Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Is there a need for State-sanctioned torture?

US Embassies around the world are braced for a backlash following the publication of a report into CIA torture. The great strength of the USA is that such a report is being published - the UK would prevaricate endlessly until the geriatric judge heading the enquiry died of natural causes and then start over, the Kremlin would ban all publication and post officials to the Russian far east and the Chinese would simply announce that some wrongdoers had been shot. So well done, America. 

However, I'm not so sure that this is proof of Churchill's adage that "America always does the right thing. Eventually". You see, we've been here before - with both the CIA's attempts to assassinate democratically elected leaders, and the CIA's creation and support of death squads / terrorist gangs in other nations. In both cases there was a lot of noise and light, democratic intervention, a lot of public hand-wringing and, eventually, the legalisation of such activities with appropriate democratic oversight. It's OK for the CIA to kill people so long as Congress are openly looking over their shoulder. From past performance, the next stage following publication of the torture report is the presentation of evidence that torture is absolutely necessary to ensure America's security, and then the creation of a framework and mechanism that permits official State torture under appropriate democratic oversight. 

And this is possible because the US is not a signatory to any of the international treaties that would prevent it from doing so. The question is this;

Whilst the EU enjoys the moral luxury of acting without responsibility, the US cannot do so. If there is a genuine need for State sanctioned torture, then the US will do it. And EU nations tempted to sniff about this should consider just how much they actually benefit from the USA taking such responsibility. 

The question really is, is there a need for torture? If it's absolutely necessary for our own security, can moral scruples ever outweigh such necessity?


Sackerson said...

I've read that skilled questioning is more effective. And even in the days of Elizabeth I, the government was reluctant to use torture and knew it was unreliable - Donne says that men on the rack will say anything. They only racked Guy Fawkes to get the names of other conspirators fast.

Wildgoose said...

Sackerson is correct - and as a result we have had a State ban on the use of torture for centuries.

The only reason the US has this need is because of their continued imperial interference in other nations - and yes, the word "imperial" is appropriate. Just look at the money they spent in partnership with the EU in the deliberate overthrow of the democratically elected Ukrainian Government.

You don't have to be a fan of either the Ukrainian or Russian Governments to know that poking a wasp nest with sticks is a bad idea.

Or that if you repeatedly poke wasp nests all over the world that you end up with an unnecessary need to exterminate pests.

Anonymous said...

Statements made under duress are rubbish in written form, how many of the IRA bombers have been released because of unsound convictions? It must be, patient and thorough questioning can be the only way, however the psychotic, the sociopath zealot and the really hard men will usually never be broken.


It always bewilders me, the moral equivocators are the one's who stand up and shout accusations of human rights abuses. These equivocators, are the same people who facilitate and advocate brainwashing kids in schools and are strict adherents to and fierce promulgators of, the precepts of Cultural Marxism, irony huh?

Anonymous said...

Speaking from experience, "softly softly catchee monkey" will always provide better quality intelligence.

In the case of the CIA we have a bunch of state sanctioned sadists abusing their position's of power and responsibilities towards their captives.

Unfortunately, we no longer have the moral high ground to denounce them from, tainted as we are by NuLabor's support of extraordinary rendition.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Aside from moral objections, it really doesn't work, and it hands a propaganda victory to our enemies. So naturally, the Yanks will carry on with it, as you say.

OTOH the definition of torture seems rather wide these days. In my mind it is physical coercion through inflicting pain, say electric shocks or pulling out fingernails, waterboarding and duffing them up generally. But to concerned lefties it seems to include such relatively innocuous enhanced interrogation techniques such as hooding a suspect to disorient them, or sleep deprivation. Interrogators need these techniques to be effective.

English Pensioner said...

I try to reduce these sort of questions to a personal level.
Imagine your wife (daughter, mistress as appropriate) disappeared and a day later a neighbour said that he'd kidnapped her because you'd done something to upset him and he was going to let her starve to death. The police can't do anything, there's no evidence and no reason for a search warrant. They question him and he claims that he was joking. You are convinced he is responsible.
Do you
1. Do nothing
2. Get a few of your biggest mates to visit him and threaten to work him over if he doesn't tell you where she is.
I suspect the majority of us would opt for the later, even if we know it might not achieve anything.

Brightside Bob said...

Re: English Pensioner.

"I suspect the majority of us would opt for the later, even if we know it might not achieve anything."

Try it from the 'other' persons level. Suppose you were falsely accused of the kidnap.

Would you welcome having the cr@p beaten out of you?

After all, those big lads (real men to the last) need their regular self-rightous workouts.

I NEVER take the 'I'm Alright Jack' stance. We live in dangerous times. Anyone of us could be a casualty of (new euphenism) 'friendly torture'.

Mr Ecks said...

Talk about "justified" torture reveals how many truly evil people there are lurking out there. Including it seems our own blog host.


If I was running the show everybody involved in the West's use of it--from Bush/Cheney down to the lowest grunt would be executed regardless of status or nationality. And those who have and still are helping cover it up. It is an evil we had left behind. And those who have revived it should die under it. Well die anyway.

Anonymous said...

The Romans wouldn't believe the testimony of a slave if they hadn't been tortured first. I wonder what they knew that we don't, or was it a belief inculcated for cultural reasons, not based on evidence?

visc said...

Heartening to see the near universal approbrium on those who think torture for "them" (who ever "they" might, be is acceptable, or even useful.)

Anon 18.41 - the Roman beleif was cultural and linked to the status of slave in Roman society, and it relates to evidence in a trial not any other circumstance. So no it has no real relevance to this discussion.

Cascadian said...

The self righteous nonsensical comments here explain a lot about Britain.

Lets put the question in context, you are dealing with animals who behead people in public, who explode roadside bombs indiscriminately killing innocents, who attack female scholars for no reason, who torture students who dare to demonstrate against their demented rule. Yet the screamers believe these "combatants" or "freedom fighters" deserve all the niceties of the Geneva convention.

Why should you treat your enemies any nicer than their documented atrocities?

Anonymous said...

After decades of trial and error the Russians (CCCP) had it down to a fine art - nothing physical, just push the right (mental) buttons often enough.

Isn't that right, Jack?


Raedwald said...

Cascadian - with respect you're missing the point. The issue isn't whether prisoners deserve mistreatment but whether torture is justified if it works, i.e. if it saves lives.

Well, does it?

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Cascadian is being somewhat obtuse. Firstly they explicitly do not deserve the niceties of the Geneva convention since they do not wear a recognisable uniform nor do they belong to the organised armed forces of a state which is a signatory to the convention (left wing twats and social justice warriors will of course disagree). But that is nothing to do with the question at hand. As has been proved time and again, from Algeria to Yemen and back to Rhodesia, torture is counter productive. It's the best recruiting sergeant that terrorists and insurgents have ever had.

Brightside Bob said...

Further to my remarks above.

'Them' (H/T James Higham) always get the right wronguns (sic) don't they...
No innocents are ever targeted (because of 'incentives' or payback due to a grudge) are they?

I don't think it's paranoia to suggest that the phrase 'nothing to hide - nothing to fear' is naive in the extreme.

Mr Ecks said...

"Why should you treat your enemies any nicer than their documented atrocities?"

Because we are not the same shite that they are.

In fighting the Nazis should we have stooped to they're level?.


Wildgoose said...

I just want to echo Sebastian Weetabix's comment. Cascadian is indeed being obtuse. Nobody here is arguing in favour of the usual kid-gloves treatment.

I personally believe that we should have a policy of not taking prisoners whenever we get in a firefight with them - they don't after all, and as SW points out, the Geneva Convention DOES NOT APPLY.

Torturing somebody taken into custody is a different matter. That's sinking to their level and we are above that.

G. Tingey said...

Also agreeing with everybody else (even SW) ... to Cascadian - what happens WHEN you have "captured" the wrong person & are torturing them?
Where's your "moral authority" then.
Also, most importantly of al - it does not work, really.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Romans (When inside the Treaty of Rome, i.e. the modern Roman Empire etc etc), sure, it's cultural. Presumably slaves were likely to be tortured at home, so State Torture was worse.

WHat is different about evidence in a trial and evidence sought by security forces?

I' against torture myself, but there is an argument as to whether it is useful or useless, to which the answer is one or the other, or maybe both depending on the circumstances. Certainly 'torture' which is simply 'rough treatment', followed by the release of the 'victim' with nary a mark on them, allied with a wibbling press in the perpetrator's country seems to me to be a recipe for distaster at home and abroad.
The Romans also felt that a citizen ought to be accorded better treatment than some random Johnny foreigner seems to be the opposite to here, where said Abdul Foreigner gets the red carpet.

Bloke In Italy said...

Torture has been repeatedly shown not to bring useful reliable information.

Cases in which beating the crap out of a suspect may save lives are vanishingly few in number.

The countervailing arguments are far stronger.

It should never be a blanket authorisation for it.

After all that's what we are fighting for. How can it be right to sink to their level?

Cascadian is symptomatic of the problem - S Wheatabix has the right of it - I can't equate sleep deprivation with cutting fingers off etc.

Cascadian said...

I see we have a lot of torture experts here, apparently having personal experience that "torture does not work". Who knew?

How nice to be so sure, and who knew war was a moral imperative. Perhaps that is why western combatants "fighting" with terms of engagement and ridiculous political control keep on LOSING.

Intelligence agencies have noted that several planned attacks have been thwarted due to information received from "torture". Can you definitively refute that claim?-If not, then you are wrong!

If you wish to judge torture as morally repugnant and happily suffer several more terrorist spectaculars in your cities, that is your choice. If you equate the pain of several (perhaps as few as a hundred) interrogatees to the lives of hundreds or thousands of innocents, I suggest that you are misguided.

While neither side of this argument can state equivocally that torture is worthwhile, I am at least happy in this case to allow our politicians and military (despite my usual misgivings of their judgement) leeway to decide what is necessary to secure our peaceful way-of-life against the nutters.

As to those that give way to our enemies because "we are better than them" I can only say you are deluded, a few more drummer Rigby incidents in your city may be needed to remove the scales from your eyes.

Cascadian said...

More succinctly.

Raedwald-"The issue is .....whether torture is justified if it works, i.e. if it saves lives.

Well, does it?

Yes, under the right, limited circumstances.

Just as the use of thermo-nuclear bombs were justified at the end of WW2. They were not elegant, they killed many innocent people, but they put an end to what could have been a worse tragedy. I view torture the same way-inelegant, but necessary to protect from greater tragedies.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Well, in my military days I was subjected to escape/evasion exercises which were rounded off by being pestered unpleasantly by special forces and was also once upon a time an interrogator, so I would like to think I do know a little something about it. Torture (as I defined it above) does not work. People will say anything just to make pain stop. It is not reliable. Which is why our friends in the CIA cannot point to a single instance of water-boarding etc stopping a terrorist attack. Wanting to justify themselves, they just lied about it, and have been caught out. If, Cascadian, you cannot see that letting sadists in our ranks loose is a very serious defeat in what is a moral/philosophical struggle before it is a military one, then you are in the grip of unreason.

It is the politicians, btw, who have been losing the fighting, due to rather stupid strategic errors like invading Iraq, backing the Muslim Brotherhood and giving guns and support to Assad's opponents (whom we must now fight, since our glorious leaders have finally figured out they are worse than the status quo ante.) Torture just compounds all the other witless follies our useless leaders have committed.

Anonymous said...

They weren't thermonuclear, they were simple fission weapons.

Cascadian said...

SW- if you check the list of "tortures" inflicted,(and I am relying on the Daily Mail in the absence of other sources) there is only one from your list- waterboarding-which you deem extreme.

Most techniques fall into the description you provide-"relatively innocuous enhanced interrogation techniques such as hooding a suspect to disorient them, or sleep deprivation. Interrogators need these techniques to be effective". Perhaps we agree more than you care to admit.

The hysterical response to this biased report borders on farce.

I do not agree that recent campaigns are a moral/philisophical struggle indeed our politicians have been extremely careful not to call the campaign a crusade. The western response started as a purge of nutters that were supposedly threatening our existence militarily, it has since devolved into a hopeless mess, where our "leaders" cannot seem to define what result they desire, who the enemy is or how to achieve victory.

Far from me being in the grips of unreason, I would challenge you to read what actually occurred and not rely on faddish ideas as they relate to CIA operations.

Experience tells us that there have been no successful "spectaculars" since 11 Sept 2001 in the USA. Perhaps that indicates a degree of military success worth celebrating. Meanwhile Britain has shown itself vulnerable perhaps due to its population lackadaisical acceptance of its indigent enemy and prissy avoidance of reality.

Cascadian said...

Anon 23:05 thank you for the correction.

The assertion stands as well with fission nuclear devices.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

I find it interesting that you assume because I disagree that I have not read the report. Because of my past life and instinctive distrust of what the media say, I actually went to the trouble of skimming it for the major points before I made up my mind. I thought it was pretty damning. Forcing a man to stand on broken legs, denying medical treatment, and causing a prisoner rectal collapse is simply sadism for no good purpose. So is allowing a prisoner to die of hypothermia.

I suspect it is you who has not read the report. By the way, I think it is to Colin Powell's credit that the CIA kept him in the dark in 2003 precisely because he would likely blow his top. As a highly intelligent former soldier he would have appreciated just how demented and counter-productive the torture programme was.

If these CIA guys worked for Iran or North Korea I wonder what your views would be? Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Cascadian said...

Pg 76 "Those CIA officers wrote that binal-Shibhhad provided information used in approximately 50 CIA intelligence reports, including information on potential future threats, to include a potential attack on London's Heathrow Airport Nashiri's planning for potential operations in the Arabian

Of course, you may not consider an attack on Heathrow very important to support your moral crusade. Far less important than say a bit of discomfort to your enemies.

If that is true, and this a Democrat Party report (they would go out of their way to deny any benefits) then the techniques are worthwhile.

Care to cite the pages of the report related to your allegations?

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Yes, they wrote that on p76.... and if you read further you find the CIA claim IS NOT TRUE.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Sceptical Steve said...

The elephant in the room is the ineffectiveness of the CIA in maintaining its covert intelligence networks in the Islamic world, and this is what created the need to rely on rendition and aggravated interrogation techniques.
Despite the popularity of the James Bond myth, the career of a successful officer in the CIA (or our own SIS) is not advanced by ten years' working undercover in the Middle East. You only have to look at those who've taken on senior management positions in the past 20 years to realise that career advancement comes from the ability to write reports, manage a budget, and toe the line on equality and diversity issues.
When the shit hit the fan on 9/11, and it appeared that AlQaeda might launch a concerted campaign against the west, the security services were f**ked because they had no reliable informants in place but felt desperate to knock AlQaeda off balance, hence the initial military action in Aghanistan and the subsequent rendition campaign. Without being over-moralistic, the security services' dubious response to the crisis was a direct consequence of the politicians' failure to provide leadership in the preceding 20 years.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Here's a link to the report, so people can judge how selective Cascadian has been.


Anonymous said...

The correction to fission from thermonuclear was not intended to dispute your conclusion. Both targets were in a large part military, and the loss of life was little different from anticipated loss of life in an invasion of the Japanese homeland. Both cities are surprisingly vibrant today, and contrary to popular views, the streetlights ARE needed at night.
Personally I think that there is a difference between (a) maltreatment of suspects, (b) maltreatment of terrorist captives who you know are 'badly behaved' and are only waiting for a chance to escape and do some more, and (c) maltreatment of a captive soldier who has behaved in accordance with international law.

G. Tingey said...

I see we have a lot of torture experts here, apparently having personal experience that "torture does not work". Who knew?
Well, British interrogators during & after WWII for a start!
See what SW said - exactly so.

Anonymous also has a point - the CIA did NOT distinguish between (a) & (b) cases - maltreating suspects really, really ain't a good idea

Cascadian said...

SW you cannot cite the pages of the report which describe the "torture"
probably because you have not read it.

Like most here you are arguing the hysterical response of the Democrat party of the USA, using a Guardian precis of that report.

Greg-as usual you are wrong, the report details the torture of just 39 detainees in a "war" that lasted several years.

Cascadian said...

Anonymous 11:28

Thank you for your thoughtful response, I too believe there should be differences in response to various levels of prisoner. (there was)

Had most of the commentors here attempted to understand the report by reading it, the revelation that these admittedly extreme measures were only inflicted on 39 detainees, whom the CIA believed had additional information would be apparent. That cannot be deemed excessive in number over a period of several years.

Most here also wish to discuss a fine moral point ignoring the wider realities of the world.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Cascadian: There are over 100 references to water-boarding, starting p10. There is an example of anal abuse resulting in prolapse (p126). Mock burial on p62.

The USA used to call water-boarding "water torture". But that was during/after WW2 when they hanged people for doing it, since they considered it a war crime. Now they do it themselves.

It is a fucking disgrace. And so are your weasel excuses for it.

Cascadian said...

Weetabix it appears you have at last read the report, good for you.

Now try to comprehend what this biased committee (not the CIA) reported.

Page 12 of 19 preamble:

The Committee's review of CIA records determined that the CIA
detained at least 119 individuals, of whom at least 39 were subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation
That would be over the period of several years.

Since you are being especially stupid about this, let me explain, 100 references to "waterboarding" does not mean 100 detainees were waterboarded.

And as others here have pointed out they all survived interrogation unlike most of their unfortunate victims.

We obviously differ as to what constitutes a fucking disgrace, though I offer this as a comment from Raedwalds original post-"Whilst the EU enjoys the moral luxury of acting without responsibility, the US cannot do so. If there is a genuine need for State sanctioned torture, then the US will do it. And EU nations tempted to sniff about this should consider just how much they actually benefit from the USA taking such responsibility." Europe and particularly yUK are a fucking disgrace wanting to benefit from others admittedly unsavoury actions while loudly protesting their "moral" superiority.

Teachers comment:

4/10 Weetabix must try harder if he wishes to graduate from primary school this term, his reading assignments are always late, and comprehension is especially troublesome.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

It's really very simple. Water torture is wrong. The USA has esecuted people for it because it is a war crime. Yiu defend it. That makes you a cunt.

Cascadian said...

No doubt typed in an alcoholic fog.

I am thankful that while you would sit on your shiny-arsed trousers there are people willing and capable to to defend their homeland.