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Waterboarding = Torture?


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#1 Advent

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Posted 29 May 2009 - 06:15 PM

I figure since I've been gone a long time it's time to start to get back into things witha contentious topic.

Does anyone here think, like I do, that waterboarding is torture? If so, why? And how far should we take it? Prosecutions?

If no, why not?

I admit that a little further back than recently I believed that while it was wrong it was acceptable in some circumstances, but, strangely, a conservative who used to assert that waterboarding was NOT torture changed my mind about it.

What does everybody else think?



#2 LiquidIce

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 05:13 AM

It is psychological torture, absolutely. It relies on creating suffocating panic and extreme pain & people being subjected to it have been known to die of terror. Technology allows a moderation in the physical damage compared to its use in the days of the Spanish Inquisition, but the lack of visable damage doesn't cause it not to be torture. The only governments to have utilised it in the last 40 or 50 years are the Bush administration and the Khmer Rouge.

The best insight is probably gained from the people who have experienced it - a bit vague about this but I think several public figures who were formerly supporters of the technique changed their tune after being voluntarily subjected.

So yes, torture.

With prosecutions, it doesn't sound like a very good idea since the actions were legal at the time according to the government of the day. Not that I'm any kind of expert on US law, but it seems like retroactive prosecutions would set a bad precedent, even if you're going after morally filthy people in this specific case.



#3 LordofBrewtown

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 09:20 AM

 Maybe not 'physical' torture; but, I agree with LiquidIce, it's definitely psychological torture.  I'm not sure how much debate you're even going to get on that part of this topic, given how this message board skews left.  

 

May get more of a debate out of the prosecutions part.  Personally, I think it's very dangerous to talk about prosecutions - those can be used for political retribution, and where do you draw the line between policy and illegality?  I don't think it would be fair to punish any of the CIA people administering the waterboarding.  Maybe justice dept officials - but, there had better be some awfully strong evidence that disregarded some evidence or fabricated something when providing their legal opinion.  The two party system has become contentious enough - if you get the parties trying to throw each other in prison/effectively eliminate the competition - it's a real threat to democracy, IMO.  



#4 dormouse

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 11:44 AM

 It is torture. I've been through it. And despite the medial techs being present it definitely can cause physical damage (it isn't simulated drowning it is slow drowning, you are breathing in and swallowing water even when only being subjected to it for seconds) the real question is the amount of damage. It should be noted though that physical damage has never been required for an act to be considered torture, that "legal" definition was pure invention by the Bush Administration, in violation of our own laws, treaties, and every international law.

As to prosecution... I'm not a fan of political vendettas... but a line was crossed, a very important line that violates everything of who we are supposed to be. We have only one way of stepping back over that line and that is to hold those who crossed it accountable. This has nothing to do with prosecution of those people following direct orders of the President and the Justice Department having been assured of it legality (it was not legal the memos put forward were not laws nor did they have the ability to change our national or our commitement to international law). An investigation should be done, those who knowingly violated our laws and international law will be uncovered and should serve jail time appropriate to their crimes. Those who violated them and proof can't be shown to have done so knowingly should face consequences (loss of employment, pension, disbarment, etc.). 

It isn't about vengence, it is about restoring our glory and honor, not just to the world, both our allies and enemies,  but for ourselves. I served this nation faithfully and with love during the first Gulf War as a Force Recon Marine. I fought for our ideals, of justice, freedom, and democracy. What was done in my name makes a mockery of that service.


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#5 Staton

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 12:43 PM

Yeah, def torture. Should it have been used? eh. I don't think so, but should we forever put a ban on torture? I don't think so either. I realize that my opinion is probably going to be unpopular here, but I think that torture really should be a viable options in extreme cases and it should be reviewed either beforehand for approval or after the fact to see if it was necessary. I mean torture is a very unreliable means in which to gather information, but it can be useful as a last resort. In a world where total war is a very real thing, why should we have to keep playing by the rules? I'm not saying we should torture everyone we find or become just as radical as the people we are fighting(and are we really fighting people here? It seems like we are waging war on people's ideals more than anything else these days), but how long do we go before bending the rules a bit? Do we keep on being the "good guys" right up until they set off an even bigger bomb in Chicago this time? Or do we wait until they hit LA? At what point do we start doing everything we can to stop these people?

Now after saying all of that, I'm very much in favor of not going to war at all. The tricky thing with the 9/11attacks was that we DID need to retaliate, but there wasn't a country for us to blame. There was an organization, yes, but where do you go looking for an organization? The yellow pages? I think Obama is making the move that should've been made 8 years ago. Acknowledge that the countries didn't do anything wrong. Acknowledge that the majority of muslims had nothing to do with it. Make peace with the populace and get them on your side, and they will help you! These are the people that know the deserts and caves and such. Maybe if this WAS done 8 years ago, we wouldn't have needed to resort to torture.

Also, I just had another thought. Why is torture considered to be so evil? Let's say in a battle an enemy soldier gets shot in the stomach or kidney or something. He'll still take quite a while to die, and it will be extremely painful. Now if we torture someone, there's an extremely good chance that they'll live. They may or may not be physically harmed, and there's a chance we could save lives. Now isn't that the point of a war? Lose less guys than the other side? At what point did people start trying to turn war into some sort of a civilized game played with human lives? War is not civilized, it is the breakdown of civilization. Its the result of everything else failing. At least it should be. Maybe we'd have less war if we stopped pulling our punches. I should get alot of flack from this next statement, but this is how I feel. *sigh* Look at japan. We dropped the atomic bomb, and they felt it. War suddenly wasn't that was happening somewhere in the pacific. War was something real. It had real consequences. Now Japan has pretty much outlawed war. They can't declar war, they can't participate in war, and they can't help someone else during a war(with troops I mean). Hell, the japanese people are even uneasy about having a standing self defense force! I'm not saying drop an atomic bomb on everyone. I'm saying make these people realize that if you go to war, there will be consequences. Lay siege to an area. Burn the crops, foul the water. Everything you can, until they stop fighting. I really think this is the only way to end war, if there even is a way to end war, which I doubt there is.



#6 dormouse

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 02:29 PM

 There are no extreme cases were torture is warranted. If you are under torture you will say whatever you think they want to hear to end it. IT does not producable intelligence that is trustworthy. Even the "ticking time bomb" theory is based on a the false premis that torture will produce actionable intelligence. What do you think you would do if you knew there was a bomb in downtown L.A. that you set or know was set and in six hours will explode and take a couple of city blocks with it.

What would make you tell them the truth when you know if you wait out long enough that there is nothing they can do to stop it?

What we are taught is to resist any interrogation as long as possible, once we get to the point where we fear breaking to inundate them with useless and false information. Sending them on a wild goose chase is vluable time wasted. If they start torture you hold out as long as possible and then let go. Give in. Your body will give in under these conditions before the mind and passing out and being revived again wastes more time. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Even if I do crack and give you real information, I've made you distrust everything I've said and included so many false starts you won't be able to check them all. Not until it is way to late.

I've been through anti-interrogation training, as well as through interrorgation training. Torture is pretty much the worse way to try and gather information. There is a reason why you have so many interrogators and intelligence gathers against it. They (we) know it doesn't work. 

 

You want to know what to do to stop these people? The answer is frighteningly simple. Stop trying to force the world to fit into our perfect vision. Work with the international community. When we get attacked rally our allies and then go after them... not with might of all of our military but with out law enforcement and that of Interpol. We've been the targets of terrorist attacks for decades... we usually end up winning, capturing or killing those responsible, again not through our military might, but by the work of the FBI, CIA, and Interpol, and only infrequently through the use of small specialized militay forces (Seal Team 7 and Delta Company). Major military operations are the worst way of handling terrorists because there is always too much collateral damage which both emboldens the terrorists as well as being used as a recruiting tool by them. There was no concerted non-sectarian insurgency against us in Iraq until after Abu Ghraib.

Torture = Bad.


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#7 Staton

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 02:38 PM

I agree, it is very unreliable, but I really don't think that you could say it NEVER gives us answers. and I do think it needs to be used as a very last resort when nothing else is working.

I also agree that large scale military operations don't work with an organization. They are spread out and hiding. I think that large scale operations need to be reserved for countries or something else where you know where they are and they can't move very easily. For example, North Korea or Iran. Not that I'm saying we need to start attacking these countries, but I do think they might get out of hand in the future.



#8 dormouse

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 09:45 PM

 I'm not saying torture never works as in you can't get the information you are looking for, so much as I'm saying the information you get is entirely unreliable so even if you get what you are looking for it is undependable or "un-actionable" (to use the military jargon).

Take a look at this to get a better undertanding from th einside how the process works. This seems like an incredible story but it is entirely normal.

http://rawstory.com/...okies-al-qaeda/


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#9 Stag Lord

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 02:37 AM

Definitely torture - certainly shouldn't be used any longer, and i rather doubt we saw any real beenfits formt eh tiem ti was used. the cases the Bushies keep ciitng don't match up with dates of arrest, timetables, times of imprisonment, etc.

As far as prosecuiton now though - lets hold ou horses there. Congress was apprised of what was going on, and gutlessly gave at least tacit approval - no matter how much they deny it now. I don't think prosecutions are in order.



#10 Artaban

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 01:52 PM

I'm inclined to say waterboarding is torture.  Two questions were essentially raised by the controversy over interrogation techniques:

1)  What is "torture"?  Many think something is only torture if it inflicts lasting or persistent harm. 

2)  Is torture ever justified?

It's pretty clear from an examination of how the topic has been handled in Hollywood since the 1980s and on TV (recent episodes of "24" anyone?) that there is hardly some sort of American "standard" or "ideal" on the matter.  Nor do feelings and beliefs on "torture" break down into neat little party lines (the myriad Democrats who went along with waterboarding, and those who suddenly opposed Gitmo's closure--alongside some 65% of Americans according to a recent poll). 

As for prosecution, if anyone is going to trial Pelosi should go too...anything less than including ALL congressional members who knew about it (of both parties) would be VERY dangerous for the nation as a whole. 

Finally, I believe waterboarding was used on 3 detainees.  Let me repeat that...3 detainees.  By that measure, there is substantially more torture probably being conducted by local police departments throughout the country on a weekly basis.  The whole waterboarding issue is a perfect example of the media making a mountain out of a molehill, and sadly succeeding in their attempt to draw attention away from more important matters.   It's sad so many Americans can so easily be led around by the nose.

Obama put a stop to it, and we've got a few dozen much more important issues we'd be better off debating. 



#11 Advent

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 02:36 PM

LiquidIce said:

 

With prosecutions, it doesn't sound like a very good idea since the actions were legal at the time according to the government of the day. Not that I'm any kind of expert on US law, but it seems like retroactive prosecutions would set a bad precedent, even if you're going after morally filthy people in this specific case.

 

 

I don't know about that whole "it was legal at the time" thing. It seems to me be a great way to justify many an immoral action.

But, yeah, the precedent it would set (because our system is, after all, based on precedent) would be awful. How far could it actually be taken? 10 years back? 20 years back? 50 years back? It would get messy real fast.

 

@LOB - Yeah, the political retribution would be....ugly to say the least. In practice it would be horrible but in theory I'm all for it. If it's immoral - it MUST be punished.

@Dormouse - If you don't mind me asking, did were you waterboarded for military training?

@Artaban - It was also used on those 3 detainees hundreds of times. HUNDREDS. Anywho, I do agree with basically all of what you wrote. And you can feel free to bring up any subjects to debate....no one's stopping you....I've been feeling contentious lately and there's a rare few people I can get into debates with (which one would think is strange considering I'm in college). ;)

Btw do you still maintain your blog? I used to drop by everynow and then and I kept on intending to leave a comment or two but never got around to it. What's the address again (if you do)?

 

In general, I never understood how people never followed their logic to it's entailment. If waterboarding ISN'T torture then why aren't police allowed to interrogate suspects with it?

 

 

 

 



#12 dormouse

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 08:01 PM

Artaban said:

As for prosecution, if anyone is going to trial Pelosi should go too...anything less than including ALL congressional members who knew about it (of both parties) would be VERY dangerous for the nation as a whole. 

Finally, I believe waterboarding was used on 3 detainees.  Let me repeat that...3 detainees.  By that measure, there is substantially more torture probably being conducted by local police departments throughout the country on a weekly basis.  The whole waterboarding issue is a perfect example of the media making a mountain out of a molehill, and sadly succeeding in their attempt to draw attention away from more important matters.   It's sad so many Americans can so easily be led around by the nose.

Obama put a stop to it, and we've got a few dozen much more important issues we'd be better off debating. 

I'm asking for an investigation of the entire decision, who knew what and when. If crimes reveal themselves then everyone who is implicated should stand trial, Pelosi included... it should be noted, no one here has said she shouldn't be, and she herself has said she welcomes an investigation. I have no problem with anyone on both sides of the aisle responsible for facing the music.

Any one person tortured is unacceptable, be it in our police stations or military bases. I'm not being led by anyone by any part of my body, and I resent the implication that I am being manipulated by the media. I reached this conclusion well before the media picked this up... though I'm curious, if your opinion was informed based on your personal experiences with waterboarding or were perhaps informed more by media personalities that happen to lean in your own ideological direction.

 

@Advent - Yes, waterboarding was part of my military training, specifically through SERE and my training with SFG.


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#13 Artaban

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 05:24 AM

Advent, I've gotten back to maintaining the blog, now that the semester is ended, and I'm only working one job. 

Second post down (as of today) discusses the situation on the Korean peninsula (one of those "few dozen more important issues"). I might resurrect the "economic crisis" thread.

Dormouse, you ask if my opinion that waterboarding is torture is based on experience or on the opinion of certain pundits.  It's not based on experience, but on reading some of the reports (the "leaked" Red Cross summary, etc.).  There are problems with some of those reports, as they take the detainees at their word without question, and take no account of the behavior those same detainees have subjected our soldiers to (which could itself be considered torture). 

I would think a rational, fair, and balanced media would have spent just as much time sharing how Gitmo detainees urinate and fling feces on our soldiers, threaten them, and how many of those soldiers' families have received death threats via mysterious phone calls late at night.  Of course those actions don't justify reprisals against detainees in the form of torture, but they beg some questions about the media coverage. 

 



#14 dormouse

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 11:16 AM

 Sorry mate, but you are missing the key thing here. They are prisoners and guards. Guards never have an excuse for torture. Being urinated on or having feces thrown at you is not a credible excuse to break your code of conduct, the UCMJ, or oath of service. Period. It should also be noted that these guards are also NOT the people torturing the detainees during interrogation.

As to biased media coverage... we expect prisoners to act poorly, and it should be noted that only an extremely small part of any prison population ever engages in the kind of activities you are talking about, I'd like to see your sources regarding such incidents. I have friends in the Security Force stationed on Gitmo and the detainees are kept so closely guarded and regulated that with a few exceptions they haven't even heard of the incidents you are talking about and none of the three of them have experienced it. We don't expect our professional soldiers to lower themselves to the level of alleged criminals. Maybe that is why the story of prisoner abuse is what caught on. Just maybe?


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#15 Artaban

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 10:11 PM

dormouse said:

 

 Sorry mate, but you are missing the key thing here. They are prisoners and guards. Guards never have an excuse for torture. Being urinated on or having feces thrown at you is not a credible excuse to break your code of conduct, the UCMJ, or oath of service. Period. It should also be noted that these guards are also NOT the people torturing the detainees during interrogation.

 

 

Did you miss the part where I stated mistreatment of guards "doesn't justify reprisals against the detainees in the form of torture"?  We agree, mate.

As for your ignorance of the physical attacks, threats, and degradations inflicted on U.S. guards at Guantanamo, and your request for sources, do a simple Google search for    "American guards"+feces  .   You'll get over 400 hits, including Pentagon incident reports, C-Span Congressional transcripts (which claim they're attacking guards 20 times a day in some cases), stories from the Chicago Sun Times (August 2006), Reuters, and firsthand accounts. 



#16 dormouse

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 09:21 PM

 I went through about 75 or so of those pages... they all seem to be quoting or stating as fact the same source, one which appears to several years old... not that that excuses such behavior, but with over 400 sources on the internet and it bing what appears to be 4-5 years old I'm not sure why you are surprised it is not in the media. As to why it wasn't before... *shrug* it was the Bush era, their press conferences were notorious for giving little information about anything happening in Gitmo good or bad. It would also explain why my friends hadn't heard anything about it during their deployment, the one that was stationed there the earliest was in 2006.


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#17 Artaban

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 07:26 AM

dormouse said:

 I went through about 75 or so of those pages... they all seem to be quoting or stating as fact the same source, one which appears to several years old... not that that excuses such behavior, but with over 400 sources on the internet and it bing what appears to be 4-5 years old I'm not sure why you are surprised it is not in the media. As to why it wasn't before... *shrug* it was the Bush era, their press conferences were notorious for giving little information about anything happening in Gitmo good or bad. It would also explain why my friends hadn't heard anything about it during their deployment, the one that was stationed there the earliest was in 2006.

Hold on one second...they DON'T just quote or state "as fact the same source".  In the three or four articles I read, numerous military personnel were directly named and quoted as confirming the contents of the report.  I'm inclined to take them at their word, and they would be considered credible primary sources in the field of journalism.  Same goes for the named former detainee who also confirmed the attacks, and the senators from C-SPAN who served as secondary sources because they visited and spoke to troops. 

My disagreement with the proportion and scope of media coverage pertains to the relative quantities of attacks versus incidents of waterboarding.  Three detainees waterboarded should not result (as it has) in tens of thousands of stories, when there were only 400 or so reports concerning hundreds of physical attacks (sometimes 20 in a day) by detainees that were clearly made against far more than 3 U.S. MPs. 

I would be interested in finding out why your friends serving at Gitmo haven't had similar experiences.  Is it that they actually have, but a military gag order has been placed on them?  Is it because there has been a procedural change to the running of the prison that has eliminated most opportunities for such attacks? Are they stationed at a post where detainees are incapable of attacking them so?

I don't have the answers to those questions.  All I do know is that I first learned about the attacks on U.S. guards at Gitmo not through any of those articles I've referenced, but through interviews of military personnel on local St. Louis radio from 2006 all the way into 2008 (it is, of course, far harder to provide those for you to verify yourself).   Those interviews took place on radio stations 1120 AM and 97.1 PM.  A 2008 interview with Col. Gordon Cucullu led me to believe the attacks and cell phone threats were ongoing.   



#18 dormouse

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 02:48 PM

 The 20 or so articles I went through all pretty much said the same thing in the same way and all references to names were the same. Which generally means they are all coming from the same source. I did not look at more than 22 or so articles and they were selected at random. I'm willing to believe that there were multiple sources and multiple reports and I just didn't see them. The time frame of the ones I read all appear to be 2.5-4 years ago.

This is admittedly the first I've heard of cell phone threats... I find it especially troubling if it is true, but very suspect. When you walk the line in Security Force you don't advertise anything about yourself, that is S.O.P. In the military you refer to each other by last name among peers and by rank and last name when in a heirarchical setting. For people who have been kept in medium to maximum security where all forms of communication are montired and greatly restricted identifying information shouldn't be available to them nor should it be able to be communicated to the outside.

The only way I can reconcile this report and military culture and protocol is that the families or soldiers talked outside of Gitmo, stateside. Which while not likely to be a direct violation is, in two words, terminally stupid. A phrase I don't relish using, but having delt with classified information and work (and so much in the military is, I'm not claiming to be special in this regard), this is precisely why we have operational security.

However all of that still doesn't address the hundreds of times waterboarding was used. The fact that we have police brutality and people torturing our own citizens, in clear violation of the law, here in the states does not excuse it. These are completely separate issues. Your having issues with the media about their lack of coverage of one and overabundance of the other is a personal objection, and completely irrelevant with the topic. As much as my charges of media complicity with our wholely unneccesary and poorly planned "war" in Iraq. A pet peeve of mine, but equally irrelevant.


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