Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Alan Dershowitz on Torture: It Worked for the Nazis; Why Not for Us?

Alan Dershowitz has an op-ed in today's WSJ Opinion Journal that far right bloggers are lapping up like a litter of pigs in a mound of slops. It's about torture -- he opposes it, but he favors it.

Cernig has a delicious response (to Dershowitz, not the pigs):

Alan Dershowitz - what an ass.
Marginal Democratic candidates certainly benefit from moving to the left on national security issues, but serious candidates--candidates who want to have any realistic chance of prevailing in the general election--must not allow themselves to be pushed, shoved or even nudged away from a strong commitment to national security.

...Although I am personally opposed to the use of torture, I have no doubt that any president--indeed any leader of a democratic nation--would in fact authorize some forms of torture against a captured terrorist if he believed that this was the only way of securing information necessary to prevent an imminent mass casualty attack. The only dispute is whether he would do so openly with accountability or secretly with deniability. The former seems more consistent with democratic theory, the latter with typical political hypocrisy.

He then goes on to disprove his own point:
Recently, Israeli security officials confronted a ticking-bomb situation. Several days before Yom Kippur, they received credible information that a suicide bomber was planning to blow himself up in a crowded synagogue on the holiest day of the Jewish year. After a gun battle in which an Israeli soldier was killed, the commander of the terrorist cell in Nablus was captured. Interrogation led to the location of the suicide bomb in a Tel Aviv apartment. Israel denies that it uses torture and I am aware of no evidence that it did so to extract life-saving information in this case.

But what if lawful interrogation failed to uncover the whereabouts of the suicide bomber? What other forms of pressure should be employed in this situation?

But what if Alan Dershowitz realised he had just given an actual real counterexample - one where there was a ticking time-bomb and no torture seems to have been used - before going on to posit an entirely unreal "what if"? It's not logic, it's a pavement pizza. Would his brain explode as he realised just what mental farting he was committing to print in the single most well-read forum of the conservative press? This is a man who says he wants a Democrat in the White House and is the self-professed most capable legal mind of our time?

(Oh - and a quick note for Alan and every conservative who ever breathed - just because Bill Clinton says something stupid, that's no reason for Democrats to roll over and agree with him. Marching in submissive lockstep with the Decider is a Republican trait.)

Then again, agreeing with Clinton when he says something stupid doesn't seem so outrageous coming from a man who uses the Nazis to bolster his argument for the efficacy of torture:
There are some who claim that torture is a nonissue because it never works--it only produces false information. This is simply not true, as evidenced by the many decent members of the French Resistance who, under Nazi torture, disclosed the locations of their closest friends and relatives.

Shorter Dershowitz: "If it's good enough for the Nazis, it's good enough for us."

Well, okay. We know that Alan Dershowitz thinks the world of his own expertise on the efficacy of torture. But he has never been waterboarded (to the best of our knowledge); nor has he waterboarded anyone. Plus, he does not have almost two decades of experience in the military's SERE program doing same. Malcolm Nance does. He's testifying in Congress tomorrow about his experience with waterboarding. And it should come as no surprise that the right is already trying to swift-boat him:
Malcolm Nance, good-spirited though he is, is a pugnacious guy. Nearly 20 years' service in the Navy, including time instructing would-be Navy SEALs how to resist and survive torture if captured. Intelligence and counterterrorism expert. Several years in Iraq as a security contractor. So don't expect him to suffer in silence if his credibility is attacked during testimony to a House panel tomorrow about his personal experiences with waterboarding.

"God forbid if there's even the slightest hint about my credentials," Nance says over tea in a Washington coffee shop. "You will see a spectacle on C-Span. I'll impugn [my attacker's] credibility in public. Let's see him give 20 years in the military, give up his family life, and then he can come talk. If not, shut the hell up."

Nance has become newly controversial for writing on the counterinsurgency/counterterrorism blog Small Wars Journal about his experiences teaching waterboarding for the Navy's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program. He's been subjected to the procedure personally, and unequivocally called it torture in a much-discussed post. Subsequently, a House Judiciary subcommittee contacted him during a business trip in the Middle East and asked him to testify at a hearing on so-called "enhanced interrogation" techniques that kicks off tomorrow morning.

Should be fun to watch.

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