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March 06, 2005

Renditions Redux

Stephen Darwall: March 6, 2005

See "Rule Change Lets C.I.A. Freely Send Suspects Abroad to Jails" in today's New York Times for an account of the administration's program of renditions, which gives the CIA broad authority to send individuals suspected of terrorism to foreign countries for "interrogation".  The human rights concern, of course, is that this is done without any legal process and that there is good reason to think that the interrogations conducted in these countries amount to torture--indeed, that the suspects are sent to these countries because they are likely to be tortured there.  I discussed this a bit in an earlier post--"Kidnapping, Renditions, and Torture"--which referred to a Times article earlier this year describing the fate of Khaled el-Masri (also referred to briefly in today's Times piece).  El-Masri is a German citizen who was apparently caught in our renditions net when he was apprehended (mistaken identity, it seems) by Macedonian officials while he was on vacation.  By his account (largely confirmed by the Times), he was taken to Kabul for several months where he was subjected to beatings and forced feedings.

This evening, Sixty Minutes is scheduled to cover the same story.  The show will feature the first American interview with el-Masri and an investigation of CIA rendition flights.  It bears watching.

A Dan Wasserman political cartoon, also in today's Times, makes a (black) humorous connection with the recent promising potentially-liberalizing developments in the Middle East.  One CIA man says to another: "If the dictatorships in the Mideast really go democratic, where are we going to send suspects to be tortured?" Whether or not the administration should get credit for recent liberalizing developments, a matter on which reasonable people may disagree, I hope no one will suggest that the policy of renditions has helped lead to them.  To the contrary, it encourages cynicism, that we don't really mean what we say and that we are relying on some of the most repressive aspects of the regimes to which we send suspects.


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Posted by: Mona

Hmmm, well, I do not think it is reasonable -- or honest -- to deny any credit to Bush regarding the wave of democracy fever spreading in the Middle East. As to renditions, I am conflicted. (And was this policy not initiated during the Clinton Administration?)

My understanding is that Al Queda and other terrorist groups are trained in the ways of Western interrogation techniques, and to know that regardless of what might be threatened, no real pain will be imposed. If a terrorist suspect with that knowledge is found to have on his computer, say, elaborate architectural and other data on NYC's Grand Central Station, I'd sure want to know why. If he won't say, well, what are we to do?

I don't mean that question rhetorically. It seems like a very vexing moral conundrum to me.

Posted by: Mona | Mar 6, 2005 12:37:54 PM

Posted by: CDC

"One CIA man says to another: "If the dictatorships in the Mideast really go democratic, where are we going to send suspects to be tortured?""

That is the shallowest of wise-cracks so it must have appeared on the Times editorial page.

"Whether or not the administration should get credit for recent liberalizing developments, a matter on which reasonable people may disagree,.."

That disagreement would be a lot of fun. May I suggest it as a thread?

"...I hope no one will suggest that the policy of renditions has helped lead to them."

I'd say that it is possible. If we get actionable intel from captured enemy cadre our operations are more successful. I love a happy ending.

"To the contrary, it encourages cynicism, that we don't really mean what we say and that we are relying on some of the most repressive aspects of the regimes to which we send suspects."

Is this the famed "Arab Street" that is supposed to be perpetually on the verge of rising against us? Opinion there seems to be breaking our way.

Posted by: CDC | Mar 6, 2005 12:57:05 PM

Posted by: Mona

Even the NYT figures Bush has something to do with what is happending in the Middle East:

Young protesters have been spurred by the rise of new technology, especially uncensored satellite television, which prevents Arab governments from hiding what is happening on their own streets. The Internet and cellphones have also been deployed to erode censorship and help activists mobilize in ways previous generations never could.

Another factor, pressure from the Bush administration, has emboldened demonstrators, who believe that their governments will be more hesitant to act against them with Washington linking its security to greater freedom after the Sept. 11 attacks. The United States says it will no longer support repressive governments, and young Arabs, while hardly enamored of American policy in the region, want to test that promise.

WholeThe New York Times piece.

Posted by: Mona | Mar 6, 2005 1:08:34 PM

Posted by: LPFabulous

"Whether or not the administration should get credit for recent liberalizing developments, a matter on which reasonable people may disagree..."

That depends on what you mean, I think. If your statement is "should get all or a majority of the credit", then you're right. Reasonable people may disagree. If your statement is "should get any credit", then I think you're not right. Reasonable people actually can't disagree about that. People who say Bush should get no credit aren't reasonable people.

Posted by: LPFabulous | Mar 6, 2005 1:12:51 PM

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

As Reagan ("That idiot!") had little or no effect on the demise of the Soviet Union, clearly Bush ("That idiot!") has had little or no positive effect on the Middle East. Or at least reasonable people can disagree. Right? Right?

Herewith, another perspective.

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | Mar 6, 2005 1:17:02 PM

Posted by: J.S.

Sorry to comment on something unrelated, but I'm trying to get a dialogue going between the religious and non-religious since this largely parallels the gap between Left and Right in this country- if anyone is interested please check out:



Posted by: J.S. | Mar 6, 2005 1:21:46 PM

Posted by: Mona

Echoing the piece which Mr. Ridgely links to, here is a quote from Mark Steyn, responding to drivel in The Guardian. (Fair use excerpt; entire thing can be accessed only by registering, so no link from me.)

Very big of you, pal. And I guess that's as near as a mea culpa as we're going to get: Even though Bush got everything wrong, it turned out right. Funny how that happens, isn't it? In a few years' time, they'll have it down pat -- just like they have with Eastern Europe.
Oh, the Soviet bloc [the Middle East thugocracies] was bound to
collapse anyway. Nothing to do with that simpleton Ronnie Raygun
[Chimpy Bushitler]. In fact, all Raygun [Chimpy] did was delay the inevitable with his ridiculous arms buildup [illegal unprovoked Halliburton oil-grab], as many of us argued at the time: See my 1984 column ''Yuri Andropov, The Young, Smart, Sexy New Face Of Soviet Communism'' [see the April 2004 column ''Things Were Better Under Saddam": "The coalition has destroyed Baathism, says Rod Liddle, and with it all hopes of the emergence of secular democracy'' -- which was published -- really -- in the London Spectator.]

Posted by: Mona | Mar 6, 2005 1:29:34 PM

Posted by: detached observer


You are absolutely right. But it seems to me that the post clearly refers to Bush getting "all or a majority of the credit," using your terminology. After all, when we say "X should get credit for Y" we don't mean that X should get some credit for Y - we mean X to be the prime mover behind Y.

Posted by: detached observer | Mar 6, 2005 4:32:23 PM

Posted by: Sam

Specifics, please. If some are going to argue that Bush should be credited with what is transpiring now in Lebanon, please give us the specific causal logic, not just some airy assertion. How exactly has the influence happened? And, moreover, what exactly is going on in Lebanon right now? This is the lead paragraph of a story up on WaPo:
"The leader of Hezbollah, the militant Syrian-backed Shiite Muslim movement that for weeks has stood largely on the sidelines of Lebanon's political upheaval, called for national demonstrations against what he called foreign intervention in Lebanese affairs."
By "foreign intervention" Hezbollah means the US. So, it appears that one of the most powerful political forces in Lebanon (yes, a organization with terrorist ties) is going to resist the creation of a government unfriendly to Syria in Lebanon. What does this mean for democracy in Lebanon and US interests in the region?

Posted by: Sam | Mar 6, 2005 5:53:45 PM

Posted by: Mona

Sam, some more airy assertions for you:

Jumblatt knows that if the opposition is going to win, it's going to have to find a modus vivendi with Lebanon's Shiites, a plurality of the population that has tended to ally itself with Syria. To do that, he'll have to come to terms with Hizbullah. Lebanese see the "Party of God" as a heroic militia that fought Israeli occupation. Washington brands it an international terrorist organization. "They have their legitimacy," says Jumblatt. "They have their institutions. They are in Parliament. Maybe their military role, if they accept, will be reduced, will be over. But they are really part of Lebanon."

Jumblatt is a survivor, and if you want to know the way the treacherous political winds are blowing, he's a good man to keep an eye on. He knew that the Syrians murdered his father in 1977, but he worked closely with Damascus anyway throughout much of the Lebanon war, fighting bloody battles mainly against Lebanese Christians. A year and a half ago, Jumblatt's was one of the most bitter voices raised against the unpopular U.S. invasion of Iraq. When a dozen rockets hit the Baghdad hotel where Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was staying in November 2003, Jumblatt said he wished they'd killed "this virus wreaking corruption in the Arab land of Iraq." (Jumblatt's visa to the United States was pulled after that.)

Now Jumblatt has been in indirect contact with Wolfowitz, and says he re-grets some of his previous rhetoric. Wolfowitz, who always preached the spread of democracy as part of a grand American design for the Middle East, told Lebanese television he's not holding a grudge. Jumblatt, he said, has "shown a lot of courage."

"I think the Middle East is changing," Jumblatt told NEWSWEEK. "The Arab people want to join the rest of the civilized world. They want freedom. I have denounced the American invasion of Iraq, but I also admit that the Iraqi people are now free."

The rest of the Newsweek article here

Posted by: Mona | Mar 6, 2005 6:15:11 PM

Posted by: CDC

On one side the Syrians and Lebanese see, what, an armored division, a couple of cav regiments, the best part of a Marine division, an elite light infantry division and an air force that can - unaided - shred them in one fast round. On the other they see the mighty sixth(?) fleet with air, ground and indirect fire assets that can pound to peanut butter anything they could possibly put into Lebanon. The Lebanese see Iraq's elections and want that kind of control of their political institutions. They also see that the American people put Bush back in power and that we will protect them. They think that, going eyeball to eyeball with Bush, Assad will blink or he will die. They are right.

Posted by: CDC | Mar 6, 2005 6:18:51 PM

Posted by: Tad Brennan

Hmmm...Mona's first post was at least on topic, i.e. it involved torture. Since then, posters have mostly been distracted by one clause in Darwall's piece about "credit". Could we get back to the topic?

When people want to argue in favor of torture, they put forward "ticking time-bomb" scenarios, as in Mona's first post. You can make torture look more reasonable by telling stories in which it is simply given that the victim is clearly guilty, is clearly a terrorist, clearly caught in flagrante, and that torture will clearly produce actionable info that will save lives.

But remember that every attempt to get a handle on the actual numbers involved in America's latest flirtation with torture has shown that many of the victims were not terrorists, and were in fact simple victims of mistaken identity, as is the case with El-Masri.

So it seems rather beside the point to justify torturing the guilty, when the question is about torturing the innocent.

Furthermore, the policy of 'renditions' adds another level of complexity to the question, because it involves govt agencies circumventing our own laws. If someone wants to stand up and say that we should start torturing people, then the way to do this is to propose legislation. If the American people really felt gung-ho about torture, we wouldn't be using the practice of 'rendition' to skirt our own laws. That's another point at the center of Darwall's post, which I don't think is being addressed by commenters on this thread.

I don't know what to think about these issues, but the pro-torture lobby seems to me insufficiently deferential to one body of people who have thought a lot about the issues, and whose views I respect: the military lawyers. They have come down *uniformly* against the use of torture, and this seems to me a viewpoint worth listening too. These are career soldiers; they aren't pacifists or hippies or any of your other favorite leftist villains. And they are against torture because it jeopardizes U.S. servicemen and women. It endangers our troops by eroding the moral authority of the U.S. on these very issues.

This isn't me making this up; you can read a variety of news accounts of the Navy JAG's and other Pentagon lawyers who fought the torture memos at every step, and did so for these reasons.

I think their viewpoint deserves some respect. I at least think that a consideration of their views would keep this thread on topic.

Posted by: Tad Brennan | Mar 6, 2005 6:36:29 PM

Posted by: Mona

Tad Brennan writes: Hmmm...Mona's first post was at least on topic, i.e. it involved torture. Since then, posters have mostly been distracted by one clause in Darwall's piece about "credit". Could we get back to the topic?

One of the problems there will be with that is that this blog has discussed torture ad nauseum in previous months, certainly more than once, and with fulsome comments. I know I just don't have that much more to say on the subject.

By contrast, we have not had discussion here of the merits of Bush's foreign policy in thewake of the dynamic, pro-democracy changes taking place in the ME and the concurrent change in some opinions that began to emerge after the Iraqi elections. So, raising the question of whether Bush deserves credit and tying that to the issue of rendition, is likely to draw more original (and pent-up) comments on the credit issue than the is the well-worn ground of torture and rendition.

Posted by: Mona | Mar 6, 2005 6:56:28 PM

Posted by: Sam


The text of your last message seemed to be saying that Jumblatt is an opportunist. So, his statements on Iraq must be taken in that light, no? The Newsweek article you linked to had this to say:

"In fact, expectations are rising much faster now than anyone anticipated, encouraged by White House rhetoric but triggered by uncontrollable events like the death of Arafat in November and the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February. Even in Iraq, it was Ayatollah Ali Sistani, not the Americans, who insisted on elections sooner rather than later. "When you look at the streets you realize we're just playing catch-up," says one State Department official. ""

So we can credit Bush with encouraging local processes and playing "catch-up"? I might be willing to go along with that. But I suspect other posters might want to say Bush has done more than that.

Posted by: Sam | Mar 6, 2005 7:16:31 PM

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

So we're all agreed, then: torturing good people is bad, torturing bad people is usually not good but just might be good once in a while and it's hard to tell which is which before the torturing begins, oursourcing torture isn't quite on a par with outsourcing other jobs (except that the liberal position probably includes the claim that it's bad for the economy -- "Aren't there Americans who should be doing our torturing for a living wage?"), no one really knows what the hell is happening or will happen in the Middle East next but something sure as hell is happening ("...and you don't know what it is, do you... Mr. Jones?") and any pot-stirring by the Bush Administration might just be the Grandfather of all post hoc, ergo propter hocs.

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | Mar 6, 2005 7:58:07 PM

Posted by: CDC

""When you look at the streets you realize we're just playing catch-up," says one State Department official. """

No, no,...the pencil necks at STATE are playing catch-up. As I posted on another board before the invasion, the status quo was unacceptable so Bush was intentionally yanking a grapefruit from the bottom of the pile. Once things started happening, things were bound to happen fast. There are so many dependencies in this system that no one can possibly know exactly how events will break. But we should do okay.

Posted by: CDC | Mar 6, 2005 8:02:27 PM

Posted by: Tom


Now I'm confused. I thought that we were the ones doing the torturing in Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, but now we're being told that we're outsourcing torture. So are we doing both, neither, or one but not the other?

I agree that from a moral standpoint, we should never condone the torture of anyone. However, I can see how a soldier would effect some type of physical or psychological stress that would be deemed as torture in a court of law in an effort to insure that other lives were saved. The only thing that I can say, is that I feel for that soldier for he will have to live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life. On the other hand, our enemies - and some of our 'allies' in the WOT - have no conscience, nor do they value human life as we do. Saddam and his Baathist clan seemed to rather enjoy the acid vats, execution style killings, and electric shock therapy. That is what makes us different.

If we end up inflicting what many believe to be torture to a few people in an attempt to spread some of our values to parts of the world that don't value life the way we do, I'm willing to look the other way. And that means whether we end up doing it or our 'allies' end up doing it.

Posted by: Tom | Mar 6, 2005 8:07:59 PM

Posted by: Sam


So, if Iraq goes to hell in a handbasket - no consitution, Kurds declare independence, Sunnis keep fighting, Shites hold out for sharia - then you would be willing to admit that this was due to Bush's grapefruit picking skills? Or are only the good things Bush's?

Posted by: Sam | Mar 6, 2005 8:09:59 PM

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

Ummm, that would be returns to hell in a handbasket, wouldn't it? And what, exactly, would be the problem with Kurdish independence aside from stirring the pot in Turkey?

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | Mar 6, 2005 8:14:13 PM

Posted by: Tom


Here's what I'd admit:

Bush enabled the conditions so that Iraqis could make their own choices with respect to self-government. He didn't cast all the votes in Iraq, nor is he imposing his will on the Iraqi
Assembly/political process. He's simply watching from the sidelines - like the rest of us (albeit with more intel and perhaps more influence) - hoping that things go well.

We will have made a hell of an effort that is likely to lead to many other changes in the Middle East, regardless of what happens in Iraq. At least the tin horn dictators like Assad, the Saudi Royal Family, Gaddafi, and the Mullahs in Iran know that if they screw with America on this President's watch, they just stepped in a serious pile of doo doo.

Posted by: Tom | Mar 6, 2005 8:17:09 PM

Posted by: Sam


Yes, Kurdish independence would be good for Kurds. My only worry is what it would inspire in others. I assume that Arabs will fight for Kirkuk (though maybe they will back off) and will try to keep as much of the oil for themselves as they can. A Kurdish independence without a larger civil war might be very nice; but if it sparks that war, it could impose a very high cost.

Posted by: Sam | Mar 6, 2005 8:21:35 PM

Posted by: Sam


But what if Bush turns out to have enabled Iraqis to embark on a civil war? Doesn't the enabler bear some responsibility? Or are we back to war with no responsibility? (I thought Republicans were supposed to be all about taking responsibility...but not when things go bad?).

Posted by: Sam | Mar 6, 2005 8:26:25 PM

Posted by: Perseus

If military lawyers were more favorable to the practice of torture, most liberals would discount their views as being reactionary, militaristic, etc. What's more, military lawyers do not have a superior claim to knowledge about either morality or foreign policy, so I see no reason to be especially "deferential" to their views on the practice. Indeed, the very fact that they are lawyers, who are concerned with due process guarantees by virtue of their profession, makes me attentive to a possible bias in their views.

Posted by: Perseus | Mar 6, 2005 8:51:04 PM

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely


Agreed. We don't know what will happen and that is frightening. But for most of my life the U.S. was properly castigated for supporting a laundry list of despots around the world as we played Cold War brinkmanship with the Soviets. I'm far from a Bush apologist (and hardly a Republican, by the way), but at the moment I find myself wanting to cheer more than wring my hands.

For what it's worth, I remain pessimistic if only because of the history of the region. My probable best-case scenario is a liberated, quasi-open and only vaguely democratic Arab world that still ends up hating America's guts. (After all, why should they be any different?) But I think it's disingenuous to deny or seriously doubt that, warts and all, Bush's policies have started what might well be, dare I say it, a positive domino effect in a region where the status quo has been a disaster. Civil war in Iraq and elsewhere are also possible and would also be a disaster. I don’t rule out the possibility nor deny that Bush and the U.S. would shoulder much of the responsibility. But at the moment, I like what I see.

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | Mar 6, 2005 8:56:51 PM

Posted by: CDC

Sam: If things go wrong, every one will indeed blame Mr. Bush. If they go right, "We" will have won a great victory. Success has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan. Same stuff, different day.

Posted by: CDC | Mar 6, 2005 9:08:43 PM

Posted by: Stephen Darwall

Many thanks to Tad Brennan for refocussing discussion on the point I was trying to make and for adding the very important point about the attitude of military lawyers to the use of torture.

Posted by: Stephen Darwall | Mar 6, 2005 10:18:46 PM

Posted by: Achillea

In an odd bit of synchronicity, I was watching the 60 Minutes piece on rendition just before reading this thread tonight. It indicated that rendition -- in the meaning of 'outsourcing torture' -- began under Clinton, and was conducted with the full complicity of his national security cabinet. It's manifestly been continued under (perhaps by, but certainly under) the Bush administration, but it's the brainchild of a Democratic White House.

That said, I think it's disgusting and cowardly. I agree with Tad. If CIA, the pro-torture lobby, etc. are going to claim torture is morally justified, then they need to show the courage of their alleged convictions. They should have the stones to do it themselves, and to fess up to it. This is not a case where sources and/or some key technological advance are going to be given away by revelation of methods. Moreover, to publically castigate regimes such as Egypt's for torture while secretly contracting them to do our dirty work is sheer hypocrisy.

Posted by: Achillea | Mar 6, 2005 11:00:27 PM

Posted by: CDC

Achillea: Let's say that, if information is not extracted from, oh, Ayman al-Zawahari, a nuke goes off in the Port of Seattle. Are you then a member of the "pro-torture lobby"?

Posted by: CDC | Mar 7, 2005 12:21:52 AM

Posted by: Perseus

I rather like rendition since it accords with the advice of chapter 7 of The Prince in which Machiavelli suggests emulating Cesare Borgia, who used Remirro de Orco to do his brutal dirty work for him and then had de Orco executed lest his rule appear hateful. So the Clinton administration deserves kudos for getting at least one thing right in conducting American foreign policy (no Neocon/Straussian conspiracy to blame in this case).

Posted by: Perseus | Mar 7, 2005 12:50:24 AM

Posted by: noah


Not sure whether you are kidding but I think you are right. The media comments without any hint of moral condemnation and indeed almost approvingly that Assad's father massacred some 30,000 political opponents while commenting that Assad himself does not know how to "play the game".

War and other serious political struggles are played by different rules as a practical matter...our liberal moral exhibitionists should get over it.

And thanks, Mona, for the Mark Steyn quote...a funny voice of reason as always...the last remaining sane canadian.

Posted by: noah | Mar 7, 2005 8:10:55 AM

Posted by: Sam

Is there any evidence at all that torture has produced useful intelligence? I realize that all of this is shrouded in secrecy, but it seems to me that the people who want to believe the spy-novel image of ticking time bombs and the like really ought to ante up some real information, not just breathless possibilities. There are obvious costs to torture, political and moral, but are the actual, as opposed to projected, benefits?

Posted by: Sam | Mar 7, 2005 8:46:17 AM

Posted by: john t

I love the tenor of Prof Darwell's post.All those in favor of torture raise your hands. Bad thing,absolutely and always. However Bush contributing to the initiation of democracy,well reasonable people can disagree. Having set the post up in this manner is like playing Russian roulette with a loaded cylinder. Considering that sleep deprivation is now regarded as torture by the same people who closed their eyes to Waco doesn't leave an interrogator with much in the way of options. At this point I have other things with which to be more concerned,the main thing being how democracy plays out in the Mid East. Tad writes,"it seems rather besides the point to justify torturing the guilty,when the question is about torturing the innocent". No Tad,the reports and commentaries have been about torture,period,including breathless questions about sleep deprivation. Regarding the innocent I do wish we had something like Star Trek's Dr Bones,you know,a hand held gizmo you could flash over a person to determine something as simple as guilt or innocence,or even extent of involvement,perhaps we can contract this job out to Sony. When it comes to staying on thread it would help if statements of a provacative nature which are irrelevant to the original posters main point were mimimized or eliminated altogether.

Posted by: john t | Mar 7, 2005 9:15:10 AM

Posted by: Achillea

Achillea: Let's say that, if information is not extracted from, oh, Ayman al-Zawahari, a nuke goes off in the Port of Seattle. Are you then a member of the "pro-torture lobby"?

What has this to do with the point of my post? I will reiterate: If the pro-torture lobby feels that torture is morally justified (say in the name of, oh, preventing the nuking of the Port of Seattle), then they should have no problem with A) Americans doing the torturing themselves, and B) owning up to the fact they're doing it. If such heroically drastic measures are being taken, let's have them out in the light of day for all to 'admire.' I'm a member of the 'take responsibility for your actions' lobby.

Posted by: Achillea | Mar 7, 2005 10:15:20 AM

Posted by: noah


War is hell...our nation owes Gen. Sherman a debt of gratitude or does it? No doubt some moral perfectionists such as yourself would doubt that we do.

"The Constitution is not a suicide pact". And when it is all over and we don't like the moral choices of our Commander in Chief...we do have the option of impeachment...but fortunately for liberals, who never saw a Clinton sin they could't excuse, impeachment would be unable to reach back and snag Bill Clinton.

Posted by: noah | Mar 7, 2005 10:33:17 AM

Posted by: Mona

Achillea asks: What has this to do with the point of my post?

The point is your loaded rhetoric, which some of us properly take exception to. That one may defend the need to go to war, and that war entails killing and death, does not make all supporters of every war "pro-death." To argue that those who defeated Hitler via force of arms were "pro-death," in light of Hitler's actions, would be monstrous rhetoric.

One can accept the need for torture in certain narrowly circumscribed circumstances without being "pro-torture." As with the case of fighting Hilter by killing people, the evil being overcome must also be factored into the choice to torture.

If our military dispositively demonstrates that torture in fact does not ever work, even in scenarios like preventing the nuking of the Port of Seattle, that settles the question. If torture is always non-efficacious, there can be no moral justification for it since it cannot prevent a greater evil. I remain agnostic on the question.

But there is certainly a difference between democracies defending themselves by inflicting torture to prevent grievous harm to their peoples (if it works), and Saddam Hussein using it as a matter of course to sustain his reign of terror. If torture is used only in the former circumstances, then we do not, in fact, become the very thing we are fighting if we resort to it. Neither are we "pro-torture."

Posted by: Mona | Mar 7, 2005 10:36:03 AM

Posted by: CDC

john t: Whoever controls the direction of the thread controls the conclusion reached. When Mr. Bush's Mid East policy seems unworkable, it is all Mid East all the time. When that policy appears to be producing good results, it's time to talk about social security.

Back to our topic: There are several objections to the "renditions" policy. One is that information produced under physical or mental coercion is unreliable. That is not much of a problem as, among the questions the interregator asks, are some to which the answers are known. And some answers are just used as hypotheses to be checked.

Another objection is that the renditions policy is cruel. Given the nature of the enemy, and the tactics the enemy uses, I DON'T CARE. The image of the flight attendants having their throats slashed by these greasy little rodents still enrages me as do the films of prisoners having their heads slowly chopped off.

The fact that innocents can be mistakenly interrogated is a problem so great care should be taken.

It was said above that the ever hovering "Arab Street" will - at very long last - be energised against us. No they won't.

There is at least one objection that should be taken seriously. Laws and policies have a way of being used as they were never intended. RICO laws, for example, were meant to be used against organized crime but have been used for all sorts of purposes. If a president can designate anyone he likes an unlawful combatant, and that person can be sent to Egypt for interrogation, what will happen when we get our next Janet Reno?

Posted by: CDC | Mar 7, 2005 10:36:07 AM

Posted by: CDC

Achillea: "What has this to do with the point of my post?"
Mona nailed it. The point was the loaded rhetoric.

Posted by: CDC | Mar 7, 2005 10:51:04 AM

Posted by: john t

In reponse to an earlier post about civil war in Iraq, what happened on Jan30th wasn't a civil war. Just for the record,it was an election and it wasn't hypothetical. As has been said,we can only set the groundwork the rest is up to the Iraquis. As to taking responsibility,well if you do nothing then there's nothing to be responsible for is there? Unless being resposible for doing nothing in the first place. See Clinton,William Jefferson,President 1992-2000

Posted by: john t | Mar 7, 2005 10:52:33 AM

Posted by: CDC

Achillea: The reason why we subcontract these interrogations is that we don't have to spend political capital and run the gauntlet of our court system. Doing it ourselves would be too costly.

Posted by: CDC | Mar 7, 2005 11:03:24 AM

Posted by: noah


Correct me if I am wrong...but I don't think anyone has claimed that suspected terrorists captured on US soil have been taken to foreign countries for interrogation. If that were to occur then prosecution or impeachment would be in order in my opinion.

Not that the administration is not sorely tempted to do so...to wit the impending release of the terrorist Jose Padilla. (NRO had a funny article last week...I believe the title is "Padilla and Encyclopedia Brown")

Posted by: noah | Mar 7, 2005 11:15:22 AM

Posted by: Alex Fradera

Mona: If our military dispositively demonstrates that torture in fact does not ever work, even in scenarios like preventing the nuking of the Port of Seattle, that settles the question.

I'd be interested in how this could ever be achieved. Like all the others, this negative is not begging to be proven.

Also, if torture is within bounds for the majority of commentators here, I would like to ask if there are any means that cannot be justified by the ends. For example, if you had Ayman al-Zawahari plus buddy, and were equally sure of the complicity of both in the Port of Seattle situation. Would it be ok to blow off one's head to coerce the other into giving information? Or forcing one to kill and eat the other? If not, would shipping people off to a state which would use these methods be acceptable?

There's also a bit of muddle as to whether torture is potentially justified, or whether some activites should not be classed as torture, e.g. sleep deprivation. In my eyes a) reduces to whether intrinsically bad things (suffering, and the 'crossing of a line' with respect to how we should treat one another) should be permitted as an instrument of good, whilst b) is an argument over what falls into the intrinsically bad category. The pragmatic issue of b) seems like something all people can reasonably discuss, regardless of their value framework; I happen to feel that since experts (including one of my old tutors*) have researched this extensively, and have a better handle upon its capacity to inflict inhumane suffering, the rulings upon its use are going to be sound; others more knowledgable may have a different take. a) seems to me a bigger gap to bridge; a lot of people here seem to be awfully blase about what this step entails, whilst I find it intrinsically abhorrent. I'm sure I'd feel different if people I knew had been the victims of horrible atrocities, which is why I'm glad that justice is not meted out by victims but by judicial systems that aspire to objectivity.

* Shallice T. The Ulster depth interrogation techniques and their relation to sensory deprivation research. Cognition 1972; 1(4): 385-405.

Posted by: Alex Fradera | Mar 7, 2005 12:42:48 PM

Posted by: john t

CDC, Don't be alarmred,Yours was a good post. As far as Your last para goes Bush does have a war resolution against "terror,terrorists,and the states that support them". Included in ther is a "all necessary force" provision. Given the type and nature of this war,the first of it's kind in our history,if he finds it necessary to declare as combatants guys ruuning around in unwashed bedsheets so be it. And I assume if we can kill them we can ship them off to Egypt. The Times article referenced does have some abiguity to it and if you cross over to the left side of the front page ther's another article which no one saw fit to comment on,"Unexpected Whiff Of Freedom Proves Bracing for the Mideast. Think about it,as to post selection that is.

Posted by: john t | Mar 7, 2005 3:12:38 PM

Posted by: noah

Little Green Footballs has a picture of Kuwaiti women demonstrating for the right to vote...beautiful women under those veils (ditto Lebanese).

Also has a photo of the car that carried the female Italian journalist and was supposedly hit by 300-400 bullets but amazingly the windshield is intact!! (Oh the lies the left will tell thee!)

Sort of ironic that in the Sunday NYT a pseudo-dialogue was held between the editors of the New Republic, American Prospect, and The Nation...none of the participants could as yet find a single positive thing to say about Iraq or the broader ME...not even a "yes, But"...so sad to see a world view go bad.

Posted by: noah | Mar 7, 2005 5:42:13 PM

Posted by: CDC

noah: The New Republic, American Prospect, and The Nation. It is good that the NYT is seeking input from such a broad cross-section of political opinion. The irony you mentioned is especially, uh, ironic given that The New Republic gave its editorial endorsement to the invasion of Iraq.

Now that I think about it I am not even sure what torture is. One "torture" is to blindfold and handcuff the target of interrogation, take him up in a plane, fly him around for a couple of hours, then take him to an interrogation center in Israel. The target would hear the bloody screams of people undergoing torture. When the target was taken to "The Room", his hood would be removed. He would see a tray of surgical instruments, a merciless-looking little pervert in bloody surgical gloves and a guy that doesn't seem too bad. The target is then questioned systematically and professionally by the good guy while the little pervert rubs his hands together and looks on impatiently.

It is, of course, a ruse. The target has never left the country, the blood is from a chicken, and the screams are from a recording. The only things real are the questions and the target's fear.

Another example is the interrogation technique used by some of our hemispheric neighbors. This method involves two goons, an interrogator, a set of handcuffs, a dishtowel, a chair and a six-pack of ice-cold cans of Coca Cola. Step one is for the two goons to handcuff the target and shove the dishtowel into the his mouth. Next the target is leaned backwards over the chair. The last step is for one of the participants to shake up the can of ice-cold Coke, stick it under the target's nose then open the can and force the cold jet of liquid into the target's nostrils. The sensation is said to be something like brain freeze times 1,000, drowning and having your head explode. The story is that no permanent damage is done, but - anytime you need information - all you have to do is to show the target a can of the pause that refreshes.

Are these techniques beyond the pale? Keep in mind that the first method uses fear against a terrorist. Are we above that? The second causes severe but transient discomfort against a target who endorses slowly sawing off people's heads.

Posted by: CDC | Mar 7, 2005 7:05:28 PM

Posted by: Mona

Alex Fradera writes: Also, if torture is within bounds for the majority of commentators here, I would like to ask if there are any means that cannot be justified by the ends. For example, if you had Ayman al-Zawahari plus buddy, and were equally sure of the complicity of both in the Port of Seattle situation. Would it be ok to blow off one's head to coerce the other into giving information? Or forcing one to kill and eat the other? If not, would shipping people off to a state which would use these methods be acceptable?

No, for almost any means there is an ends that would justify it. Think of sophmore Ethics 101 and torturing a newborn baby to death if some mad tyrant, with the ability, demanded it in lieu of destroying the entire world; I'd have the baby tortured, and would even do it myself, knowing full well I'd be a broken shell of a human being afterward. Now, that I will concede this no doubt makes me "pro-infant-torture" in the eyes of some. (I submit that if the choice were actually put to them, most would make the same one. But of course I cannot prove it.)

Blowing the head off of the Islmic jihadists to motivate their commrades won't work, of course, because they crave and celebrate "martyrdom." So, if they can be put into pain with the understanding that it will not end until we have been told all they know about who, where and how all those sarin supplies, or small pox contagions, mentioned copiously in their emails are to be deployed.

I don't think Bill Clinton is an evil man, nor George Bush. 9/11 gives greater cause to take seriously that these presidents may both have faced -- may still face -- intel creating deepm worries of devastating biological or chemical attack. They may well know particular threats that we do not, and this may have driven Clinton into the rendition game, and Bush to stay in it.

We have had no more terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11. (Well, except for domestic Nazis, who "merely" conspire to off a federal district judge and than likely killed her husband and aged mother.) This almost certainly means law enforcement on many levels is doing its job right. If rendition has been at all involved in this merciful state of affairs, I'm not willing to say it was wrong without knowing a great deal more about specific cases. (And I do, btw, expect another serious attack here before the end of Bush's second term.)

Life can really suck, and force choices that leave us feeling soiled and despairing. (Like Sophie, in the novel by William Styron. Can you doubt some Nazi somewhere did put a woman to a choice as grotesque?) If you would rather let the mad tyrant destroy the world, well, so be it. We disagree on when lesser evils may be deployed to prevent greater ones. But I decline to concede that your morality is thus better than mine. I was raised Catholic, and shed moral absolutism long ago when I shed that religion, and have been better for it.

Posted by: Mona | Mar 7, 2005 7:11:24 PM

Posted by: Mona

And that will be my final comment on the subject of torture and its exegencies, which has already been discussed at great length on this board, including by me. It is a subject that puts me in a mental space I dislike inhabiting, and I decline to go back there so quickly here.

If it is acceptable to discuss the situation in the ME and Bush's role in it, I would like to engage that topic.

Posted by: Mona | Mar 7, 2005 7:15:04 PM

Posted by: noah


Totally agree that it is mentally and morally exhausting to deal with torture issues...I don't think the accusation that we used to make of the left that they believe that the "end justifies the means" was ever precise. A better formulation is that the left believes "the end justifies any means" but I think we have to admit that we would use any means ourselves to prevent mass death. But at least our ends are a little higher than "social justice".

But I really doubt that you will find any enthusiasm at all here to discuss the situation in the ME on the part of the left. They are mainly holding their breath and hoping for the worst...if things go badly they will say "I told you so"...otherwise they will say that Bush deserves no credit at all. This is the old playbook.

Posted by: noah | Mar 7, 2005 9:12:54 PM

Posted by: noah


apologize for "we"...shouldn't!

Posted by: noah | Mar 7, 2005 9:15:54 PM

Posted by: Don Herzog

Oh come off it, noah, this is worse than ridiculous. I don't see the slightest reason to believe "the left" has a more monolithic or indefensible view about means, ends, and political ethics than does "the right." One of the great twentieth-century statements against "the end justifies the means" was Camus's Les Justes, in English The Just Assassins, and last I checked he was a leftist in exquisitely good standing. No one can read Orwell's insistence on sticking to the truth and his contempt for "smelly little orthodoxies" and imagine that he thought "the end justifies any means." And last I checked he too was a leftist in exquisitely good standing.

I would myself start a thread on the Middle East but I know precious little about it. I've no interest in being the sort of blogger who spouts at random about whatever pops into his head. I volunteered on a thread Steve Darwall started a while ago that the Iraq election was great news. And I literally know nobody on the left who is "hoping for the worst."

It may console you to circulate these crazed fantasies about "the left," but it's getting in the way of sober discussion, which is what we're trying to have around here, remember?

Posted by: Don Herzog | Mar 7, 2005 9:21:55 PM

Posted by: CDC

"But I think that there is also going on in the Middle East peace process--they may well have a chance to do a historic deal with the Palestinians and the Israelis. These guys could really pull off a whole...series of Nobel Peace Prizes here, which--it may well work. I think that, um, it's...scary for Democrats, I have to say...there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's hope for the rest of us...it hasn't actually gotten very far...There's always hope that this might not work."

Nancy Soderberg, author of "The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might" (foreword by Bill Clinton, blurb by Madeleine Albright)

Link here: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110006362

Posted by: CDC | Mar 7, 2005 9:49:10 PM

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