Vagabond Scholar has an excellent Torture Apologia chart, which is decribed in this article.
What follows is a chart of torture apologist arguments, the text of the chart, and an explanation. I might make a sort of annotated version later, with more detailed explanations, rebuttals of the major arguments, and links. But many fine sites have offered detailed debunks of individual arguments in the past, and I’ve given my shot in “Torture Versus Freedom.” (This is also in part a companion to an earlier piece, The Torture Flowchart.) Regardless, if you like visual aids to dissect your daily dose of hackery – and somewhat busy, low-res charts – here ya go.
Here’s the text:
We Did Not Torture
A. We did not torture because:
1. SERE training proves these techniques are not torture.
2. OLC memos say it isn’t torture.
3. “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” are not the same as torture. (Just look at the name, guys!)
4. These techniques do/did not cause permanent or lasting harm.
5. Psychologists said it was all right.
6. If you call it torture, you will have to prosecute (and you don’t want to do that).
7. It’s unpatriotic to say Bush officials authorized torture.
We Did Not Break the Law
B. What we did was legal because:
1. OLC memos say it isn’t torture.
a. They were sound legal positions.
b. They were written in good faith.
2. There’s no precedent for prosecuting such abuses.
3. American legal statutes are unclear on torture.
4. The Geneva Conventions:
a. Define torture vaguely.
b. Do not apply to these prisoners (nor do other legal protections).
5. Torture is in the eye of the beholder.
6. Psychologists said it was all right.
7. When the President does it, it’s not illegal.
We Did Not Endanger the Country
C. What we did was necessary because:
1. We were panicked after 9/11.
2. There was an imminent threat (and only this would work).
3. There might have been an imminent threat.
4. The CIA requested these techniques.
5. We obtained key information that saved lives.
6. We obtained confessions necessary to justify a war.
7. Abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo:
a. Were the result of a few bad apples and not official policy.
b. Should not be conflated with our “interrogation” of high-value prisoners.
c. Did not radicalize insurgents who attacked American and coalition troops.
8. Bush kept the country safe.
We Were Not Reckless
D. We treated these prisoners decently, because:
1. Extreme techniques were only used when other methods didn’t work.
2. This was an emergency (tick tick tick…).
3. Waterboarding was only used on three prisoners.
4. These methods were never used more than necessary.
5. These techniques do/did not cause permanent or lasting harm.
6. These were bad people who deserved far worse. (Why do you care?)
7. They don’t observe the Geneva Conventions, why should we?
8. Guantanamo is like a holiday resort.
9. Reports? What reports? (Red Cross, Senate, JPRA, etc.)
We Were Not Immoral
E. Torture is not immoral because:
1. Torture is not inherently immoral.
2. It is immoral, but in special circumstances, it’s necessary.
3. These people are not like us and do not deserve humane treatment.
4. Treating these bad people harshly or humanely does not:
a. Dissuade their fellows from bad conduct.
b. Affect our relationship with allied countries.
c. Endanger our troops.
5. The prisoners aren’t saying what we want them to say.
6. Torture is a kindness, giving prisoners an excuse to confess.
7. We needed to justify a war.
We Are Not Arrogant
F. Torture opponents are more sanctimonious than torture apologists because:
1. Remember 9/11. (9/11! 9/11!)
2. What we did was necessary.
3. What we did worked.
4. Torture “works” (in general).
5. Compared to rapport-building techniques, torture is:
a. More effective (obtains information humane treatment will not).
b. Quicker (it’s an emergency).
6. The Constitution is not a suicide pact (civil liberties are a luxury).
7. They want the enemy to win and hate America.
8. All of the abused were guilty; all of the tortured were bad men.
We Should Not Be Held Accountable
G. Prosecutions (and/or investigations) would be bad because:
1. It would criminalize policy differences.
2. It would create a chilling effect on counsel.
3. It would infringe on the powers of the presidency.
4. Holding leaders accountable would:
a. Create a bad precedent politically.
b. Disgrace America.
5. It won’t happen again.
6. The torturers have learned their lesson.
7. It would be divisive (Broder and Rove will be upset).
8. Both parties are (equally) culpable.
9. It will reveal our secrets to the enemy.
10. We’re all going to die if you do! (And it’ll all be Obama’s fault)
The article has much more than this summary.
June 4th, 2009
AP is reporting that another Obama appointee, Philip Mudd, was likely linked to the Bush torture program:
The Obama administration’s pick for a top intelligence post at the Homeland Security Department has ties to the CIA’s harsh interrogation program, a congressional aide said.
This could become an issue during Philip Mudd’s confirmation hearing, which is expected next week. Mudd was nominated to be under secretary of intelligence and analysis at Homeland Security.
The aide confirmed that Mudd, who was deputy director of the Office of Terrorism Analysis at the CIA during the Bush administration, had direct knowledge of the agency’s harsh interrogation program. The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Raw Story has more details on Mr. Mudd’s history, including his idea of locating terrorists by investigating falafel sales patterns:
In November of 2007, Congressional Quarterly reported that Mudd had FBI agents search falafel sales records to find Iranian terrorists.
“Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists,” CQ reported.
The LA Times’ Amina Khan mocked, “Never mind, of course, that the falafel is not an Iranian dish. It’s a “uniting, pan-Middle Eastern” meal, as well as a popular alternative American fast food rivaling the burrito and chow mein (other plates plundered from unsuspecting immigrant cultures). Thus, along with unfairly targeting innocent Americans, the FBI would have caught in its net rabid vegans — not to mention homesick Israelis.”
CQ’s article noted, “The brainchild of top FBI counterterrorism officials Phil Mudd and Willie T. Hulon, according to well-informed sources, the project didn’t last long. It was torpedoed by the head of the FBI’s criminal investigations division, Michael A. Mason, who argued that putting somebody on a terrorist list for what they ate was ridiculous — and possibly illegal.”
Sounds like just the kind of guy to keep us safe.
June 4th, 2009
Tom Tomorrow’s This Modern World perfectly captures the current debate about torture accountability in the US. In this cartoon vice President Cheney announces:
Of, sure I’ve killed lots of people! I used to hunt them for sport on the South Lawn. Man IS the most dangerous game, you know!
A debate ensues in which pundits, Congressional Democrats, President Obama, and right-wing talk radio weigh in, resulting in the inevitable “Centrist Compromise.”
June 4th, 2009
The Associated Press reports that, while some easing of conditions has occurred at Guantanamo, tension is nonetheless increasing as the prisoners are becoming disenchanted with the Obama administration. As a habeas attorney quotes the prisoners as saying:
“At least Bush sent some people home.”
On the one hand, conditions have eased a bit since Obama’s inauguration. As is usual, the military insists that nothing has really changed, that changes were planned years ago, but somehow just never happened:
In February Obama sent Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, the Navy’s second in command, to investigate. Walsh recommended ways of easing up on inmates who were confined alone in solid-wall cells.
The military has since introduced communal, twice-weekly “feast nights” with double portions in the maximum-security Camp 5, where it is also building another classroom, on top of the one opened during the Bush administration, to teach more inmates English, Arabic and Pashto as well as drawing.
Cable is being laid to provide satellite TV that already is available in the facility reserved for the best-behaved detainees. The five channels’ programming offer sports and the Persian Gulf-based Al-Jazeera news station in English. The 17 Uighurs, who were ordered released by a federal U.S. judge last year, are held in a separate lockup with even more privileges.
Just over half the prisoners are now living communally, according to Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Hayhurst, the deputy commander of the guard force. He said they include inmates in another maximum-security facility, Camp 6, that was modified to allow them to spend several hours a day together in areas with metal tables and chairs.
Camp 6 does not have live TV, but journalists taken on a tour of the prison on Sunday saw a flat-screen television showing a DVD about dinosaurs.
The planned changes had been in the works for as long as two years, but Walsh’s report prompted the military to roll them out faster, Hayhurst said.
the atmosphere is becoming worse as the guards look ahead to a potential closing next year and the prisoners despair of ever being released:
Some inmates report an increase in hostilities as guards clash with inmates counting down the months to the January deadline.
“Oppression has increased,” wrote Adnan Latif, a Yemeni detainee, in an April letter shortly before he slashed his wrist while meeting his attorney. “The best thing that I can hope for is death.”
On Monday night a Yemeni detainee was found dead in his cell, an “apparent suicide,” the military said.
There are also different accounts from prisoners and guards as to the number of brutal forced cell extractions by the Extreme Reaction Force teams [as they are called by the prisoners] in recent months:
A Kuwaiti prisoner, Faiz al-Kandari, told his attorney on a visit in April that troops in riot gear were being used more than ever to drag rule-breakers from their cells. He said he got that punishment three times over a 10-day period for violations such as refusing a recreation period.
The attorney, Air Force Maj. Barry Wingrad, said detainees may have been emboldened by Obama’s election.
“They were starting to think like humans again,” Wingrad said. “There wasn’t the mechanical going-through-the-motions that there was in the day when they had no chance of getting a fair trial.”
Hayhurst said the number of “forced cell extractions” shot up in November but declined by a third after March. He attributed the increase to more detainees joining a long-running hunger strike, which had 45 participants earlier this year but is now at 30 — up from seven at this time last year. He said about half the strikers must be forcibly removed from their cells to be fed by tubes inserted through their noses.
June 4th, 2009