McCain Puts The Lie To Torture…Again

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Democrats, History, Iraq, McCain, The War On Terrorism, Torture, War

” I think the interrogations were in violation of the Geneva Convention against torture that we ratified under President Reagan. I think that these interrogations, once publicized, helped al Qaeda recruit. I got that from an al Qaeda operative in a prison camp in Iraq who told me that. I think that the ability of us to work with our allies was harmed. And so — and I believe that information according to the FBI and others could have been gained through other methods.”
- John McCain on Face The Nation today

Yes folks, torture became a recruitment tool. And it’s apparently yet another reason we got bogged down in Iraq. Again, from McCain…

“Senator Lindsey Graham and I were in Camp Bucca, where there’s the 20,000-prisoner camp. We met with a former high- ranking member of al Qaeda. I said, how did you succeed so well in Iraq after the initial invasions? He said two things. One, the chaos that existed after the initial invasion, there was no order of any kind. Two, he said Abu Ghraib pictures allowed me and helped me to recruit thousands of young men to our cause. Now that’s al Qaeda.”

Does this surprise anybody?

The question now…will we learn?


This entry was posted on Sunday, August 30th, 2009 and is filed under Democrats, History, Iraq, McCain, The War On Terrorism, Torture, War. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

22 Responses to “McCain Puts The Lie To Torture…Again”

  1. michael reynolds Says:

    People don’t support torture because they think it’s effective. That’s a smokescreen, a rationale. They support torture because they’re sadists, because they take pleasure from the subjugation and humiliation of enemies. They get a vicarious power rush.

    So they will be indifferent to evidence, Justin. The facts will be irrelevant to them. They’ve been given what they think is a socially-acceptable excuse for their sadism, and that’s all that will matter to them.

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  3. Mike Says:

    If I’m not mistaken, the question posed to Senator McCain was something along the lines of “Do you believe torture works?” His response (“I think the interrogations were in violation of the Geneva Convention against torture that we ratified under President Reagan”) tells you something about his character. I lean conservative, which is why I never understood why the right’s argument that torture is OK as long as it works. I think there’s a legitimate debate about whether the measures used constitute torture, but if they are torture, we shouldn’t use them, regardless of whether they work.

    With that said, I whole-heartedly disagree with michael.

  4. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    People don’t support torture because they think it’s effective. That’s a smokescreen, a rationale. They support torture because they’re sadists, because they take pleasure from the subjugation and humiliation of enemies.

    People don’t support universal health care because they want to help the poor. That’s a smokescreen, a rationale. They support universal healthcare because they are communists, because they take pleasure in using force to control the behavior of other people’s lives and punishing those who seek independence and liberty from government interference.

    See, I can play that game too.

  5. gerryf Says:

    Yes, you can play that game, but not as well.

    I disagree with Michael, a well.

    There is indeed a number of those who support torture who are sadists, and these are the people who are willing to actually torture someone.

    But mostly people support torture because they just don’t know any better, or because deep down inside they are scared and want revenge for some action.

    Those who don’t know any better have been convinced by too much television, talking heads, or twisted fantasy that torturing someone will result in information. And, there is little doubt that sometimes it does. The problem is we can never know immediately if the information is good or bad. It has to be verified by some other way because people will do anything to stop the torture. Therefore, the ticking bomb rationale is pointless. Even if there is a ticking bomb, the person being tortured only has to hold out until the bomb explodes.

    Then there are those people who are frightened and want revenge, which stems from a feeling of helplessness. They–whoever they are–hurt us, and someone needs to pay for it by being hurt. I understand that thinking, but it doesn’t change the first point–that torture does not work reliably.

  6. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    The question now…will we learn?

    The answer? Yes. Obama has learned to step up the rendition program whereby prisoners are sent to other countries for interrogation, out of the jurisdiction of constitutional law. He has learned to modify the program so that suspects detained in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq ect.. are immediately handed over to the host countries for interrogation without bringing them to a secret CIA prison first.

    And of course, Obama has learned that the mainstream press has his back, and simply wont bring this up in a press conference with Gibbs or on the nightly news. After all, the New York times assures us that there will be more “oversight,” without giving a single detail about what that means, other than “diplomatic assurances”.

  7. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    Gerry and Mike, do you ever wonder why you must insist that everyone who has a more nuanced view on coercive interrogation than you MUST simply be basing their viewpoint on sadism or a desire for revenge? It seems you don’t dare confront the possibility that information from terrorists might be gained from such interrogation. It frightens you that much that you have to build such flimsy straw men.

    It seems to me that you are admitting that, if indeed waterboarding a terrorist mastermind might reveal information to prevent an attack, then it would be morally acceptable to do so, otherwise the main thrust of your argument would be, “so what if it works and it saves innocent lives, its still morally wrong and it is a more acceptable outcome to allow the attack to happen.”

    The whole crux of your argument, however, relies on the assumption that waterboarding, or other harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA have never worked, ever, and therefore there can be no practical justification at all. A more poignant entry point into this debate would be the one I emphasised above, which you are deliberately avoiding.

    If I concede that, (1)If it is true that harsh interrogation has never worked ever, then (2)It would always be wrong; would you then agree that (1)If it is true that harsh interrogation has sometimes worked, then (2)It might under certain circumstances be morally acceptable to use it in order to save innocent lives from a terrorist attack?

  8. michael reynolds Says:

    Jimmy:

    Effectiveness is irrelevant.

    My ‘nuanced’ view is that mock executions, beatings, waterboardings, sexual humiliation, threatening with dogs are and always have been denounced by my country, the United States of America, as torture, as contemptible, as immoral, as heinous and as evil.

    I don’t know where the hell Americans like you came from, Jimmy. I think there’s something dark and sick in your heads and you should ask yourselves if effectiveness is your only rule then what is to stop skinning these captives alive? Is there any limit on the evil you will endorse?

    If the USA is about torture then the USA isn’t worth saving.

  9. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    if effectiveness is your only rule then what is to stop skinning these captives alive? Is there any limit on the evil you will endorse?

    No. Just waterboarding. Sexual humiliation would be acceptable, maybe lying to them or firing a gun at them too (intentionally missing of course). That is, if it is reasonable to suspect that these techniques are effective. These are very powerful tools, and all other options must be explored first and the situation must warrant it.

    It now seems you have moved from “it never works” to the “slippery slope” argument. Once you move there, you again have again avoided the intrinsic moral question of the use of these particular techniques themselves and decided that these techniques are bad because they could lead to something absolutely unacceptable under any circumstance. What if a line is drawn at sexual humiliation, lying, or waterboarding? Lines are drawn in law enforcement all the time.

    If I concede the argument that (1)skinning someone alive is comletely unnacceptable and therefore (2)It must never be used in an interrogation under any circumstances; would you then agree that (1)some coercive techniques such as sexual humiliation, false threats & lies, and perhaps waterboarding under certain circumstances are morally acceptable and therefore (2)may be used in order to save innocent lives from a terrorist attack?

  10. kranky kritter Says:

    “I’m not that fat, Gilligan!”
    Sure you are, skipper”
    No I’m not!
    Sure you are…

    The hard pro and hard con arguments are both approaching TVLAND levels of repetition. I can’t stand the stern Cheneyesque argument which says “to defend against terror, we’ll go as close to as possible to the line, which we won’t define.”

    I also can’t stand the full loaf progressive idealist argument which isn’t willing to simply stand hard on a moral standard, instead also insisting that no case whatsoever can be made for efficacy.

    The loaf has gone stale. I can’t wait for all this to play out over time with the minimal cosmetic scapegoating required to reaffirm our country’s official position that torture is unacceptable as matched to some sort of high standard that seems to suggest we won’t do anything bad at all. But which leaves no nails to hang a hat on.

    Of course. we’ll continue to bend these seemingly clarified standards from time to time, on rare occasion with approval approaching top tiers, and somewhat more often via wildcat efforts.

    This is the sort of thing I really wish I could bet money on. Neither side will get its way. Each will eventually find some way to declare victory.

  11. michael reynolds Says:

    Jimmy:

    I think you’re confusing me with someone else. I’ve never predicated my opposition on arguments about effectiveness, although I’ve discussed effectiveness as a separate matter. I don’t think I’ve ever said, “It never works.”

    We draw the line at things we would consider appropriate for a foreign power to do to our prisoners. Would you be okay with a downed US pilot in Iran being waterboarded, deprived of sleep, slapped, kept in stress positions, sleep deprived and subjected to mock executions and threats to his family.

    And don’t bother with the “they do worse” dodge. That’s not the point. I’m asking you if Captain John Smith, USAF, is downed in Iran, are you okay with the Iranians doing to him what you want to do to alleged terrorists. You want to send that signal to Iran? These are all things you can do to our guys?

  12. kranky kritter Says:

    Mike, I agree with you that the better argument against torture rests on moral grounds.

    Don’t you think progressives would be better off resisting the urge to tack on “and it doesn’t work” to the end of their side of the debate? I mean, it’s one thing to craft a resoonsive argument to expansive contentions about the efficacy of torture. It’s quite another to argue unbidden that it lacks efficacy.

    I respect the argument that torture (and torturish things like the stuff Jimmi mentions) do not work nearly often enough or well enough for us to willingly invite such an ugly stain upon our nation’s moral character. Nor for us to essentially approve that our enemies should visit such treatment upon our own people.

    MY take is that torture amd torturish things cannot be acceptable as a matter of policy to guide future action. But torture and torturish things could in retrospect possibly be forgivable as actions.

  13. michael reynolds Says:

    KK:

    I do think people obscure the moral argument with unproven assertions as to efficiency.

    It’s an interesting question, of course, but not necessary.

    As for past actions I favor full disclosure. But I’m not convinced we need to put people in jail. I’d rather a truth commission sort of thing.

  14. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    Would you be okay with a downed US pilot in Iran being waterboarded, deprived of sleep, slapped, kept in stress positions, sleep deprived and subjected to mock executions and threats to his family.

    Of course not. That pilot was likely not devising a plan to deliberately murder innocent civilians for the sake of his own religious fanaticism or illegitimate political grievances. If there was an American member of a terrorist organization attempting to do such things, maybe we should send over a consultant to help the interrogators. I’m sure they have learned a lot over the past few years.

  15. michael reynolds Says:

    Jimmy:

    The fictional pilot in question was preparing to drop bombs that might definitely kill civilians. Right?

    But your problem is bigger than that: you’re assuming that we only torture the guilty. Assumption of guilt first, assumption of valuable concealed data second, followed by torture.

    And you assume that the Iranians would not also make the identical assumptions about our pilot. In other words, that they could not possibly suspect an American pilot of planning to kill civilians, or of possessing data that would allow the Iranians to forestall another such attack.

    So what it comes down to is this: that we can torture because we’re the good guys.

    The good guys who torture.

    Right.

  16. Nick Benjamin Says:

    Of course not. That pilot was likely not devising a plan to deliberately murder innocent civilians for the sake of his own religious fanaticism or illegitimate political grievances.

    I’ve done a wee bit of reading on warfare. And one thing I’ve noticed is that nobody EVER thinks their political grievances are illegitimate. Another thing to keep in mind is that the rest of the world thinks a lot of US Policy is driven by Christian fanaticism. So, as far as the people who could actually torture the pilot are concerned, he’s two thirds of the way to being torturable under our standards.

    Now consider the possibility that his maps were old, so the military office building he was targeting had been converted to an air raid shelter. That actually happened in 1991 when we hit the Al Amiriya air raid shelter in Baghdad. Deliberately blowing up an air raid shelter is, by definition, killing innocent civilians. And the people deciding whether the pilot’s actions count as “murder” probably have family in the shelter…

    As far as they are concerned, by the standards of Jimmy the Dimmi, that pilot should be tortured.

    This is why the actual uniformed troops are very reluctant to endorse torture. They are the ones who will actually have to deal with being tortured.

    If there was an American member of a terrorist organization attempting to do such things, maybe we should send over a consultant to help the interrogators. I’m sure they have learned a lot over the past few years.

    Apparently what they’ve learned is that torture doesn’t work.

    I’ve seen plenty of evidence from shady people (aka: Cheney) that tortured people gave good information. But that’s correlation, not causation. While those people were being tortured they spun out a load of BS. When we stopped torturing them we got good information.

    Always remember: the Spanish Inquisition got many many people to confess to witchcraft by using water-boarding. And if those guys couldn’t get accurate information from the technique what makes you think Cheney can?

  17. Mike Says:

    As my previous comment made clear, I’m not in agreement with those who support torture on the grounds that it works.

    But I just want to weigh in to say that the comparison between our military pilot and a terrorist is unwarranted. There is such a thing as absolute truth. Not everything is relative. And in this case, the truth is that a terrorist deliberated kills civilians. He deliberately kills as many civilians as possible, in the most horrific ways that he can. There is simply no comparison between that and a pilot inadvertently killing civilians in an attempt to kill enemy combatants, some of whom are those terrorists.

    The fact that some have a twisted view of reality, and would believe otherwise, does not make their viewpoint equally valid as ours (call me an egotistical American if you will). The argument that we should treat terrorist detainees the same as we would want our pilots to be treated is warranted when fighting a traditional war against an enemy military. I don’t agree that it applies to terrorists, however.

  18. michael reynolds Says:

    Mike:

    No one is arguing moral equivalency between a USAF pilot and an Al Qaeda terrorist.

    I’m arguing that in the absence of some sort of across the board, one-size-fits-all, trans-national definition of who might be and who might not be a bad guy deserving of torture, we outlaw the technique itself and thus moot the issue of who deserves it and who doesn’t.

    That’s why we had the Geneva conventions. That’s why we passed laws against torture. Because in and of itself it is evil and thus cannot be justified by differentiating this victim as opposed to that victim.

  19. Nick Benjamin Says:

    But I just want to weigh in to say that the comparison between our military pilot and a terrorist is unwarranted. There is such a thing as absolute truth.

    I agree. Our pilots are morally superior to terrorists.

    But back in the real world the Iranians aren’t going to ask me whether they should torture an American prisoner. They are going to look at the international conventions on torture. And if, in their opinion, they are allowed waterboard this poor pilot they will.

    So if we use Jimmy’s idea of when torture is justified, we have guaranteed many captured American servicemen will be tortured. Given the huge debates on what counts a s a civilian target we’re probably really talking about ALL American serviceman.

  20. Mike Says:

    michael and Nick,

    I’m glad that we agree that the pilot is not comparable to the terrorist. I see that you are talking about what the enemy “thinks”, not what is reality. However, re-reading previous comments, I do think that they go too far into relativism (ie. Their view of reality is just as valid as ours). But, I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.

    Still, I think you can take the “we shouldn’t do it to them so that they don’t do it to us” argument too far. If you take torture out of the debate, should we apply this reasoning to all treatment of detainees? Should we not detain them in cells, because we wouldn’t want our pilot’s to have to be detained in cells? Of course you would say, well that’s completely different than torture. I agree, it is different, which proves the golden-rule argument is not sufficient.

  21. Nick Benjamin Says:

    Cells aren’t a great example. Tiger cages are a lot less pleasant than a cell. And pretty much any room you get detained in is a cell.

    We can do anything allowed under the Geneva Conventions. If we have reason to believe a suspect has valuable information we treat him like we’d treat a drug-lord.

  22. mike mcEachran Says:

    @ Jimmy: “What if a line is drawn at sexual humiliation, lying, or waterboarding? Lines are drawn in law enforcement all the time.”

    The line was drawn. It’s called the Geneva Convention. Those lines were drawn with the full understanding that there would be moments when our resolve to hold to these limits would be tested. But that is what lines in the sand are all about. The idea was we wouldn’t leave the decision making to people in the heat of the moment, just as we don’t leave the criminal justice system in the hands of the vicitims.

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