Tuesday, November 29, 2005

NewsMax Gloats: Torture Works!

John Cole at Balloon Juice has a terrific response to NewsMax's "proof" that torture works.

I can't believe someone wrote this:

Sen. John McCain is leading the charge against so-called "torture" techniques allegedly used by U.S. interrogators, insisting that practices like sleep deprivation and withholding medical attention are not only brutal -- they simply don't work to persuade terrorist suspects to give accurate information.

Nearly forty years ago, however -- when McCain was held captive in a North Vietnamese prison camp -- some of the same techniques were used on him. And -- as McCain has publicly admitted at least twice -- the torture worked!

And what was that useful information? Our authors tell us:

The punishment finally worked, McCain said. "Eventually, I gave them my ship's name and squadron number, and confirmed that my target had been the power plant."

Recalling how he gave up military information to his interrogators, McCain said: "I regret very much having done so. The information was of no real use to the Vietnamese, but the Code of Conduct for American Prisoners of War orders us to refrain from providing any information beyond our names, rank and serial number."

Yeah. I can see how that sort of confession would be useful in the War on Terror. And how did they get it? Just a few beatings:

He described the day Hanoi Hilton guards beat him "from pillar to post, kicking and laughing and scratching. After a few hours of that, ropes were put on me and I sat that night bound with ropes."

"For the next four days, I was beaten every two to three hours by different guards . . . Finally, I reached the lowest point of my 5 1/2 years in North Vietnam. I was at the point of suicide, because I saw that I was reaching the end of my rope."

McCain was taken to an interrogation room and ordered to sign a document confessing to war crimes. "I signed it," he recalled. "It was in their language, and spoke about black crimes, and other generalities."

"I had learned what we all learned over there," McCain said. "Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine."

Excellent. In other words, according to the rocket scientist who wrote this, we need to authorize torture so we can beat people relentlessly for four days until they confess to 'war crimes.'

People like the author of this piece, Carl Limbacher, should be put in a small room and beaten with a cane and waterboarded until they confess to being unmitigated assholes. This isn't a defense of torture for use in extreme cases (the 'ticking time bomb' scenario) -- this is a call for legalized sadism and brutality.

What kind of moral cretins are these Newsmax folks?

Cole also takes on Ace of Spades, who thinks that "breaking" under torture is the same thing as "giving up valuable information."


One of the lies the torture hysterics have been peddling for years is that torture never works. No one ever gives up any valuable information; everyone will say whatever you want them too when you break out the tongue-forceps.

It's untrue and it always has been. I link, once again, an article from the Atlantic Monthly by Mark Bowden of Black Hawk Down fame, in which he interviews a professional torturer. The man's opinion? Of course it works. It always has worked and it always will. It's a question of when, not if.

A human being, no matter how heroic or fanatical, can only take so much misery and pain and dispair before breaking.

Apparently, the answer to the "question of when" is: When you want the prisoner to confirm useless information that you already know, and when you want the prisoner to confess to "war crimes."


Ace, IMHO, is just wrong about this. What is disgusting about this is not that every man has a breaking point, or that this somehow makes McCain less of a patriot (or, subsequently, less of a man), but that the authors, in an article ostensibly supporting torture as a necessary and useful interrogation method, claim that McCain's breaking down after weeks of abuse and giving USELESS information somehow validates the need for torture. It doesn't.

I think Ace's dislike for Sullivan colored his perspective on this one.
If you want to make the argument that this proves torture 'works' because McCain 'broke,' I am going to simply laugh. It does not take any genius to figure out that if you beat or abuse an individual enough, he/she will eventually 'break.' No shit, sherlock, in other words.

The problem is not that I doubt people will 'break,' it is that I doubt torture will 'work.' I simply disagree that beating McCain until he signs a random 'confession' in a language he does not understand somehow proves that doing the same to others will provide us with necessary intel. Further, I do not trust the government with the death penalty, and am not inclined to trust the government with torture. Furthermore, I do not like the idea of having foreign governments and despotic regimes to similarly be allowed to torture, because it will be, in many cases, our guys they are now LEGALLY torturing. And spare me the 'they are going to abuse and torture our guys anyway, if they want to.' Again, no shit.

That is why we rightly view them as EVIL, and why we are fighting them in the first place.

Amen, John. Well said.

UPDATE: I just re-read and did a double take on Ace's link to Mark Bowden above. A "professional torturer"? A PROFESSIONAL TORTURER? "Torturer" is a "profession" now? Like teaching, or being a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer or an architect? Do people experience a "calling" to be a torturer? Ministers of misery? Priests of pain? How long does one have to train to be a torturer? What does the training involve exactly? Doing it on mice and hamsters and gerbils first, then on dogs and cats, then on people? Is there a degree you get, like Ph.D.? Is there a licensing or a certification exam?

And can we really take the word of a "professional torturer" when he says that torture "works"? After all, he has his professional reputation to uphold; he wouldn't want us to think he's not good at what he does.


Paul J. said...

The reason torture doesn't work is that eventually, you are willing to say anything to get them to stop. And I mean anything. You are willing to lie, to confess to things you haven't done and would be personally repugnant to you to do. Any confession, any information given under torture is suspect at best.

Kathy said...

I certainly agree.

SB Gypsy said...

you get to be a professional torturer by starting with putting firecrackers into frogs and blowing them up, kinda like our fearless leader, I think.

Kathy said...

you get to be a professional torturer by starting with putting firecrackers into frogs and blowing them up, kinda like our fearless leader, I think.

I laugh, but it's pretty sad.