Iraq. This fact proves what type of people we are facing whether we invaded Iraq or not. That they blow up hospitals, cemeteries, mosques, markets, police stations, trains, office buildings, etc. should tell even the staunchest opponent something about the mindset we are facing not just in Iraq, but around the world. Hitchens is fundamentally opposed to anyone who would deny women their rights and commit the random murders of men, women, and children on such a large scale. He also knows better than most the simple fact there is no peaceful solution to this problem, witness the Taliban. Please take the time to listen to these clips before responding to my comments. Thanks Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LKLeSKobcY Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ox5OUn7ZNwc&feature=related

    • Antinous says:

      FoetusNail,

      You’re not going to hijack this thread. Feel free to post comments on the subject at hand.

  16. Anonyman says:

    #38,

    Funny, that’s how I feel about the prisoners at Gitmo.

    Is this some misguided attempt at humor? I’ll assume for your sake that it is.

    And there is a pre-arranged signal to stop waterboarding at Gitmo: tell the questioner what he wants to know.

    Regardless of its veracity? Regardless of whether or not the prisoner in question actually knows something about the information in question?

    There’s a reason you always see mob types torturing victims in movies. It’s thug behavior perpetrated by thugs. Unfortunately, unlike the movies, torture is more likely to get whatever the victim thinks the thug wants to hear, the truth rarely enters into it.

    Nevertheless, most, if not all of these so called prisoners have not or will not have in the near future, seen a fair trial, meaning that it’s nearly certain that some number of these prisoners are innocent of wrongdoing. If you don’t see the wrong in torturing innocent people, then I don’t think I can help you.

  17. Modusoperandi says:

    Yes, but they’re crying on the inside. Like clowns, but with torture that’s not torture because they redefined the word torture.
    Now, the word torture means “France”, so whenever someone says “torture is wrong”, they’re really saying “France is wrong”.
    France knows what it did.

  18. r1ch says:

    Jon Ronson’s book ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’ is required reading for anyone interested in this subject:

    http://www.jonronson.com/goats_04.html

  19. virgil says:

    I’m going to try to believe that flaming phone book is pushing buttons and doesn’t actually believe what s/he’s saying.

    “how do we go back and retroactively apply the punishment that he should have been suffering during the investigation and trial?” actually tops your previous statement for sheer lunacy. Again, well done. Smashing your own limits. You, Sir and/or Madam, are the Natalie Coughlin of trolls.

  20. flamingphonebook says:

    T.N.H:

    Answer: using normal investigative techniques, real interrogation (the non-violent kind real interrogators do), accumulating evidence — you know, all the stuff that actually works. . . .

    In real life, torturing someone for information about where a bomb is hidden will get you a lot of completely unreliable intel, because the guy will tell you absolutely anything he thinks will make you stop doing what you’ve been doing to him. You’ll waste your time and resources trying to follow up those leads. If you really want to find the bomb, conventional investigative techniques are the way to go.

    That may indeed work on the people we have in custody. If so, that’s what we should use. However, I know that if I had information that I didn’t want to give to someone (particularly someone I hated), I would be more willing to give it up if I were tortured than under standard, non-violent interrogation. But that may be just me.

    Being guilty of anything means you should be tortured? Not true. In fact, it’s explicitly prohibited in the Bill of Rights. You’ve also forgotten about the principle of being innocent until proven guilty. Worse, you’ve forgotten that you’re using information gathering as an excuse for torture, and have moved on to advocating torture as a universal punishment.

    I was always advocating it as a punishment. I genuinely wanted to know better methods for information extraction (again, against me, there are none–torture me and I’ll tell the truth); but I think there are probably some Guantanamo prisoners who deserve it as a punishment.

    I remember innocence until proven guilt; I’m just against innocence even after proven guilt.

    And no, being guilty of anything shouldn’t warrant torture, but being guilty of multiple murder should. Being guilty of terrorism should. If we didn’t have laws that shouldn’t be enforced, we could be less cautious about punishing the breaking of the laws that should.

    See? You’ve slipped up again, and are advocating torture as a universal punishment for everyone who is suspected or accused of crimes. You’re not a patriot; you’re a radical totalitarian who wants to suborn and overthrow our system of law and government.

    No, I am advocating punishment in measure for all those who are guilty of crimes. Whether or not they are suspected, or accused, or proven to be guilty, if they are guilty, they deserve punishment. But yes, I do want to see the system of law and government remade and perfected.

    No. Not patriotically. What you’re advocating is contrary to everything America stands for, and is specifically prohibited by our central body of law.

    Then we’re agreed that support of the America we want, and not of the America that is, is not patriotic? Because I know many people who have claimed to be patriots while supporting radical alterations to the structure of the country and its government.

    Wow. You know as much about law as you do about criminal investigation, which in both cases ought to be expressed as a negative number. That theory of yours is characteristic of the nastier sorts of tyrannies. The American legal system would find it abhorrent.

    I was speaking of justice, not legality. But tell me, why should I not attempt to achieve my ends through violence and crime? I’m innocent until proven guilty, I would have the advantage of lawyers and trials, I know that I would be exempt from cruel punishment, so if I inflicted it on my victims, I would come out ahead of the game. My theory is abhorrent, but that is palatable?

  21. License Farm says:

    The reason why I respect Hitchens, even though I disagree with a number of his positions (most notably about the war in Iraq) and find his personanlity abrasive, is that he’s an empiricist and, presented with direct evidence to contradict his views, is not so full of himself to not admit his error. It’s unfortunate that it required that first-hand knowledge for him to understand others’ distress, but better those extremes than not at all.

  22. flamingphonebook says:

    Teresa N. H.

    I’ve seen A Man for All Seasons and I remember that scene. But Thomas More was a Catholic, and had his faith to bolster him. Perhaps if I thought the guilty would get what was coming to them in the end, I wouldn’t be so concerned about it in the beginning and middle. But I don’t think that. I don’t believe in an afterlife, and so am forced to conclude that Hitler and Mother Teresa are in the same place. Believe me, that sticks in my craw. And I’m also forced to conclude that if the devil gets the benefit of law, while the angels don’t get the benefit of ruthless, barbaric devilry, that the devil wins, and I would then see no reason not to take his side.

    Very important principle: bad intel is worse than no intel.

    Agreed. Is bad intel+good intel worse than no intel? Of that I’m not so sure.

    No, it should not. As I said earlier: even if you’re incapable of understanding the reasons why we don’t do that, you should pretend you understand them so you won’t be a pariah. The same goes for us as a nation.

    I fully acknowledge–indeed, I learned it a long time ago–that I have to make the choice between honesty and bonhomie. It is a perpetual choice. Every day I am free to abandon my cold logic for the warm bosom of human togetherness. Every day it’s no contest. Crime and moral wrongs deserve punishment in measure. That doesn’t change if six billion people don’t believe it, and no matter how many reports Christopher Hitchens puts out.

  23. Nelson.C says:

    FPB @55: Honestly, I feel like I’m explaining the cows to Father Dougal. The investigation and the trial are so that you can determine whether or not punishment is appropriate. How can you justifiably punish someone before you’ve determined their guilt? On what bizarre world are you living?

  24. FoetusNail says:

    I would not presume he needs to change his position. Someone commented above, “he must be a terrible writer if he needs to experience EVERYTHING first hand to render an opinion.” Well, this is far better than most of us never experiencing anything and writing about it ad nauseam. He has visited all of these places, I suspect most others who comment here, myself included, have visited zero. So, I don’t have a problem with his opinions. My problem with Bush, waterboarding, Iraq, etc. is a failure to look over the horizon and to be honest with the American people, who are the only ones being fooled. Hitchens would tell you this as well. Our enemies know we are committing war crimes, our enemies are exploiting our bungling occupation, and Americans who supported the invasion are now just willing to leave like we left Afghanistan years ago after setting up Bin Laden Inc. People are running scarred and scared; they would torture their own mother at this point. The opinions of most Americans are uninformed and of little importance. Mark these words, we will not be pulling out of Iraq; we are screwed. Obama, if elected, will disappoint only the foolish. Things such as extraordinary rendition, torture, and warrantless wiretapping, to name just a few, are not only going to continue, but get worse. I suppose I’m a pessimist, but all I can see is visions of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. I just realized I’ve been putting my apostrophes in the wrong place, oh well.

  25. minTphresh says:

    pssy-ss crckr!

  26. Nezrite says:

    I was at Walgreen’s today and saw a Neti Pot on the shelf – that’s as close to waterboarding as I ever want to get.

  27. FoetusNail says:

    AGF – In the link, which Antinous restored, Hitchens explains this as well. Hitchens does not see the injunction to love your enemies as a moral statement. He goes on to say, “Do I love the theocratic suicide murderers? No I don’t, I dislike them, I wish to encompass their defeat, they wish to be martyrs, ok, I’m here to help.” He then states, “But it would be positively immoral to say that one loves them. It would be disgraceful, cowardly, and masochistic to say so, and there in three words you have the root of Christianity.”

    I do not believe empathy, fellowship, or passivism goes hand in hand. Though I empathize with murderers, they are still apart from me morally; therefore, not my fellows, and as an unwanted rattlesnake in my kitchen if need be, killed. This does not imply by any means necessary, for again as stated by so many others here, we become our enemy. I will not rejoice in their death; waving my bloodstained sword in the air, while posing with their decapitated head. I will not take pleasure in killing or commit torture as the psychotic sociopath Caligula, an aberration not in the least bit indicative of Humankind. You might as well trot out Mother Teresa as fine example of compassion and understanding.

    So, in my mind, it is possible to empathize with your enemy before killing them. I hope the difference is we strive to kill as few as possible in our attempt to prevent them killing others. When they decide to stop killing over cartoons or films, we will stop killing them. The problem with brainwashed fanatics is they will not stop killing. There can be no peaceful solution when one party is convinced to do so condemns them to eternal damnation. I believe Sam Harris said something like, the 9-11 hijackers showed religious people what it really means to believe in God.

    Please trust that at times I am greatly ashamed to be an American. While we have much to be proud of we are not living up to our rhetoric. Our words are grandiloquent and full of promise, but our actions betray us. So, I empathize with our enemy, understand their complaints, and holdout hope we will mend our disastrous ways. But as I said above, the fact this discussion is taking place is disheartening, leaving me with visions of their apocalypse.

    Steven Pinker’s TED presentation renews my hope.

    http://smashingtelly.com/2007/09/18/steven-pinker-a-brief-history-of-violence/

    Here is a link to pt. 1 of Richard Dawkins film Nice Guys Finish First, which also gives hope, in the face of Takuan’s dire observations

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFj0caNX1s0&feature=user

  28. FoetusNail says:

    P.S. I must say how much I am enjoying this converstion. This is wothout doubt, for the most, a civil thoughtful discussion. Thanks to all.

  29. prom77 says:

    I don’t like Hitchens. But he was willing to put his ego on the line to test his point, and he admitted when he was wrong. I’d like to shake his hand for this.

  30. nikos says:

    Now that Chris has had his unholy baptismal perhaps he’ll be less punchy in defending a civilization which uses such uncivilized means to maintain it’s civil status, at times in name only.

  31. holtt says:

    I was at Walgreen’s today and saw a Neti Pot on the shelf – that’s as close to waterboarding as I ever want to get.

    I can see it now…

    “In some cultures, what we do is considered theraputic!”

  32. Nezrite says:

    Or worse – “in other countries…”

    Justify, justify, justify…

  33. crashgrab says:

    “Merely sauce for the goose. If one side can dehumanize Vice President Cheney, why can’t I do the same to the detainees? Despite what some believe, the “rich White politician–bad; poor brown devotee–good” concept is not settled truth.”

    No, it’s not “rich white politician bad”. It’s man who’s politics we know and those politics include torture and that makes Cheney a bad person. I wouldn’t endorse torturing him. I think those that are mentioning torturing Cheney are tryinig to say is that maybe he should try it first before he forces it on others.

    “Then how does one get the truth? Scenario: we have a person in custody, he has a piece of information we need to get, but is completely committed to not letting us get it. We don’t care about his safety, rights, or the consequences; we simply need the datum. How exactly do we get it?”

    Sometimes you can’t get the truth. I thought our country believed that people’s safety and rights are important. You know, the whole, innocent until proven guilty and that doesn’t mean torture them first to prove they’re guilty.

    “By the same token, some number of them are guilty. It’s just as wrong to fail to torture those people as it is to torture the innocent.”

    Wait, why is it wrong to fail to torture the guilty? Even after someone is proven guilty in this country we’re not allowed to torture them.

  34. garyb50 says:

    Page 2 of Hitchen’s VF piece he writes:

    “The team who agreed to give me a hard time in the woods of North Carolina belong to a highly honorable group. This group regards itself as out on the front line in defense of a society that is too spoiled and too ungrateful to appreciate those solid, underpaid volunteers who guard us while we sleep. These heroes stay on the ramparts at all hours and in all weather, and if they make a mistake they may be arraigned in order to scratch some domestic political itch. Faced with appalling enemies who make horror videos of torture and beheadings, they feel that they are the ones who confront denunciation in our press, and possible prosecution. As they have just tried to demonstrate to me, a man who has been waterboarded may well emerge from the experience a bit shaky, but he is in a mood to surrender the relevant information and is unmarked and undamaged and indeed ready for another bout in quite a short time. When contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay. No thumbscrew, no pincers, no electrodes, no rack. Can one say this of those who have been captured by the tormentors and murderers of (say) Daniel Pearl? On this analysis, any call to indict the United States for torture is therefore a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down. I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint.”

    IOW, waterboarding ain’t so bad as long as it ain’t Chris getting it.

  35. FoetusNail says:

    Watching this thread has led me to request an apology for my comment being censored, which btw is the only time this has ever happened to me, anywhere. My comment was in response to previous comments and was attempting to provide background for Hitchens position. This thread has shifted completely away from Hitchens VF article and been hijacked for personal opinions that have nothing whatsoever to do with the original post. Whether anyone who comments on BB believes in anything is unimportant to me, they should comment about the post or start their own pro-torture/anti-torture blog. Maybe we should just have a poll instead of comments. Hitchens wrote an article, responded to readers comments and then reviewed his position publicly. As previously stated many of us need to review the facts and change our opinion as required, something completely lacking in the current comments. This silly, pointless back and forth should be moved to IM.

    • Antinous says:

      FoetusNail,

      I’ve reviewed your comment, and I still feel that it’s about justifications for the Iraq War and, thus, significantly off-topic. Sorry. As to the other issues in this thread, we’ve been busy. Also sorry.

  36. hubbledeej says:

    Hitchens must have some kind of affinity for torture – didn’t he recently write about getting his junk waxed?

  37. Modusoperandi says:

    flamingphonebook; I’m speechless. It doesn’t happen that often, but you’ve de-speeched me. I feel a little sick. Also, there’s a rash on my “man area”, but I’m sure that’s unrelated.

    (long pause)

    Nope. Still speechless.

  38. eustace says:

    It’s hard for me to get used to, but after reading his article, I’m starting to feel a twinge of respect for Mr. Hitchens, uncolored by my dislike for his usual tone.

  39. FoetusNail says:

    AGF – Thanks for the link, loved the bit about getting off the plane in Vegas.

    The danger of empathy – Interesting idea, we never really think about the down side of empathy. This probably ties in with the whole mirror neuron thing.

  40. coldspell says:

    Tht pssy Hitchens couldn’t bear even 10 seconds of his “non-torture”.

  41. Ceronomus says:

    The Japanese whom the US tried for war crimes for waterboarding during WWII would lend credence to the fact that the US Military already knew it was torture.

    That said, it is nice to see a nay-sayer put his money where his mouth is and have the courage to change his opinion on the matter.

  42. FoetusNail says:

    MDHatter – Hitchens, due to his politics and personality, is one of those people most of us either love or hate. I like the fact that he could have lived and worked from anywhere in the world, say a beautiful tax haven like Switzerland, but he chose to become a U.S. citizen. Assuming he pays taxes like the rest of us, at least he is putting his money where his mouth is.

    Tally a vote of support on this comment:

    @55 – Jake The intentional infliction of pain or fear on another human being, IMO, is one of, if not THE most immoral and disgusting acts that humans are capable of.

  43. Kurt says:

    Instead of linking to a Guardian article about a Vanity Fair article, why not just link to the Vanity Fair article directly?

  44. mdhatter says:

    @131 – Foetusnail – I swap regularly between hating to love him, and loving to hate him. Today it’s the former.

  45. Takuan says:

    if you are torturing it means you are not the one being tortured

  46. Tenn says:

    Really, Vox! They’re all quite ancient. Jake and I are two of the youngest, if I recall correctly. I’m just a wee little one, taunting Takuan with my youth. Of course, he’s at least a millenia old. Cephalapods have long lifespans.

    Now that I actually have a few minutes to devote to my delight; congratulations, Mister Hitchens, for reevaluating your opinion.

    Virgil;

    You’re dead-on. Therefore, we need to encourage the major ‘spokesmen’ for water-boarding as encouragement-not-torture to all try it out. Surely some reporter can shame them into it a’la playground “Chicken!” comments. Presumably, the sheeple will follow along after a few years.

  47. Yoder says:

    @License Farm (#8) – I think if Hitchens were a real empiricist, he’d have long ago conceded the point on Iraq, too. But this does much to improve my opinion of him (which tends to yo-yo between “idiot Iraq-invasion apologist” and “witty contrarian”). I’m looking forward to the full article.

  48. Kit10inDublin says:

    Well, fuck me if Hitchens isn’t an attention seeking whore in another part of the media that most attention seeking whores don’t find attention.

    Totally redundant. Or retardant. Oops – there’s another idea…

  49. FoetusNail says:

    I am not attempting to “hijack” your thread. My comment was in direct response to #8 @ License Farm who states “The reason why I respect Hitchens, even though I disagree with a number of his positions (most notably about the war in Iraq) and find his personality abrasive, is that he’s an empiricist and, presented with direct evidence to contradict his views, is not so full of himself to not admit his error.” I was also attempting to respond to the ad hominem attacks against someone whom I respect and with whom I also, at times, respectfully disagree. I am opposed to torture for many reasons and applaud Hitchens for doing two things most of us never do, personally investigate the world around us and change our opinions as required. I was hoping by explaining his position and providing a couple of links to give others the chance to do likewise. Thanks

  50. flamingphonebook says:

    Is this some misguided attempt at humor? I’ll assume for your sake that it is.

    Merely sauce for the goose. If one side can dehumanize Vice President Cheney, why can’t I do the same to the detainees? Despite what some believe, the “rich White politician–bad; poor brown devotee–good” concept is not settled truth.

    There’s a reason you always see mob types torturing victims in movies. It’s thug behavior perpetrated by thugs. Unfortunately, unlike the movies, torture is more likely to get whatever the victim thinks the thug wants to hear, the truth rarely enters into it.

    Then how does one get the truth? Scenario: we have a person in custody, he has a piece of information we need to get, but is completely committed to not letting us get it. We don’t care about his safety, rights, or the consequences; we simply need the datum. How exactly do we get it?

    Nevertheless, most, if not all of these so called prisoners have not or will not have in the near future, seen a fair trial, meaning that it’s nearly certain that some number of these prisoners are innocent of wrongdoing. If you don’t see the wrong in torturing innocent people, then I don’t think I can help you.

    By the same token, some number of them are guilty. It’s just as wrong to fail to torture those people as it is to torture the innocent.

  51. FoetusNail says:

    Teresa,

    Thanks, very nicely reasoned observations and well said, a pleasure to read. I have little formal education and left too many brain cells on the road to comment much around here, but as I generally agree with and admire Hitchens, I felt compelled to weigh-in. Also, trolls are new to me, so I am slowly learning how to recognize them and avoid being drawn in by their comments. Coming from a self-educated blue-collar world it is in my nature to confront and forgive. I am always afraid of appearing like a pushover. I too have reviewed my initial comment and have come to the conclusion Antinous is right. People usually find it difficult to look beyond Hitchens’ support for regime change, which I find frustrating. This long standing frustration led to my comment. I have no regrets, as it has led me to a better understanding of your site, its denizens, and how to interact in this strange online world. BTW, thanks for the kind comment, I’m rarely nuanced or erudite. Even a blind dog…

  52. ill lich says:

    #38 “And there is a pre-arranged signal to stop waterboarding at Gitmo: tell the questioner what he wants to know.”

    Ohh. . . and of course if you don’t know the answer to their questions, you start making up answers until they stop. Sure– torture gets answers, but how reliable are they?

    Like someone else pointed out in this thread– a better test would be to have Hitchens (or Cheney, or Addington, or whoever) be waterboarded with NO safety word. Instead they would have to tell some horrible lie that turns their stomachs, like “The USA is truly the great Satan” or “My mother is a filthy prostitute” or “I admit to pedophilia”– which of those would you prefer saying, with your only other option being death by drowning?

    If you’ve ever read “The Gulag Archipelago” you know that in the USSR many millions admitted to crimes they didn’t commit, just to get the torture to stop (in fact they essentially chose years of hard labor over torture).

  53. Brainspore says:

    I’d say “let’s do Cheney next” but I’m not sure that he even breathes oxygen.

  54. MT_Head says:

    Point 1 – American POWs have been waterboarded on many occasions (Korea comes to mind, as does Vietnam) and have confessed to the most outrageous bullshit propaganda you can imagine.

    Point 2 – The US has released prisoners from Gitmo after having waterboarded them. Apparently what they confessed – or refused to confess – didn’t rise to the level of a chargeable offense. Oops, sorry!

    How can anyone who claims possession of more than two working neurons support this or any other coercive interrogation techniques? It seems clear to me that they are morally indefensible except for that classic “ticking bomb” case – but even that’s not defensible, because you can’t actually depend on the information you extract being reliable.

    We have sold our souls for fool’s gold.

  55. AGF says:

    Foetusnail, I guess where we disagree is that I am quite pacifist. I really only believe is physically harming someone when I am in direct danger. I don’t kill bugs in my house when I can catch them and let them out. I wouldn’t kill a rattlesnake in my kitchen if I could come up with a way to let it out of the house. However, f it was coming at me or someone else – of course I’d kill it! I also believe the death penalty is wrong. Here’s why:

    First let’s look at whether or not it’s really a rattlesnake in the kitchen. You say ‘theocratic suicide murderers,’ OK. it seems simple. But you can take old rhetoric about ‘communists’ and substitute ‘terrorist’ and it would look like it was written yesterday. If we knew the prisoners at Guantanamo were terrorists, there wouldn’t even be any justification in torturing them – we could convict them fairly. They’re being tortured precisely because they might be innocent. So I think we have to be really careful about what we believe about these people. Yes there are bad ones but I bet there are some very very innocent people grouped in there too. Look at what white people thought about black people when they enslaved them or the way women were viewed a couple hundred years ago.

    Next – How do we treat the rattlesnake?
    Why am I so worried about considering murderers ‘not my fellows’? Well It’s dangerous in a few ways.

    Let’s pretend we can be sure our torture victims are murderers or equivalently bad things. It still leads to dehumanization of a particular group of people. If we make someone unlike us it’s very easy to stop treating them like people and start doing things like torture, ignoring civilian casualties, using mass rape as a genocidal weapon.

    When we dehumanize or dissociate ourselves from a particular person, we lose a critical view of ourselves. If we say, “murderers are monsters. I am not a monster.” we ignore the monstrous part of ourselves. I say murderers are human and so am I. I could be a murderer. So I need to consciously choose to not become that. We need to take ownership of our own darkness. I am not ashamed to be an american or a canadian or a human. I do my best to be aware of that.

  56. chicagojohn says:

    he must be a terrible writer if he needs to experience EVERYTHING first hand to render an opinion.

  57. woid says:

    readers suggested that he try it himself

    This reader suggests that Mssrs Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Yoo, Addington, etc., etc., try it too.

  58. foobar says:

    I’m pretty sure they don’t have a “pre arranged signal” at Gitmo. Call me when he has this done in Syria by someone who would be willing to kill him.

  59. FoetusNail says:

    Was that a sentence, I’ll blame it on my twenty month old son crawling around on my head.

  60. OpSiN says:

    Oh please, Coldspell…
    Regardless what you think of the guy, he’s not a spry young guy, and he did change his mind about whether it was torture or not after the ten seconds he could take…
    I agree with an awful lot of what he comes out with, despite having some major problems with his personality. But I respect that he was willing to find out about this rather than just go on spouting his line.

  61. Takuan says:

    hmph, comments work but no email from here. Gawds, the sea is lovely….

  62. virgil says:

    Someone above mentioned lack of empathy as a factor here, and I think that’s dead on.

    Hitchens needed to experience it himself to call it torture. The abundantly available detailed descriptions didn’t convince him, because they hadn’t happened to him.

    What’s interesting to me is why he thinks this addition to the literature of people who can now attest that “yes, it is torture”, will convince anyone else.

    For those who can’t relate, it will simply be one more detailed description that happened to some other guy, who obviously couldn’t handle it, and to which they can’t relate.

    But that’s how egomania works, I guess. What’s the saying? Other people are a foreign country, something, something, la la la….

  63. Tenn says:

    Antinous, Takuan! How are you both?

  64. racer x says:

    “…are similar to waterboarding, in that they cause intense pain or distress without leaving any inconvenient marks…”

    Isn’t that why they came up with all of those neat tortures during the Inquisition? Because they weren’t allowed to spill blood? Some biblical something. Hmmm…mighty xian of them.

    I had thought that at some time we decided that the end doesn’t justify the means. That how you achieve your goal is more important than achieving it – but, of course you should, by playing by the rules. Did I dream that?

  65. Stefan Jones says:

    #13: He does breath oxygen, but only before his body goes into aerobic metabolism mode in preparation for spreading spores.

    You don’t want to be anywhere near him when he does this.

  66. Wingo says:

    I’d say “let’s do Cheney next” but I’m not sure that he even breathes oxygen.

    Funny you should say that – he actually did recently in celebration of Earth Day:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/cheney_celebrates_earth_day

  67. historyman68 says:

    We have sold our souls for fool’s gold.

    But it’s so shiny!

  68. haineux says:

    @TN — Jst t b cmpltly clr, wtrbrdng ds NT pr wtr nt th lngs.

    Wtrbrdng s rmrkbly SF nd FFCTV knd f TRTR.

    t’s FFCTV bcs, bsd n wht rcnt vdnc hs bn pblshd, ppl “crck” wthn SCNDS.

    t’s SF bcs th TRTRD prsn hs lmst n chnc f drwnng, nd bcs t’s s ffctv, thr’s lss chnc f thm bng njrd, tc.

    Dck Chny shld b trd fr TRSN.

  69. ill lich says:

    Of course it’s torture, but those who insist it ISN’T are merely being deliberately ignorant, like someone who insists that “the homeless are just lazy” or “Gitmo is like a Club Med for terrorists”– these are self serving arguments made by people who have no empathy. Hitchens essentially forces himself to be empathetic by undergoing the waterboarding. There will still be pundits who insist it isn’t torture, and we can then point to Hitchens, and suggest they try the same and see if they still think it’s not torture.

  70. FoetusNail says:

    I disagree with the opinion Hitchens original position came from a lack of empathy. Additionally, as illustrated in the quote at #31 I also don’t believe he has fully retracted his original statement either. My opinion is he was coming from a preconceived idea many of us have of torture, ala Marathon Man. I believe the links I attempted to provide earlier adequately disprove the man lacking empathy for his fellow human beings. We must understand he does not see these hateful, murderous, misogynists as his fellows.

  71. garyb50 says:

    FOETUSNAIL @ #70: “Hitchens wrote an article, responded to readers comments and then reviewed his position publicly.”

    Could you link the response to reader comments?

  72. randee says:

    I’m with Foobar: Yes, I’m glad he did it and yes, I’m glad he was wise enough to admit his error.

    But he didn’t do it without a true loss of control — not knowing when, or if, it would end, or that the people in the room may have meant him harm or wanted information he couldn’t provide.

    Instead, he had a hand signal.

    It reminds me of the “I’m going to live in the wilderness for 7 days and see how I do” experiments of Les Stroud, who I love and admire deeply: Yes, he’s out there, being badass and filming it all, but at any moment he could signal rescue. Once he films what it’s like to panic knowing rescue can’t or isn’t coming when he’s lost somewhere out there, that’ll be a real survival show worth watching.

    I’m sure there’s a Copenhagen Interpretation reference to be made here, but I’m not smart enough to know how.

  73. fnc says:

    “By the same token, some number of them are guilty. It’s just as wrong to fail to torture those people as it is to torture the innocent.”

    I respectfully and vehemently disagree. Something about becoming that which you abhor?

  74. flamingphonebook says:

    I’d say “let’s do Cheney next” but I’m not sure that he even breathes oxygen.

    Funny, that’s how I feel about the prisoners at Gitmo.

    And there is a pre-arranged signal to stop waterboarding at Gitmo: tell the questioner what he wants to know.

  75. flamingphonebook says:

    Our country (USA) is founded upon such beliefs that it is better that 100 guilty men go free than one innocent be wrongfully punished.

    Let us say that I patriotically dissent from that belief. The punishment of innocents is an injustice, but the freedom of guilty people is doubly so–once in that they don’t suffer for their crimes, and again in that they are free to commit more crimes.

    If I may be cynical for a moment, I think the belief you describe is not based on a noble sentiment, but on a cover-our-rears mentality. If we let a killer out and he kills again, well, what can you do, some people are just going to kill. But if we punish someone wrongly, we get called on the carpet.

    The investigation and the trial are so that you can determine whether or not punishment is appropriate. How can you justifiably punish someone before you’ve determined their guilt? On what bizarre world are you living?

    and

    Wait, why is it wrong to fail to torture the guilty? Even after someone is proven guilty in this country we’re not allowed to torture them.

    Look, I believe the guilty have rights; I just believe the rights of the innocent outweigh the rights of the guilty. If it takes 10 years to determine guilt, that’s 10 years of freedom the guilty person has enjoyed that he shouldn’t have, and wouldn’t have if we could determine guilt automatically. I say, let’s get those 10 years out of the guilty party’s hide.

    The problem is that in an anarchistic society, the murderer, the robber, the terrorist has a natural advantage. Absent a system of justice, it’s always easier to take someone else’s property than to make/buy your own. A civil society should vitiate that advantage. Mercy toward the guilty upholds it. Yes, let’s follow full, proper investigatory and trial procedure, but once we do and guilt is determined, let’s take the gloves off and be as barbaric as the guilty parties as they are to their victims.

    No, it’s not “rich white politician bad”. It’s man who’s politics we know and those politics include torture and that makes Cheney a bad person. I wouldn’t endorse torturing him. I think those that are mentioning torturing Cheney are tryinig to say is that maybe he should try it first before he forces it on others.

    Actually my comment was more directed to #13′s remark that Cheney might not breathe oxygen. That’s dehumanizing. If I had said before his comment that waterboarding Middle Easterners is ok because they don’t breathe oxygen like we do, I’d be rightfully excoriated. I think equal excoriation is warranted for #13. Switching the targets was simply my method for doing so.

  76. jjasper says:

    Then how does one get the truth? Scenario: we have a person in custody, he has a piece of information we need to get, but is completely committed to not letting us get it. We don’t care about his safety, rights, or the consequences; we simply need the datum. How exactly do we get it?

    Well, your scenario presumes we have it already, because if the prisoner tells us he doesn’t have the information, and we’re not sure, torturing him won’t magically give us the truth, even if he doesn’t have it. It’ll give us what he thinks will make us stop torturing him.

  77. virgil says:

    “By the same token, some number of them are guilty. It’s just as wrong to fail to torture those people as it is to torture the innocent.”

    Even for the internet, this is remarkably foolish. I congratulate you.

    Would any of the pro-torture commenters care to explain why so many of these tortured prisoners have been released? Were they just too strong for us? Were they innocent? Were we just bluffing? Did we get bored?

    If they’re in Gitmo, they must be guilty. And if they’re guilty, they should be in Gitmo. Right?

  78. raisedbywolves says:

    “In an anarchistic society…”

    Have we seriously degenerated to the point where people think there is no such thing as the rule of law, or are you trying to explain your vision of brutal yet utopian anarchy to us?

    Do you honestly not think that torturing the guilty makes the torturer guilty?

  79. Takuan says:

    I’m not dead yet

  80. FoetusNail says:

    AGF – I think whether or how much we disagree is being clouded by this clumsy medium. It also doesn’t help that I am not the best of writers, nor am I as well read as many of those commenting here. So, most of this is probably my fault.

    I completely agree with your first paragraph. Including my opposition to the death penalty; being naturally verbose, I could probably write a nice booklet outlining my position.

    I also completely agree with your second paragraph. In my opinion the existence of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center is leaving an indelible stain in our history. Terrorists are nothing more than common criminals and should be treated as such. They would have their day in court; we would be living closer to our lofty ideals and we would deny our enemies a recruitment poster.

    I also agree with your last point about the danger of dehumanizing our enemies. One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen was a quintessential little old Jewish woman who was a Death Camp survivor, probably Hungarian; she lost her entire family at one of the camps, probably Auschwitz-Birkenau. She seemed as though she had been crying her whole life. She also had probably been asking the same question over and over since she entered that hell on Earth. Her question was, how could people do this to people? The answer is relatively simple, you were not considered people. She probably knew this, but was understandably at a loss to come to terms with its full meaning. I have always imagined some hard working camp employee, rushing home after a long day monitoring sonderkommandos at the gas chamber. They are in a hurry not to be late for their child’s birthday party. As they leave the camp, he or she is filled with pride at their ability to do such a difficult and important job for the Fatherland. These thoughts have always left me cold.

    Where we disagree may only be in semantics. I see Jihadis as regrettable and pitiful human beings whose lives have been hijacked and wasted by religious indoctrination. I take them at their word when they say death to infidels. (Look for a chilling interview with an Iraqi interpreter broadcast earlier this evening on NPR.) Therefore while they are indeed human beings deserving fair treatment in an open judicial system like any other common murderer, most of whom are similarly the victims of their childhood or some mental illness, they are not my fellows. If I were looking for fellowship it would be with those who hold at least somewhat similar views.

    On your last point, there is no doubt the Buddha and the camp guard lives within most of us. One thing that was proven in Nazi controlled Europe was how few are able to resist the evil that is part and parcel of being raised in that and this day and age. Because the tools for our exploitation are buried in our subconscious at such an early age we are an easy mark, Manchurian candidates each and everyone. Once again I believe Sam Harris said what religion does to children should be considered child abuse.

    My son has an irrational fear of balloons, one popped in his face unexpectedly when he was very young. His occupational therapist, who he sees for other reasons, says this memory is imprinted in the limbic region of his brain. No doubt, if this is true, this is also where the emotions used to turn us against our fellow human beings are imprinted. Maybe one of the neurologists out there could clarify this for us.

    I have something I wrote that I believe sums this up: these people been thrown the bone for so long they don’t know a roast has meat.

    To your last thought, maybe I’m being co-dependent, but I do feel shame at what has been done in my name. I was born in the U.S., my father’s name is on The Wall, I want so badly for us to change our course. It makes me sick when I think about what we are doing, or not doing, not just in Iraq, but Columbia, Darfur and many other places in the world.

    Hopefully I’ve made my self clearer, though usually the more I talk the worse it gets.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments and questions.

  81. Nelson.C says:

    Flamingphonebook @46: Investigation, then trial, then punishment (if found guilty). Really, it’s a very simple sequence, why do you find it so hard to comprehend?

  82. Jake0748 says:

    I’ve been trying to come up with what my $0.02 would be if I dove into this thread. here it is: Torture = evil.

    Yeah, yeah, I know what if was my sister or my mother. What if I could save 10 bazillion people by just torturing one guy (or seven-year-old girl).

    My heart tells me no. The intentional infliction of pain or fear on another human being, IMO, is one of, if not THE most immoral and disgusting acts that humans are capable of.

  83. flamingphonebook says:

    There are limits of what we can find out about a crime. It’s been proven that eye witnesses aren’t always a reliable source of information because of the way our brains work, sometimes no one was at the scene of a crime, and sometimes even hard evidence, like DNA, is either unavailable or contaminated. Then there’s always the possibility that an accused criminal is being treated unfairly for some reason. It’s easier than you think for someone to be accused for a crime they didn’t commit. So excuse me if I don’t want to torture those that are “proven” guilty for this reason alone.

    Then you claim no proof is ever achieved of a crime? No standard or confidence interval, not even the one in practice of “beyond a reasonable doubt” is sufficient to say that someone is guilty? One may as well doubt that a fish is a fish.

    However, even if someone is guilty why would I want to be like them and harm another human being? Wouldn’t taking joy in someone else’s suffering make me a little like that person?

    No more so than firing a water gun at someone makes you a little like someone who fires an actual gun at someone. It is the same motion; it is a completely different context. An eye for an eye is justice; life for an eye is not, but neither is a slap on the wrist for taking a life.

    However, if we accept that torture taints the torturer even if the victim is himself a torturer, why does this not apply to all punishment? Doesn’t fining a robber make us like him? Or imprisoning a kidnapper?

    Let me get this straight, it appears that you’re saying the US is an anarchistic society with no system of justice?

    No, I am speaking of hypothetical anarchy. Imagine a society with no police, no courts, no laws. Criminals who today must work under cover and in secret would freely rob and kill. Thus, they have a natural advantage. This advantage must be countered by civil society. The US is not anarchistic. If someone is breaking into your house to steal your property, you can call the police and they will stop him and make him give it back. The courts may then fine him or imprison him. But nothing can undo the robbery. The man has violated your rights. He is a criminal. He is bad. He requires punishment, not to make him good, not to provide the victim with succor, but simply because justice declares that one bad turn deserves another.

    The problem is you’re only taking into account one societal value, “justice”. Torturing the guilty may be “right” in a society that only valued justice, but our society takes many values into consideration: justice, compassion, morality, fairness… just to name a few. We couldn’t have a civil society by just taking into consideration one value.

    I value justice supremely. I agree that our society does not, but I do not approve. But justice is not seperable as the other values you mentioned. It is an either/or. A society can be a little compassionate, or a lot. But a society cannot be a little bit just. It is either just or unjust. Some societies, like the Soviet Union, were unjust against the criminals–it called non-crimes crimes, and exacted harsher punishment than deserved. Our society is unjust against the law-abiding. It allows murderers and thieves opportunities to work their evil.

    If we truly are willing to sacrifice some victims to criminals in pursuit of feel-good compassion, it’s the country’s right. I just feel it should be honest about it. And as a member of the country, I’m going to fight against it and for justice.

  84. crashgrab says:

    #74 posted by flamingphonebook , July 3, 2008 11:31 AM

    “Then you claim no proof is ever achieved of a crime? No standard or confidence interval, not even the one in practice of “beyond a reasonable doubt” is sufficient to say that someone is guilty? One may as well doubt that a fish is a fish.”

    I didn’t say you can’t know anything about a crime. I said you can’t know everything about a crime. There’s a difference. I just wouldn’t feel comfortable torturing someone knowing how many people have been wrongly put in jail.

    “”However, even if someone is guilty why would I want to be like them and harm another human being? Wouldn’t taking joy in someone else’s suffering make me a little like that person?”

    “No more so than firing a water gun at someone makes you a little like someone who fires an actual gun at someone.”

    Seriously?

    “However, if we accept that torture taints the torturer even if the victim is himself a torturer, why does this not apply to all punishment? Doesn’t fining a robber make us like him? Or imprisoning a kidnapper?”

    I won’t get into my personal beliefs about why I feel there’s a difference here, but I will quote the constitution… “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

    “He is a criminal. He is bad. He requires punishment, not to make him good, not to provide the victim with succor, but simply because justice declares that one bad turn deserves another.”

    I guess I’d rather strive for a society where people actually learn to want not to do wrong because it’s the right thing to do, not just for the sake of not wanting to be tazered or waterboarded again. However, I’m not saying that this is what our society is trying to do now and I’m not saying let criminals go free.

    “I value justice supremely. I agree that our society does not, but I do not approve. But justice is not seperable as the other values you mentioned. It is an either/or.”

    For one you act like there’s one theory of justice. There are numerous theories about what justice is: distributive, retributive, etc… And you personally may view justice as this supreme value, but fortunately for the rest of us that wasn’t the only value our country was founded on. No government is perfect. I think what our country tries to do is take many values into consideration to try to bring about the greatest good. If we only catered to you “justice-only” types (and like I said, there is more than one way to define justice), then a huge portion of the population gets screwed.

  85. DrCreep says:

    flamingphonebook says:

    flamingphonebook should be careful what he wishes for, because if there were indeed any justice in the world, he would find himself thrown into a jail cell by his local cops for a crime he didn’t commit. Or, hell, one he did commit. Either way, I guarantee, he would be the first one bleating that cops are Nazis, idiotic civil servants, pathological civil rights abusers, etc.

  86. noen says:

    “that’ll be a real survival show worth watching”

    Touching the Void is that movie.

  87. flamingphonebook says:

    Well, your scenario presumes we have it already, because if the prisoner tells us he doesn’t have the information, and we’re not sure, torturing him won’t magically give us the truth, even if he doesn’t have it. It’ll give us what he thinks will make us stop torturing him.

    Right, but what process will make him give us the information? I’m accepting for the moment that torture doesn’t work. What does?

    Flamingphonebook @46: Investigation, then trial, then punishment (if found guilty). Really, it’s a very simple sequence, why do you find it so hard to comprehend?

    And if, after investigation, and trial, and appeal, and review, we determine that the accused is absolutely guilty, how do we go back and retroactively apply the punishment that he should have been suffering during the investigation and trial?

  88. Jake0748 says:

    FlamingPhoneBook @46 sez, “It’s just as wrong to fail to torture those people as it is to torture the innocent”.

    Maybe I’m the only one, but I am outraged by this inhuman statement.

    FPB – at the risk of disemvowelment – go to hell.

  89. Antinous says:

    I’m not dead yet

    Thanks. Rub it in.

  90. Tenn says:

    Good to know, Takuan. Antinous, don’t be bitter, it does put the preteens-with-Ouija-boards off their lunch, and you know we can’t have that.

    I’ve been scarce lately, waiting for chaos both here and in Meatworld to blow over; as Meatworld’s chaos has blown over (grandparents have left for Shreveport), and BB’s chaos seems to at least have calmed, I am here again!

  91. FoetusNail says:

    Thanks for the review and fuggitaboutit, but please, please retract your opinion that I am providing any justification for the Iraq War. This debacle will surely go down as the biggest foreign policy fiasco in U.S. history, possibly surpassing Vietnam. I hope no one takes my support of Hitchens for support of the initial invasion. This is where I respectfully disagree with him. As my first comment stated, I was always against this invasion; I was simply trying to explain Hitchens as I understand him. Complex people like Hitchens will always be misunderstood in our sound-bite world no matter how many articles they write. Anyway, I said what I wanted to say, we are stuck; we are screwed. The fact we are arguing about whether torture is acceptable, or even what constitutes torture, illustrates how far past screwed we really are. As they say, we are so far past fkd, we need to take a bus back to fkd. As you are probably the only one to get my links, I hope you can find the time to listen. As others have stated, it scares us when he makes sense, because none of this should make sense. Take Care

  92. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Flaming PB @108:

    Answer: using normal investigative techniques, real interrogation (the non-violent kind real interrogators do), accumulating evidence — you know, all the stuff that actually works. …

    In real life, torturing someone for information about where a bomb is hidden will get you a lot of completely unreliable intel, because the guy will tell you absolutely anything he thinks will make you stop doing what you’ve been doing to him. You’ll waste your time and resources trying to follow up those leads. If you really want to find the bomb, conventional investigative techniques are the way to go.

    That may indeed work on the people we have in custody.

    It may or may not work. Those are better odds than using torture, which is guaranteed to fail.

    If so, that’s what we should use. However, I know that if I had information that I didn’t want to give to someone (particularly someone I hated), I would be more willing to give it up if I were tortured than under standard, non-violent interrogation. But that may be just me.

    No, that’s everybody. “More willing” isn’t the issue. You’ll tell whatever you know. We all will. But that’s not the point.

    Here’s the point: you’ll also tell them vast amounts of stuff that you make up on the spot in an attempt to appease your torturers. You’ll instantly become brilliant at figuring out what they want to hear and giving it to them.

    Very important principle: bad intel is worse than no intel. No intel, at least you know you don’t have it. Bad intel will lead you astray, and you won’t know it’s bad until some situation blows up in your face.

    Suppose you’re torturing some poor guy who truly doesn’t have any info. What does he tell you at the start? That he doesn’t have any info. But everyone says that, so you start in on him.

    Trouble is, he doesn’t have anything to give up. He really is innocent. Instead, he makes stuff up. When you torture him some more to see whether that first story is true, he makes up something completely different. You think you’re finally getting somewhere. You’re not.

    And if he knew something at the start? He’d still tell you all kinds of stuff he made up. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

    Being guilty of anything means you should be tortured? Not true. In fact, it’s explicitly prohibited in the Bill of Rights. You’ve also forgotten about the principle of being innocent until proven guilty. Worse, you’ve forgotten that you’re using information gathering as an excuse for torture, and have moved on to advocating torture as a universal punishment.

    I was always advocating it as a punishment.

    Don’t. You may not understand that it makes you worse than a barbarian, but the rest of the world knows it, and you don’t want them to know you’re a monster.

    I genuinely wanted to know better methods for information extraction (again, against me, there are none–torture me and I’ll tell the truth);

    Again: not the point. You’ll tell whatever truth you know, and you’ll tell all the fiction you can babble out.

    but I think there are probably some Guantanamo prisoners who deserve it as a punishment.

    No. There aren’t any who do. If we want to sit in judgement on bad guys, we have to not be bad guys ourselves. Also, torturing people is devastating for the people who do it.

    I remember innocence until proven guilt; I’m just against innocence even after proven guilt.

    That is not given to you. The law is an ancient and much-tinkered-with institution, and its safeguards are there for a reason. There’s a famous scene from A Man for All Seasons that discusses this, when Sir Thomas More is arguing with William Roper. You can see it at the end of this excerpt. Setup: More is having dinner with his wife Margaret, his daughter Alice, and William Roper. Richard Rich, an unprincipled man who’s busily selling More out, has just left.

    Roper: Arrest him!
    Alice: Yes!
    More: For what?
    Alice: He’s dangerous!
    Roper: For libel: he’s a spy.
    Margaret: Father, that man’s bad.
    More: There is no law against that.
    Roper: There is! God’s law!
    More: Then God can arrest him.
    Roper: Sophistication upon sophistication!
    More: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what’s legal, not what’s right. And I’ll stick with what’s legal.
    Roper: Then you set man’s law above God’s?
    More: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact–I’m not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can’t navigate. I’m no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh there I’m a forester. (To himself) I doubt if there’s a man alive who could follow me there, thank God…
    Alice: (Exasperated) While you talk, he’s gone.
    More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
    Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
    More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get at the Devil?
    Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that.
    More: (Roused) Oh? (advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you–where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? (He leaves him) This country’s planted thick with laws–man’s laws, not God’s–and if you cut them down–and you’re just the man to do it–d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.The argument remains relevant to this day. There is always a temptation to set the rules and safeguards of the law aside for some imagined benefit.

    Learn to resist that temptation. You don’t know more than the courts do. Besides, there’s no guarantee that you won’t wind up as a defendant someday. Plenty of innocent people have done so. If it happens, you’ll want the court to be as careful as possible about safeguarding your rights.

    The rules of due process, which sometimes let defendants walk free, are there to protect us from grave abuses. The penalty for
    infracting them has to be losing the case and letting the defendant walk, because anything less would mean that one side could accept that lesser penalty in order to improve their odds of winning the overall case.

    And even if someone is guilty? Torturing them is base and depraved, and the practice is rightly condemned by civilized people.

    And no, being guilty of anything shouldn’t warrant torture, but being guilty of multiple murder should. Being guilty of terrorism should.

    No, it should not. As I said earlier: even if you’re incapable of understanding the reasons why we don’t do that, you should pretend you understand them so you won’t be a pariah. The same goes for us as a nation.

    Now: do you have anything to say about Christopher Hitchens?

  93. FoetusNail says:

    I have obviously made a mistake in trusting the way this VF article is being represented. Apparently the Slate.com article, with which Hitchen’s “critics”, not his readers”, took issue appeared last year. This reported suggestion by his critics to experience waterboarding for himself, led to the VF article. I’ve spent as much time as a busy home-schooling, stay at home dad can expend on a fruitless search for the Slate article. As far as I can tell, and have always believed, Hitchen’s does not support torture, though he is more than willing to aid in the martyr-ship of religious fanatics. Also,while he supports regime change he appears disgusted by our actions at Abu Ghraib, and else where, as well with the inaction of those who claim to oppose the occupation, but do nothing to aid the long suffering Iraqi people, who are the victims of numerous bombings by murderous fanatics not American troops. This situation would have been over a long time ago had it not been for the Sunni-Shiite religious war, which I believe to be a war of retribution and an outright power grab by those who oppose women’s rights and the prerequisite democracy necessary to end these misogynistic theocracies.

  94. dainel says:

    #46 flamingphonebook sez …

    It’s just as wrong to fail to torture those people as it is to torture the innocent.

    #47 posted by ill lich , July 2, 2008 4:41 PM

    If you’ve ever read “The Gulag Archipelago” you know that in the USSR many millions admitted to crimes they didn’t commit, just to get the torture to stop (in fact they essentially chose years of hard labor over torture).

    Hey, I think you two have a good point here. How about this? We torture all the guilty. Not to get them to confess or provide some (unreliable) information. Just to punish them.

    The US military has already done the research on all sorts of torture methods that do not leave permanent physical marks.

    Steal a loaf of bread? 20 hours sensory deprivation followed by 2 tazer shocks. Repeat 3 times.

    Beating up an old lady? 48 hours stress position grade B, 48 hours sleep deprevation, 2 sessions of grade C waterboarding. Repeat 5 times.

    We can get rid of the death penalty, and yet, for the really heinous crimes, we could have punishment stronger than that, eg waterboarding followed by electric shocks, applied 12 hours a day, for 6 months. I’m sure there are creative people who can design torture regimes that are truly awful, that nobody will want to go through, even if they willing to die for their crimes.

    Our jails would be empty soon. Not only would convicts no longer have to stay for years and years, people would actually be afraid to commit crimes.

    Did I forget to mention that all these should be televised? Real reality TV!

    There are many “pros” in this proposal. Something for the liberals (death penalty), something for the conservatives (harsher punishment), something for the TV viewing crowd, something for industry (skilled guilty people are no longer “lost”, they can be tortured and rapidly returned to the workforce).

  95. Takuan says:

    and here we intersect

  96. AGF says:

    Hey Foetusnail,
    No need for fault! I’m really enjoying the conversation. I do think I understand you better now – and I think we probably do have very similar outlooks on the world in a lot of ways.
    Re the last bit – I really really hope the states can find a better path. (Canada too in a lot of ways!) I think the more we talk and think – the better chance we have.
    About the imprint thing – it reminds me of an article I read about psychology and post traumatic stress. I think read in the globe and mail(can’t find the link sorry) that when something really bad happens to you – or even when you just hear about it from someone you relate closely with, your brain stores it in a different location to where normal memory goes. This location doesn’t deal with time and personal association the same way. So it can feel like your grandmother seeing a murder 20 years ago, was really you seeing a murder 20 minutes ago. This might be why some of these conflict – like what was going on in Northern Ireland – can go on so so long. I think this effect is similar to how people react with fear to rare events. We see something on the news and our brain reacts in a way that would make sense if we saw it on the street outside our window because our brain didn’t evolve with TVs. Cory has an article in the guardian about rare events and fear: link
    Ok. That’s enough babbling from me!
    Cheers
    It’s been good talking to you – I look forward to more.

  97. Takuan says:

    I liked Christopher for saying Mother Teresa was a fraud when it was unpopular and dangerous even to say so. Then he wrote a bunch of shit I really didn’t like. As for water-boarding, to me it’s so obvious he merits no points for demonstrating the truth. As for torture: the ONLY reason for doing it is because it’s fun. At least while you’re doing it. That’s why it is still around since it has long been demonstrated it has no rational utility. The killer ape lurks within us all. Yes, you too. Rending and ripping and bathing in blood is a short memory away. Ever seen video of chimps hunting chimp babies and eating them? Couple that with a little basic primate fear/rage and away you go. It is very easy to give in to instinct and nature. The gods know I want to. Restraint. Remember that word.

  98. AGF says:

    hey – just realized – I’m kind of talking about a danger of empathy. cool.

  99. mdhatter says:

    Well, #17, at least you’re clear about supporting TORTURE.

  100. dainel says:

    For every one who says “xxx is not torture”, can we torture them? Oh, sorry, can we put them through “xxx” to prove that it isn’t torture. After all, if it’s not torture, no harm is done. Right? Can we put their kids and/or parents through it?

  101. FoetusNail says:

    P.S. You guys using these comments for your private off-thread get together reminds me of cops running red lights to get to the donut shop, quite revealing.

    • Antinous says:

      FoetusNail,

      I’ve restored your comment. I’m not accusing you of justifying the war, but your comment is ambiguous enough and off-topic enough that it would have sent this thread to a deeper level of hell than the one that it’s at now.

      And, yes, threads do host small talk as well. You’re welcome to join in.

  102. holtt says:

    We don’t care about his safety, rights, or the consequences;

    Ah see there’s where your position differs. Some people don’t agree with that as a given, and actually do care about those things. So that makes the conclusion about torture therefor being the way to go unreachable.

  103. Elysianartist says:

    Of course it’s torture. Does anyone other than the 12%-15% of bush supporters think it’s anything else?!?!

  104. nprnncbl says:

    Mdhatter@22- I think you misunderstood haineux@17, whose claims of safety and effectiveness apply to waterboarding as a form of torture. Haineux doesn’t seem to condone the practice, nor claim that it is an effective means of interrogation. (Or maybe you were just making a JOKE that I didn’t GET.)

    Garyb50@31- Note that Hitchins said (emphasis added)

    “I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint.”

    and not

    “I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly support this viewpoint.”

    In fact, he goes on in the article to present an opposing view. But although I understand the pro-waterboarding viewpoint he presents, I neither agree with it nor believe that it is truly the reason that waterboarding is used. But it is an easy argument to understand, and to not understand it seems as willfully ignorant as those who deny that waterboarding is torture.

    That said, I’m offended by his rhetoric in that passage: “honorable” “heroes” “defend civilization” while the “spoiled” and “ungrateful” “scratch some domestic political itch”; and his conclusion comes across as somewhat ambivalent: I wish we hadn’t gotten to the point where we torture people, but here we are. (BTW, a “highly honorable group” in the “woods of North Carolina” who are “on the ramparts” — did Blackwater waterboard Hitchins? If you wanted to get professionally waterboarded, who would you call?)

    Opsin@35- I think Coldspell@9 is using irony to epxress what Virgil@36 said would be the reaction in the pro-torture camp. (Right on, Virgil!)

  105. Tenn says:

    That would be my fault, Foetusnail, and being as I am neither a moderator nor a moderator in training, the analogy doesn’t apply.

    But I guess that doesn’t factor in. There are an astonishing number of comments that are off-topic on this site, Foetus, and I only really ever see them moderated if they’re causing a large distraction or are militantly rude.

    If I’m wrong, I’ll be moderated and take my two minutes of shame with equanimity. Why can’t you do the same?

    Cheer up. It’s not all as bad as it seems. They’re not out to get you. Sorry for offending you with my comments to my friends; I’ll be sure not to do anything so crude again, in the future.

  106. Takuan says:

    And I find you revealed

  107. Modusoperandi says:

    Takuan “Ever seen video of chimps hunting chimp babies and eating them?”
    If you think that’s atavistic, try watching a group of vegans stalk and take down a herd of wild, migrating carrots. Since we generally feel for the hunted rather than the hunter, it’s heart wrenching. Even years after witnessing such a thing, I still tear up every time I see baby carrots in the vegetable aisle at the supermarket.

    The veneer of civilization truly is paper thin on the flesh of Man.

  108. garyb50 says:

    FLAMINGPHONEBOOK: You really need to STFU.

    DANIEL: Your writing is incomprehensible.

    FOETUSNAIL: So there’s no ‘reader feedback & response by Hitchens?’

    … this thread really confirms the 55% of Americans approve of torturing terrorists.

  109. mdhatter says:

    @ #40 – I’m quite certain you are right. I missed the lines between the lines (though they were right there for me to notice).

    @ 27 foetusnail – (and esp at 122!)I mostly agree with your agreeing with Hitchens, and shame on USA for being so unclassy. At this point though, it’s time to go. I assume 27 was the restored post? Good call antinous, thx.

    @55 – Jake The intentional infliction of pain or fear on another human being, IMO, is one of, if not THE most immoral and disgusting acts that humans are capable of.

    A. Men.

  110. garys says:

    Hitchens didn’t experience the half of it. The existence of a “prearranged signal” that he could use to make it immediately stop makes it many, many times more tolerable. People being tortured do not have the ability to make it stop. So yes, Hitchens now understands how it physically feels. He can correctly surmise that waterboarding non-consenting victims is torture. However, he (and I, thankfully) has no clue as to the abject terror and horror of being subjected to those physical sensations without any control over when it stops, whether it stops, or what comes next.

  111. Tenn says:

    Sorry, and let me expand that definition; or are of serious-enough conversation that they have potential to become a large distraction.

    I’ve been moderated in the same manner. Unpublished, in fact. The topic was the Iraq war if I recall correctly, and the politics there in. I managed to control my juvenile impulse towards complaint and in fact asked for my other posts to be moderated as well, as did Xopher and another user who I cannot recall.

    The point is, friendly off-topic greetings are not a point of conflict.

  112. Utena says:

    I’m honestly still wondering why some people don’t consider waterboarding not torture? It’s torture, plain and simple. I’d like to see anyone who can’t breathe and getting their lungs filled with water to find that experience pleasurable.

  113. Takuan says:

    no one here dictates the pace, style or manner of discussion. If someone is needlessly aggressive, cruel, wanton or mindlessly hostile, no one will talk with them even if their points are good. No one is counting electrons here and ponderous poetic metaphors have just as much standing as rude pith.
    Savvy?

  114. FoetusNail says:

    I don’t feel any shame and do feel I’ve accepted the judgement and conducted myself properly. Furthermore, not only am I not paranoid enough to believe anyone is out to get me. I don’t really care what you guys think of me or do, I just find it interesting. I never spent this musch time in comments on this site to see inside your world. Cops or wannabes, enjoy yourself; I do. Take Care

  115. mgfarrelly says:

    To me it all comes down to this, the Israeli supreme court outlawed torture, unanimously, in 1999.

    http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/meast/9909/06/israel.torture/

    If Hitchens wants to argue that the security situation in the UK and USA is more dire than the on-the-ground reality of what’s going on in Israel, well, I have a lovely bridge I’d like to sell them in New York.

    Not to mention the fact that Hitchens getting wet is hardly comparable to a “enemy combatant” rendered halfway around the world in sensory deprivation, often “softened up” with denials of food and the infliction of “stress positions”.

    I just wonder if the water up his nose will help loosen his head from his ass?

  116. Takuan says:

    Ben Hoskins in The Long Good Friday…yeahhh!

  117. themindfantastic says:

    Its unfortunate for everyone who believed that it isn’t Torture we would have to put them through this. Ie Waterboard more people just to prove it to everyone that it is torture.

  118. slywy says:

    #5, and he could say “when.”

  119. Modusoperandi says:

    Takuan; Exactly.

  120. edgeways says:

    Going off of #25:

    I would think that a true representation of water-boarding and the desired effects of, would be if H was seized at some random time, at the office, at home, on the street. Handled roughly and at gun point, made to wait in prison, then waterboarded until he confesses to rigging the 2000 election, or being the leader of an American sleeper cell…

    But, otherwise, for a controlled experiment good on him for doing the bare min, beyond not doing it.

  121. crashgrab says:

    “”Our country (USA) is founded upon such beliefs that it is better that 100 guilty men go free than one innocent be wrongfully punished.”

    Let us say that I patriotically dissent from that belief. The punishment of innocents is an injustice, but the freedom of guilty people is doubly so–once in that they don’t suffer for their crimes, and again in that they are free to commit more crimes.”

    Well, you can patriotically dissent from that belief, but that’s not the belief our country was founded upon. Also, you keep making this claim that letting the guilty go free is “doubly” wrong and that “It’s just as wrong to fail to torture those people as it is to torture the innocent.” Where is the evidence that this would be a better way to run our country?

    “”Wait, why is it wrong to fail to torture the guilty? Even after someone is proven guilty in this country we’re not allowed to torture them.”

    Look, I believe the guilty have rights; I just believe the rights of the innocent outweigh the rights of the guilty. If it takes 10 years to determine guilt, that’s 10 years of freedom the guilty person has enjoyed that he shouldn’t have, and wouldn’t have if we could determine guilt automatically. I say, let’s get those 10 years out of the guilty party’s hide.”

    There are limits of what we can find out about a crime. It’s been proven that eye witnesses aren’t always a reliable source of information because of the way our brains work, sometimes no one was at the scene of a crime, and sometimes even hard evidence, like DNA, is either unavailable or contaminated. Then there’s always the possibility that an accused criminal is being treated unfairly for some reason. It’s easier than you think for someone to be accused for a crime they didn’t commit. So excuse me if I don’t want to torture those that are “proven” guilty for this reason alone. However, even if someone is guilty why would I want to be like them and harm another human being? Wouldn’t taking joy in someone else’s suffering make me a little like that person?

    “The problem is that in an anarchistic society, the murderer, the robber, the terrorist has a natural advantage. Absent a system of justice, it’s always easier to take someone else’s property than to make/buy your own. A civil society should vitiate that advantage. Mercy toward the guilty upholds it. Yes, let’s follow full, proper investigatory and trial procedure, but once we do and guilt is determined, let’s take the gloves off and be as barbaric as the guilty parties as they are to their victims.”

    Let me get this straight, it appears that you’re saying the US is an anarchistic society with no system of justice? We have a system of justice. The problem is you’re only taking into account one societal value, “justice”. Torturing the guilty may be “right” in a society that only valued justice, but our society takes many values into consideration: justice, compassion, morality, fairness… just to name a few. We couldn’t have a civil society by just taking into consideration one value.

  122. FoetusNail says:

    This post starts with, “After Christopher Hitchens wrote a Slate article suggesting that waterboarding wasn’t really torture, readers suggested that he try it himself. He did.” I made a mistake in taking this at face value. He did however, if any of this is accurate, respond to his critics by experiencing waterboarding for himself. After doing so, he reports that waterboarding is in fact torture. While this post, as well as many others related to Hitchen’s VF article, appears to substitute readers for critics, what I said is still substantially correct, if any of these reports is to be trusted. Hitchen’s made a statement, people, whether readers or critics is unimportant, took issue with his statement, so he responded by experiencing the procedure for himself, and then reported his findings, which, by reports, represents a change of position. If you find out more please post the links. Thanks

  123. angusm says:

    For me, the question – insofar as there was any question in my mind – was settled by Scylla’s experiment, referenced on BB earlier:

    http://www.boingboing.net/2007/12/23/what-waterboarding-f.html

    It’s worth noting that other techniques used by the US military – extremes of heat and cold, so-called “stress positions”, and so on – are similar to waterboarding, in that they cause intense pain or distress without leaving any inconvenient marks. The Convention on Torture defines torture as “… any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person …”. Focusing on waterboarding ignores the fact that the other techniques are of the same order, and have the same effects and intentions: waterboarding just happens to be the one that breaks the prisoner’s resistance fastest.

    So yes, unquestionably, we have tortured and are continuing to torture people, and we would continue even if all waterboarding were stopped tomorrow.

  124. buddy66 says:

    #38:

    ‘Did you talk, Mandrake?’

    ‘I don’t think they wanted me to, the swine.’

  125. jso says:

    “how do we go back and retroactively apply the punishment that he should have been suffering during the investigation and trial?”

    You don’t.

    Our country (USA) is founded upon such beliefs that it is better that 100 guilty men go free than one innocent be wrongfully punished.

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