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three torturers

by the stormy present Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 08:00:43 AM EST

Just wanting to draw your attention to a particularly disturbing piece in the Washington Post:

The Tortured Lives of Interrogators
Veterans of Iraq, N. Ireland and Mideast Share Stark Memories

(All emphasis in the following excerpts is mine.)

"I tortured people," said Lagouranis, 37, who was a military intelligence specialist in Iraq from January 2004 until January 2005. "You have to twist your mind up so much to justify doing that."

Being an interrogator, Lagouranis discovered, can be torture. At first, he was eager to try coercive techniques. In training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., instructors stressed the Geneva Conventions, he recalled, while classmates privately admired Israeli and British methods. "The British were tough," Lagouranis said. "They seemed like real interrogators."

But interrogators for countries that pride themselves on adhering to the rule of law, such as Britain, the United States and Israel, operate in a moral war zone. They are on the front lines in fighting terrorism, crucial for intelligence-gathering. Yet they use methods that conflict with their societies' values.

Do tell.

promoted by whataboutbob


What we have here is the story of three "interrogators," and although the headline speaks about their "tortured lives," it's hard for me to summon up much sympathy for them.

The world of the interrogator is largely closed. But three interrogators allowed a rare peek into their lives -- an American rookie who served with the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion and two veteran interrogators from Britain and Israel. The veterans, whose wartime experiences stretch back decades, are more practiced at finding moral balance. They use denial, humor, indignation. Even so, these older men grapple with their own fears -- and with a clash of values.

I don't actually want them to find moral balance.  I am offended by their moral balance, honestly.  Am I a bad person to take comfort in the idea that torturing another human being should not be something you can really ever fully "come to terms with"?

So reading their justification and rationalization of their actions, I had to suppress wave after wave of nausea.  Real, rising-knot-in-stomach nausea.  Still choking a bit of it back now.

Just thinking about torture makes me angry.  I know this about myself:  I have an adverse physical reaction to the idea of torture, part of which comes from personally knowing people who have been tortured, and part of which comes from just having a soul.  Oh, but there I go editorializing again.  Don't I know that these guys are trying to Fight Terror and Save the Free World?

I read this story and perceived it to be a strong indictment of torture.  What I can't tell is whether it would have the same effect on a different reader.  The writer does very little editorializing, really.  She lets these men talk, and in my view they indict themselves, but I can't quite tell whether someone who came to the story pro-torture -- with a Jack Bauer sort of we-can-save-the-world-by-cutting-off-this-man's-fingers sort of attitude -- would also read it as an idictment, or as an endorsement.  I honestly cannot tell.

The reporter behind this story, incidentally, has her own slightly demented backstory, quite an interesting one.

But back to our story.  We have Three Torturers.

Meet The Brit:

James, 65, was one of Britain's most experienced interrogators in Northern Ireland. Starting in 1971, James said, he worked for the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), interrogating Irish nationalists Gerry Adams, Bobby Sands and others whom the British government suspected of being terrorists.

Oh, the Special Branch.  Nice.  More coffee?

Once, IRA leader Brendan Hughes claimed that James had cocked a gun to his head. James does not deny it. "You fight fire with fire," he said, the memory igniting his blue eyes.

He noted that the sectarian killings dropped off: "If it's going to save lives, you're entitled to use whatever means you can." How do you fight bad guys and stay good? "You don't. You can't."

Apparently not.  But James seems to persist in thinking he is good.  His subconscious might have a few things to say about it, but on the surface he's not seeming like the most introspective sort.  Which, if you're a torturer and you're going to live with yourself, is probably to be expected.

We will come back to James in a moment,  But first, we get to know The American:

"At every point, there was part of me resisting, part of me enjoying," Lagouranis said. "Using dogs on someone, there was a tingling throughout my body. If you saw the reaction in the prisoner, it's thrilling."

In Mosul, he took detainees outside the prison gate to a metal shipping container they called "the disco," with blaring music and lights. Before and after questioning, military police officers stripped them and checked for injuries, noting cuts and bumps "like a car inspection at a parking garage." Once a week, an Iraqi councilman and an American colonel visited. "We had to hide the tortured guys," Lagouranis said.

Then a soldier's aunt sent over several copies of Viktor E. Frankel's Holocaust memoir, "Man's Search for Meaning." Lagouranis found himself trying to pick up tips from the Nazis. He realized he had gone too far.

At that point, Lagouranis said, he moderated his techniques and submitted sworn statements to supervisors concerning prisoner abuse.

"I couldn't make sense of the moral system" in Iraq, he said. "I couldn't figure out what was right and wrong. There were no rules. They literally said, 'Be creative.' "

Lagouranis blames the Bush administration: "They say this is a different kind of war. Different rules for terrorists. Total crap."

OK.  Deep breath.

Tips from the Nazis.

Breathe.

I have some things I want to say here, but I just can't.

So we're going to meet The Israeli instead:

"You have to play by different rules," the Israeli interrogator told an American visitor. "The terrorists want to use your own system to destroy you. What your president is doing is right."

The Israeli, who spoke on condition that he be identified by his code name, Sheriff, recently retired as chief of interrogations for Shin Bet, Israel's security service, which is responsible for questioning Palestinian terrorism suspects. The former head of the service, Avi Dichter, and the former chief terrorism prosecutor, Dvorah Chen, called Sheriff "the best."

"To persuade someone to confess feels better than beating him up," Sheriff said. "It's a mental orgasm."

This guy is actually intriguing, in the kind of I'm-really-glad-he's-not-someone-I-know way.  There's a rather chilling anecdote about how he brought his 2-year-old child to work one day, let the kid sleep on a mat in an interrogation room.

It doesn't say, but I have to assume it was a room that wasn't actually in use at the time.

For Sheriff, interrogation was more psychological than physical.
Sheriff hugged his suspects, he said, poured them tea and kissed their cheeks. As his former boss, Dichter, put it: "You try to become friends with someone who murdered a baby. That's your job. It's the most difficult feeling." When he came home, Sheriff said, his wife would make him change. "You could smell the guy on your shirt."

But when the pressure mounted for intelligence, Sheriff said, the best method was "a very little violence." Enough to scare people but not so much that they'd collapse. Agents tried it on themselves. "Not torture."

Sometimes a prisoner would accuse Sheriff of torture. He tried to shift the moral burden by blaming the prisoner: "I would tell him this: 'I'm sorry. We prefer it the nice way. You leave us no choice.'"

Ah, there's Jack Bauer.  You leave me no choice!  What's unsaid:  There's always a choice.

Also unsaid:  whether that intel he obtained through physical violence was actually reliable.  Well, I guess it's easier not to think about these things.  Especially on Take-Our-Sons-To-Work Day.

We're back to The American, who's talking to his girlfriend.

"Seeing innocent people being tortured is hard," she said.

"Not the things I saw, but the things I did. You keep saying 'torturing the innocent,' but the two brothers I tortured were guilty. It doesn't mean you should torture them."

Well, that's a start.  And something that perhaps the other two protagonists in our story appear never to have learned.

There's a sickening, sickening end to the girlfriend conversation.  After which the girlfriend seems to be deciding that she really doesn't want to know.

Because the truth is, if you want to keep loving this guy, I think this is probably stuff you can't know.

Or maybe that's just me.

This is supposed to be a story about the "tormented lives" of the interrogators, remember.  Except that The American seems to be the only one who's actually feeling particularly tormented.

The Israeli:

Sheriff stretched, relaxed. "I've got a clean conscience because I rarely use it."

Israeli society, however, has been conflicted. After more than a decade of debate in legal and security circles, the Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that torture is illegal.

The Brit:

Pain, for James -- the interrogator tucked away on a Mediterranean island -- was what made the attempt on his life so frightening. The IRA had shot his partner in the heart, he said, but when the gunmen came for him, they brought a sledgehammer.

"They would have tortured me and extracted information," James said.

No, I don't think it would have been information they were after.

Britain, like Israel, reformed its interrogation practices. In 1979, the British government acknowledged that Northern Ireland police had mistreated IRA suspects. It introduced restrictions.

"Every time they changed the rules, it was to benefit murdering terrorists," James said, grinding the word "terrorists" with his teeth. "We got no protection. Next we'll be tried as war criminals."

His eyes turned red and watery as he said, "The people of Northern Ireland will never know how many lives were saved."

Worse yet, the people he interrogated "are now running the bloody country." They used to glare, with "venomous looks," and say in Gaelic, "Our day will come."

It's at this point that I'm thinking of Colman's latest diary, which makes some points that our unrepentant pal James clearly doesn't comprehend.

And remembering the title of our reporter's book, we might note that what James is talking about now is no longer stopping terrorism, if he ever really was.  He's talking about revenge, and he's talking about his tribe.

I want these men to feel tormented by what they did.  And sadly, except for The American, I don't think they are, not enough.

I know I should have some ringing and righteous closing to this piece, but I just don't.  I'm so weighed down by anger and sadness that I don't know what else to say.

I live in a country where torture is routine.  And severe.  There are videos on YouTube, shot by the police themselves.  I know someone who lives behind a police station, and she is kept awake at night sometimes by the sound of screams echoing between the buildings.

The torturers, the serious ones, could be my neighbors for all I know.  They could be that guy at the gym who works so hard on his lats, or the guy who passes my office in the afternoons as he picks up his daughter from preschool.

And if I were to move back "home," to my "own" country, there could still be torturers at the grocery store, torturers sitting next to me on the subway, torturers bringing their dogs to the park.

I don't have a good closing for this story.  I just don't want my world to be like this anymore.

Display:
Could a pro-torture person read that WaPo story as a vindication of torture?  Like maybe if the new guy learned to think about it right, he'd be ok?
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Jun 4th, 2007 at 05:08:54 PM EST
Um, do you want an answer to make you happy, or the answer the dark recesses of my mind suspects is probably true?

Unfortunately, whichever you want, the dark recesses of my mind are winning out:

To put it bluntly, to someone pro-torture, the Israeli is right to sleep soundly at night. The Brit says it all, we're failing because we don't have the will "to do what is necessary."

And the American? He is soft. No doubt in fact they would use some feminine term intended to be derogatory.

You can read as much in the writing of Mark Steyn and others from the US right on the issue.

Is that the purpose of the article? Difficult to say.
I wrote a whole philosophical paragraph on the relationship between "witness evidence" and "narrative" but I deleted it as I don't think it helps.

I think it is fair to say, that this report sits squarely in the territory of "We report, you decide..."

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Jun 4th, 2007 at 05:40:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's sort of what I was afraid of.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Jun 4th, 2007 at 06:04:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"They were alive and then dead," a voice said during a sequence of images that included the military IDs of two Americans still missing.

http://www.comcast.net/news/index.jsp?cat=GENERAL&fn=/2007/06/04/680522.html

Guess, a quick death is better than being tortured and having your head sawed off, but then only Americans, Europeans and Israelis are supposed to have a sense of moral responsibility about such things. Or could it just be that any treatment is OK as long as the person is labeled a foreign invader (except terrorists of course)?

Don't hear much here about torture by the Iraqi/al Qaida insurgents.  Any particular reason?   Truth is, I don't have a lot of sympathy for any torturer or murderer, so I don't have to single out anyone by nationality.  They are all the same and I'll say it loud and clear.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Jun 4th, 2007 at 06:26:58 PM EST
I'm guessing it's hard to get them to write for the WaPo.

But still - the problem with attempting to justify atrocity by taking the moral high ground compared to the other guy, is that if you no longer have the moral high ground, all you're left with is atrocity for its own sake.

It's odd how (comparatively) few people seem to understand this.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 06:08:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agree 100%.  We need to keep our own house spotless and clean, but we also need to hold everyone to account.  No more excuses.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 09:01:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How do we keep everyone to account? Abu Ghraib wasn't really the way...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 01:32:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But interrogators for countries that pride themselves on adhering to the rule of law, such as Britain, the United States and Israel, operate in a moral war zone. They are on the front lines in fighting terrorism, crucial for intelligence-gathering. Yet they use methods that conflict with their societies' values.
This, like the rest of the WaPo piece, is thinly-veiled apologia of torture, and it is arguably not even correct:
Hanns-Joachim Schraff was the greatest German interrogator in world war 2.  He worked primarily on captured US airmen and he was so respected for ability to extract secrets that he was dubbed "The Master" by his peers.  What vicious tactics did he use to get this information?  What horrific torment did he inflict on US airmen?  Kindness and a respect for human dignity.

Schraff correctly realized that only a bare fraction of captured enemies would have information of immediate tactical use.  And it is highly unlikely that one could extract that information in time to use it.  So torturing an enemy to get the "whole story" would be a waste of time.  Additionally it would run the risk of getting false information from the prisoner.

Instead, he did everything in his power to help the captives feel relaxed and safe.  He would have long talks with the captives and discuss philosophy or some other seemingly safe topic for a prisoner to discuss.  All the while, he was collecting bits and pieces of information that he would assemble and use to support the German war effort.  Their best interrogator, and he never had to raise his voice.



Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 4th, 2007 at 07:23:02 PM EST
Yet they use methods that conflict with their societies' values.

excuse my vehemence, but what BS...  and it gives me the cold creeps also, SP.  <shudder>

they use methods that conflict with their societies' ostensible, "civilised," visible values, but wholly in line with their societies' historic, vernacular and pragmatic values and the tactics by which their societies enforce colonial power (resource and land theft, etc).

Michael Corleone stands demurely at the baptismal font, while his operatives deniably commit the murders and tortures that ensure his family's fortune and dominance in his world -- as if a brain-blood barrier separated all the sordid violence and thuggery from the sentimental propriety of public/family life.  but like the literal brain-blood barrier, the figurative one is more permeable than we think, and systemic violence and lies are like prions... they soak through everywhere, no respecters of our neat little taxonomies and hypocrisies.

the culture expresses its vernacular or realpolitikisch values below the line, in its vernacular media:  the very nearly open, unframed celebration of torture, domination, bullydom, rape and murder in popular media -- film, porn, tv shows.  and increasingly above the line, in the highly gendered, violent and thuggish, swaggering discourse of its most powerful politicians.  these professional torturers with their "tortured consciences" are stuck, (just like some soldiers) on the sharp demarc line of a deep cognitive dissonance between the cruelty and wickedness and brutal force necessary for 4 pct of the world pop to go on hogging more than a planet's worth of resources per annum, and the popular pretence that this hoggery is normative and virtuous and cost-free.

Mama Corleone doesn't want to know how Papa Corleone makes his money.  these are men trying to work for Papa while justifying themselves to Mama... can't be done.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Jun 4th, 2007 at 09:48:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Americans where very succesful in interrogating Japanese prisoners during WW2, even the most fanatical ones. Without using torture. Torture very rarely work. People will just say anything to make it stop.

And well...

Then a soldier's aunt sent over several copies of Viktor E. Frankel's Holocaust memoir, "Man's Search for Meaning." Lagouranis found himself trying to pick up tips from the Nazis.

Oh my.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 08:46:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Speaking of WW2 - here's a page from the nazi manual on  "enhanced interrogation techniques", with some analysis.
by jv (euro@junkie.cz) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 10:22:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is worth noting that the analysis is by Andrew Sullivan. In closing, he writes:
What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - "enhanced interrogation techniques" - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.


Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 02:56:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there any doubt that the Bush Administration has committed Crimes Against Humanity as defined by the Nuremberg Charter? The problem is to prosecute them.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 05:18:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You'd probably have them on crimes against peace, and war crimes too

The following acts, or any of them, are crimes coming within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal for which there shall be individual responsibility:

(a) CRIMES AGAINST PEACE: namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing;

(b) WAR CRIMES: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity;

(c)CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

Leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan.



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 05:58:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My brain can´t process this

"b)  ... military necessity;"

When will this become commonly unacceptable as the factoid, contradiction, oxymoron... it is?  The necessity only exists in sociopaths´ minds and snowballs with their ilk.

How about a "peace necessity"?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 06:58:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Military necessity isn't a catch all get out of jail free card in international law.

best peice of reading is probably here

The whole book is a good grounding in ethics and morality in Military situations as it exists in international law.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 07:17:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
isn't that last paragraph important, that's the bit that should really have Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Howard and Aznar sleeping unsoundly at night.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 07:28:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IIRC, its Scharff.
by passerby on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 12:07:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is the Washington Post.  It would be.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Mon Jun 4th, 2007 at 10:28:59 PM EST
hear hear..

i too hope these folks don't forgive themselves too easily.

uneducated people think that moral education, or ethical considerations, are the stuff of fantasy, they live in a brutal subworld of darkness and shadow, and think that by force you can make people agree with you, or come over to your side.

when all you do is create a temporary compliance, and add fuel to a buried rage.

deanander, as per, sums it up elegantly enough....4% who are hogging more than one planet's resources.

what is it about 'thuggish heist' that we don't yet see and understand?

does the cant at the font fool anyone any more?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 03:22:03 AM EST
Personally, I hope they do suffer...why should it be easy to torture someone and not experience your own? Don't we sorta depend on the fact that we expect people to have conscience?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 07:58:27 AM EST
I don't think any discussion of torture is complete without a snippet from Ariel Dorfman who survived the Pinochet regime...

His take, and I agree--a society that condones torture is a society of cowards. Folks that practice it are equally cowardly -- both moral cowards as well as physical cowards. And yes, that is a moral judgement about torturers from any culture for any cause.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/22/AR2006092201303.html

His last few graphs are spot on:

Can't the United States see that when we allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim and the perpetrator who are corrupted, not only the "intelligence" that is contaminated, but also everyone who looked away and said they did not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and age, that we must embrace its darkness?

Are we so morally sick, so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this? Are we so fearful, so in love with our own security and steeped in our own pain, that we are really willing to let people be tortured in the name of America? Have we so lost our bearings that we do not realize that each of us could be that hapless Argentine who sat under the Santiago sun, so possessed by the evil done to him that he could not stop shivering?

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 11:37:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, good call.  I have quoted that Dorfman piece a number of times before, but it always bears revisiting.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 11:52:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Milgram showed that we can't rely on people having consciences, except in a very limited way. A large fraction of U.S. citizens, even before the last 50 years' decay, could be induced to torture others with only moderate pressure from authority. Officially sanctioned torturers aren't necessarily unusually bad people, at least beforehand.

What can we rely on? Conscience in many people, in circumstances that encourage it. Courageous conscience in a few.

These are enough only when supported by law and culture. When law and culture are aligned differently, people of conscience may find themselves morally compelled, not to oppose torture, but to ensure its proper, righteous application.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 02:27:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't mean to be sarcastic in any way, but it's interesting how certain words switch off our brains. If he'd said "Tips from the CIA" no one would have though it was that scary.

Here's Professor Alfred McCoy at Democracy Now!:

[...]if you look at the most famous of photographs from Abu Ghraib, of the Iraqi standing on the box, arms extended with a hood over his head and the fake electrical wires from his arms, okay? In that photograph you can see the entire 50-year history of C.I.A. torture. It's very simple. He's hooded for sensory disorientation, and his arms are extended for self-inflicted pain.[...]

"'Ha, Nazi schmazi,' says Wernher von Braun".
- "Wernher von Braun", Tom Lehrer


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sapere aude

by Number 6 on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 11:32:58 AM EST
Well said, we should never forget the "School of the Americas" despite attempts to cover that history up.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 01:26:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding the CIA, let's not forget their own formerly broad definition (1960)of unacceptable torture. What would the authors of this memorandum say about their own agency's "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" (2002) and their alleged legality?

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Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 02:37:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
we might note that what James is talking about now is no longer stopping terrorism, if he ever really was.  He's talking about revenge, and he's talking about his tribe.

This is as succinct an explanation for torture as I've seen.

Torture doesn't work. Well, it might in the Dirty Harry way of you know the guy in front of you has left the little girl to die and you have half an hour to find her and you need one piece of information, one piece. What are you gonna do ? But that's Hollywood. Real life doesn't present such black/white scenarios....ever. Just as that nazi interrogator admitted, in terms of the value of the intelligence, hurting and threatening ain't worth the candle.

I'm sure I saw something recently where somebody in US govt had looked at intelligence techniques of WWII and compared them with now and decided that we were just a whole lot better at it before we became uncivilised. But torture isn't about intelligence. Everybody knows the guys in Guantanamo have no intelligence to extract, but all across the west a whole lot of politicians who pissed their pants over muslim terrorism feel a whole lot better knowing that somebody somewhere is paying for it right now.

It makes them feel strong, in exactly the same way playground bullies feel strong when they torture the weak and the helpless. It's the strength that comes from making someone pay for your own feelings of inadequacy. And looking at some of the politicians in the so-called civilised west, I think they have a lot to feel inadequate about.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 03:18:24 PM EST
But it's only illusory strength. It helps the pig fuckers feel safer so they can sleep at night.

Of course, the intelligence gathering aspect is a lie, as you say. Gitmo is a concentration camp designed to to let the world know that we're not even pretending to be civilised any more.

But more than that, I think it goes beyond RealPolitik. The essence of being a pigfucker is revelling in the atrocity for its own sake. You don't need revenge. You don't even need a rational reason. You do it because you want to, and you can, and no one can stop you.

So I'm not even sure it's simple sadism. I think it's some kind of extra level of twistedness far beyond that, where the goal is as much to corrupt the people who do it and the population that watches complicitly as the people it's done to.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 06:17:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gitmo is a concentration camp designed to to let the world know that we're not even pretending to be civilised any more.

That's a scary thought.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 12:11:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It makes them feel strong, in exactly the same way playground bullies feel strong when they torture the weak and the helpless. It's the strength that comes from making someone pay for your own feelings of inadequacy.

It even works if you're just watching. Hence reality TV  and the revival of grindhouse and torture porn.

Lucas's THX 1138 had a scene where the protagonist was watching TV. The programs were exceedingly simple. One was simply a faceless someone beating a prone figure with a stick.

(I'll refrain from quoting 1984 for once.)


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sapere aude

by Number 6 on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 11:53:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are brave, stormy.  I got really uptight on the first page of the article and stopped reading, as if I knew what was coming.  Thanks for making it readable.

I also caught myself re-reading this on the Salon article about slightly demented:  "The Blumenfelds are Jewish and Omar Khatib is Palestinian;"

Moral and cognitive what?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 06:26:31 PM EST


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