torture and terror

“The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.”  ~F. Scott Fitzgerald Sleep deprivation, as Andrew notes, “can sound deceptively banal” compared to other torture techniques.  Of course, keeping someone awake for a night or two certainly can’t be considered torture (if they are able-bodied men or women that is). …

An Exceptionally Moral United States

I have a confession to make.  Despite all my criticisms of waterboarding, American foreign policy interventionism, and a whole host of other aspects of the modern federal government, not to mention my refusal to consider most of Europe to be a socialist hellhole, I am a proud American exceptionalist.  Which is to say that I…

Look Back in Anger

I suspect the debate over torture, atomic weaponry, and morality is rapidly reaching the point of diminishing returns, but I did want to say one last thing on the subject before moving on. For the record, I do not think Truman (or Bush) is a Nazi; I do recognize that the decision to drop the…

quote for the morning

Torture is an impermissible evil. Except under two circumstances. The first is the ticking time bomb. . . . The second exception to the no-torture rule is the extraction of information from a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to save lives. . . .  ~ Charles Krauthammer Impermissible! I do not think…

War Crimes, Then and Now

In the course of a very thorough fisking of Michael Goldfarb’s latest attempt to justify torture, Julian Sanchez makes the rather banal observation that failure to prosecute war crimes in World War II doesn’t obviate the need to prosecute war crimes today. Goldfarb’s argument has never made a whole lot of sense to me, but…

Taking Leave of Our Senses

“But the argument isn’t going away. It will be with us as long as the threat of terrorism endures. And where the Bush administration’s interrogation programs are concerned, we’ve heard too much to just “look forward,” as the president would have us do. We need to hear more: What was done and who approved it,…

Not Reading What You Defend

I had fully intended to take a lengthy hiatus from torture-blogging, but this story just magnifies why I’ve become so frustrated over claims that the program authorized by the Bybee memo is clearly not “torture” within the meaning of the law.  Andy McCarthy in a telephone conference today: “As far as mental suffering is concerned…

Why They Fight

Jim Manzi has written a provocative post on the moral distinction between battlefield killing and torturing unarmed POWs: So apparently it’s OK to inflict (the most extreme imaginable) violence when the guy is totally helpless in combat, but suddenly upon his saying the words “I surrender”, any serious violence beyond confinement becomes wrong. Now, the…

all the president’s spies

John Judis would like to have more discussion about the possibility of ditching the CIA, or at the very least completely restructuring it: The question that Congress might ponder, but won’t, is whether the structure of our foreign policy apparatus – the power and responsibility vested in a secret branch of government —  invites abuse.…

stating the obvious

“And then, where is the use of torture? It is a slippery trial and uncertain (says Ulpian) to convince by torture. For many says (says St Augustine again) he that is yet but questioned, whether he be guilty or no, before that be known, is, without all question, miserably tortured. And whereas, many time, the…

Taking the Wrong Approach

I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that both sides of the “Did We Torture?” debate are doing themselves a big disservice in how they approach their arguments.  This perhaps isn’t surprising since I tend to think this is the case on most controversial hot-button topics. The pro-waterboarding side’s real argument isn’t that waterboarding, etc., aren’t…

truth and consequences

“Disclosure of the techniques is likely to be met by faux outrage, and is perfectly packaged for media consumption. It will also incur the utter contempt of our enemies. Somehow, it seems unlikely that the people who beheaded Nicholas Berg and Daniel Pearl, and have tortured and slain other American captives, are likely to be…

ad hoc justice

So it looks as though Spain is opening formal criminal inquiries into alleged war crimes surrounding the use of torture by the Bush administration.  Judge Baltasar Garzón is involved in the investigation, the same guy who prosecuted Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator propped up for years by the CIA.  So perhaps there’s something “full-circle” about…