Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mukasey, Take 2

Me:the administration::Charley Brown:Lucy.

LL was right. I was wrong.

I really am quite gullible when you think about it.

I guess it's clear now that Mukasey will never admit that waterboarding is torture. It's amazing how powerful it can be to simply deny even the patently obvious. Just don't say the words--that's the key.

Maybe in the future we'll see:

A Surgeon General who won't say whether an appendectomy is surgery.

A Secretary of Defense who won't say whether an M-16 is a weapon.

The possibilities, they are limitless!


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

The what is-and-isn’t torture go-round seems to lead nowhere, and becomes a matter of esthetics or semantics. So, I’ll just stipulate “torture” for the sake of moving on.

The easy way out of the moral dilemma for many people these days is simply to assert that “torture doesn’t work.” Voilà, dilemma erased.

However, if torture works, and lives are saved as a result, it seems to me honesty would require that one state unequivocally that even if it costs their own lives and those of their family, that they still find it impermissible.

I can respect that (in the abstract), but I haven’t heard such a bold statement without all the hedging.

The abstract equation seems to be

Waterboarding = Torture = Immoral = Unacceptable in any case

But I see nothing morally admirable about sacrificing your children because you’re squeamish, altho I could respect—--in the abstract—--the more principled form of the argument I previously posited, and which I have yet to see anyone make with a straight face.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is why Mukasey shouldn't be confirmed, and it unfortunately exposes Tom's latest hero, Jack Goldsmith:

A choice passage:

"Goldsmith left the government and joined Harvard at a time when two generally separate streams of events were occurring and, because of Goldsmith, were joined together to some extent at the Harvard Law School. One stream was that, even though the mainstream media’s performance from 9/11 onward has generally been incompetent and dangerous to the nation, in 2004 a few reporters had discovered and were writing about horrible government misconduct including torture and renditions. From these reporters, and from cases filed by the ACLU, it became known that Americans were beating prisoners, sometimes unto death, were forcing them to kneel or squat for hours (these are “stress positions”), were administering and threatening electric shocks to the testicles, were threatening detainees with death and the murder of their families, were hanging them by their arms, were forcing them to lie on blistering hot surfaces, were keeping them naked in frigid cells, were denying them needed medical treatment, were threatening them with vicious dogs, were kidnapping people off the street in Europe and sending them to countries like Syria or Egypt to be tortured by authorities there, were operating secret prisons for interrogation and torture in places like Afghanistan, Thailand and eastern Europe, and were engaging in waterboarding, an ultimate torture used by the French in Algeria, the Argentines, and the Uruguayans. (A Uruguayan interrogator had said of waterboarding that ‘“there is something more terrifying than pain, and that is the inability to breathe.’”)

As all this became known, it also became clear -- from common sense, from the writing of a (now famous) CIA guy named Michael Scheuer, and from logical deductions -- that George Bush and others were blatantly lying when they denied that America was torturing people, and that the orders to commit torture came from the very top -- from Bush and Cheney -- notwithstanding denials. As well, though the media flatly refused to write about it, the torture ordered by the highest -- and culpable -- levels of our government constituted grave war crimes under international law, were felonious violations of two domestic statutes, and could be punished by up to life imprisonment and even by execution of the immediate perpetrators. As I say, the media flatly refused to write about that.

From early on people in the CIA had been worried that the techniques they were using on prisoners might constitute crimes under international law and felonies punishable by up to life imprisonment or death under two domestic statues, the War Crimes Act and the Anti-Torture Act; (The New York Times, October 4, 2007, p. 42 (hereafter NYT Oct. 4).) The CIA, and other government officials were not motivated by respect for law, as Goldsmith sometimes tries to say in his book (TP, p. 131), and as he seems to have said in recent testimony before Congress. Rather, they were worried about grand juries, lawyers’ fees, prosecutions, jail. (TP, pp. 12, 68, NYT, Oct. 4, p. 22.) They were seeking – they were demanding -- protection against these possibilities which arose under international and domestic laws which were created to protect against repetition of abuses which had occurred in the past. (TP, pp. 90-91, 162, see 98, NYT, Oct. 4.) The CIA’s lawyers wanted from OLC, and John Yoo gave them, opinions that provided protection. These opinions were called “a golden shield,” a ‘“free get out of jail card,”’ ‘“an advance pardon’” because the OLC authoritatively, bindingly, opines for the federal government and, if the OLC says something is legal, then in future it will not be possible, or at least it will be very difficult, to successfully prosecute for the act. (TP, p. 149, NYT, Oct. 4, pp. 42-43.) While Goldsmith doesn’t say so, and gives no sign of even having comprehended it although one is hard pressed to understand how such a smart guy could miss it, the hidden idea here is that the Nuremberg defense, which didn’t work for the Germans, can be used by Americans, so that we have reneged on what we maintained at Nuremberg. In other words, if the OLC says we can lawfully waterboard someone, then government officials given the task can rely on this and not be prosecuted for waterboarding even though the entire rest of the world knows damn well that by waterboarding people we have tortured them. Goodbye Nuremberg.”

BTW, Tom, I'll say it: torture is always wrong. Go ahead and come up with whatever absurd situation you'd like. Better yet, answer me this: would you torture your wife to save your child?

Now do you see the absurdity of it? What I might or might not do if I were personally in a situation that affected my family IN NO WAY has any bearing on what the government should sanction from one of its employees, working in that capacity and having sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution. Yeah, maybe I'd do some extreme things in a situtation that involves my family which you dreamed up in your fevered imagination; I might do some horrible *wrong*, but I damn well wouldn't give a shit about being indicted, prosecuted or whatever. Doing something heinous and inhuman with the imprimatur shows neither guts nor moral courage; it shows you were following orders, Herr Van Dyke.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

BTW, Tom, I'll say it: torture is always wrong. Go ahead and come up with whatever absurd situation you'd like. Better yet, answer me this: would you torture your wife to save your child?


11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a good idea:

9:31 AM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

Newspeak is here, and Tom speaks it even if he hasn't managed to reduce his vocabulary yet.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Tom, you are sounding like a PoMo litcritter here or something...

(1) What is and is not torture is not a matter of aesthetics. It is a matter of morality.

(2) It is not a matter of semantics, either, if you mean what people normally mean by that claim. It's no more semantic than the question 'is a dog a mammal?' is semantic. I mean, the question is expressed in words...but that can't be what you mean...

The question is:
Which actions really are--and which really are not--acts of torture.

If we are considering principles like the good principle:

Torture is obligatory in ticking-time-bomb cases, but impermissible in ordinary cases

Then it becomes important to have a fairly clear idea what torture is (and what ticking-time-bomb cases are like, etc.).

There are, of course, words involved, but we're not asking about the words, we're asking about the *acts*. In such cases we start with a fairly vague, common-sense term, and then decide we have to either make it more precise or at least get clear about paradigm and borderline cases. (Or identify necessary and sufficient conditions for membership in the relevant class, if possible.)

Thing is, waterboarding is a *paradigm* of torture, not a borderline case.

This isn't like professing confusion about whether abortion is murder--this is like professing confusion about whether walking up behind and innocent person and shooting him in the back of the head just for fun is murder.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the Wikipedia:

The use of torture has been criticized not only on humanitarian and moral grounds, but on the grounds that evidence extracted by torture can be unreliable and that the use of torture corrupts institutions which tolerate it.

It is particularly dangerous to military organizations. The deliberate infliction of pain on a helpless person is fundamentally a cowardly act and its perpetrators must necessarily be of suspect reliability on the battlefield. Cowardice is known to be contagious in deadly combat situations but the acceptable threshold for numbers of combatants who might break and run in any given fight is virtually unknowable. Hence, the deliberate acceptance of any practitioners of torture in a military culture is problematic indeed.

The purpose of torture is often as much to force acquiescence on an enemy, or destroy a person psychologically from within, as it is to gain information, and its effects endure long after the torture itself has ended. In this sense torture is often described by survivors as "never ending".

Incrimination of innocent people

One well documented effect of torture is that with rare exceptions people will say or do anything to escape the situation, including untrue "confessions" and implication of others without genuine knowledge, who may well then be tortured in turn. That information may have been extracted from the Birmingham Six through the use of police beatings was counterproductive because it made the convictions unsound as the confessions were worthless. There are rare exceptions, such as Admiral James Stockdale, Medal of Honor recipient, who refused to provide information under torture.


The Irish lawyer William Sampson, writing of his experience under torture, quoted an inquisitor on its futility as a means of obtaining information:

"I mentioned to one of the gaolers my sense of this hardship, as an obstinate guilty person might deny the truth, whilst an innocent one, less courageous, might very readily, to relieve himself from such a state of misery, make a false confession. His answer was laconic: "Lago confess" ... "They soon confess."[47]

2:33 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Innocence and ineffectiveness are pragmatic side issues. I'm not the one making broad moral pronouncements here. If folks are going to respond to my original post, please respond to it. I'm talking sweeping principle, not thises and thats.

I would, in fairness, compare this to an issue on the right---embryonic stem cell research. One may say that adult cell research is far more promising, and that embryonic cells have so far been useful only in growing brain tumors. But this elides the core question.

An opponent of embryonic stem cell research, as the natural conclusion of his position, must be able to say that he'd rather his child die than be saved by something as morally unacceptable as embryonic stem cells.

I notice no one has boldly stated my formulation per torture (a term which I stipulated). Sorry for cutting to the chase, but this stew of principle and pragmatism is the easy way out, and incoherent.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Legate Van Dyke, I would invert the question and ask if one tortured in order to save ones' children, would one then be willing to discuss with said children what one has done to save their lives?

As for pragmatism, you began by saying:

However, if torture works

when all the evidence is that is doesn't, so you brought up a concern that may be termed 'pragmatic', and now you wish to dismiss concerns from the opposite POV as a side issue.


3:18 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Don't invert the question, O Hostile to Tyranny One. That's the problem here.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, outside of true ticking time bomb cases, where the threat is imminent and we *know* the suspect can stop it, I think torture is impermissible, even if it costs me or my loved ones our lives.

Other things I object to:

Incarcerating all poor, young black men. I think it's impermissible even if tomorrow I'm murdered by one.

Executing all criminals. I think it's impermissible even if tomorrow I'm murdered by a repeat offender.

Feel free to add to the list.

Are these moral dilemma's too, Tom?

4:18 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Incarcerating all poor, young black men. I think it's impermissible even if tomorrow I'm murdered by one.

Do you consider this an honest rebuttal? It injects the innocence of 99% of those involved and to my mind begs the question. But I'll answer---no, I don't favor torturing 100 profiled people even if there were a mathematical near-certainty of catching one terrorist.

Executing all criminals. I think it's impermissible even if tomorrow I'm murdered by a repeat offender.

Hmmm. "Criminals" is over-broad. How about substituting "murderers?" I happen to oppose capital punishment, but a strong and valid argument for the other side is that if a murderer kills again (and they often do), those who showed "mercy" have the new victim on their head.

Okay, outside of true ticking time bomb cases, where the threat is imminent and we *know* the suspect can stop it, I think torture is impermissible, even if it costs me or my loved ones our lives.

But that's pretty honest. Thank you. The next question is whether you have enough moral certainty that you're entitled to make that decision for the next fellow and his children.

After all, there are those in the pro-life crowd who have enough moral certainty to want to ban all abortions. I am not one of them. Fallibilism and all that.

But hey, I'll take what I can get. I appreciate your forthrightness, Mr. Rotgut.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I'm apparently missing something here...

Tom says: it's a semantic issue.

I point out that it isn't.

Tom says it's about whether it's effective.

DA and others point out that it's pretty much known not to be.

Tom says: the real issue is: would you risk the lives of your family out of "squeamishness"

rotgut responds as I would: yes. That's the funny thing about moral principles, huh?

The only loose end left here seems to be to point out: it is far from mere "squeamishness."

The position that's been taken by most folks around these parts seems to be that torture is impermissible except in the ultra-rare-and-possibly-not-
actually-existent ticking time-bomb cases. Nobody's "squeamish." This is a principled moral position, and apparently the correct position. Is is certainly the one supported by the strongest arguments.

And furthermore, it all seemed to get started, yet again, with a red herring. The point at issue was: waterboarding is torture. That claim is true, and obvious, and nothing has been said that in any way impugns it.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

In my opinion, it is semantics. But I don't know of any argument that would change anyone's mind, so I didn't try. [I concede that arguing it isn't torture is also semantics.]

And so, in order to initiate discussion on the larger issue instead of letting this post lie here with zero comments---as many comments sections do---I stipulated waterboarding is torture, a TVD-alanche ensued, and I found it productive, especially Mr. Rotgut's contribution.

As for "torture doesn't work," it occurs to me that if true, then the exception for the "ticking clock" scenario is equally morally unacceptable. But I suspect that those who insist torture doesn't work suspect it actually does, or they wouldn't be making the exception.

And that's the most interesting idea I came up with from kicking it around with y'all, so thanks everybody for your time.

9:58 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

I still don't know why you think this is "semantics", Tom. Maybe you could explain that better. WS seemed to clearly explain why it doesn't appear to merely be semantics.

Also, for clarification:

Torture doesn't work in reality because you take a person that you guess has information you want, beat the shit out of him and make him tell you something - anything - that will make you stop. Then you go see if the information he gave you is accurate.

The problem with torture isn't that if you have a person who really does know, say, a code to a ticking time bomb, and you have the bomb next to you, he won't give you the code if you torture him. He probably will, because if he gives you a bad code, you find this out and continue torturing him - it does him no good.

In reality, though, you may be torturing some guy who might know the answer to your question, and he can tell you something false to get you to stop, and that will at least buy him some days or weeks while you go test the information out. If it fails, you can only either continue torturing him on the guess that he knows something and is withholding, or you can quit and cut your losses on wild goose chases.

It's much different if you've got the means by which you can test the information received immediately. We rarely have this in real life, and therefore, torture becomes more ineffective and wasteful than it is productive. Torturing the wrong person will inevitably lead to wild goose chases because there's nothing he can do except make up answers to make you stop, and then you waste a lot of resources trying to figure this stuff out.

This is why other forms of interrogation (building a relationship with the prisoner, etc.) are much more successful - the prisoner isn't compelled to give you false information in order to halt his misery, and it's much easier to detect when he is intentionally misleading you.

So there you all go - that seems like it needed to be said.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm not following you. Are you saying that torture is effective in the "ticking bomb" scenario but not otherwise?

If so, that's interesting, altho I can't find my way clear to agree.

As for semantics, I find the term "torture" is unhelpful here. For one thing, waterboarding seems to take in a broad swath. The cellophane thing is waterboarding, but ducking someone's head under is, too. To me there's a difference. Maybe not.

If you want to say waterboarding is inhumane, dehumanizes the torturer, etc., etc., all the arguments one would use against torture, then that's legitimate, and more helpful.

Simply calling it torture wins the argument without further ado. It's a one-size-fits-all. To me, waterboarding with cellophane isn't the same as tearing the guy's eyeball out, but once you apply the word "torture," all distinctions are erased. If there is no distinction, the one doing the waterboarding, since he's obviously a sadistic bastard anyway, might just as well duck the head under or go for the eyeballs.

So is waterboarding torture? Sure, whatever, as I stipulated. It's an unhelpful discussion in my view, but in no one else's here (which I think is valid, too) so I registered my demurral and moved on to the rest of the issue.

1:31 AM  
Blogger Joe the Blogger said...

I think you're right to want to make distinctions about different kinds of actions, Tom. Not all of them can be easily or neatly categorized under the term 'torture.' Still as WS said above, we're not talking about the correct definition of torture, really, so it's not all semantics as you are saying. Instead we're trying to figure out which kinds of actions are morally justified. The term 'torture' is just a label for a certain class of actions and we're trying to figure out which actions in that class are legitimate and which are beyond the pale. A lot of undergraduates in philosophy classes don't understand this kind of point and I think that's why some people don't ever get philosophy--they think it's just "all semantics". It's a hard thing to understand--I had a hard time with it when I first started studying analytic philosophy. But you're just wrong on this one, Tom, sorry. In the end, we don't even have to call waterboarding 'torture,' we could call it something different, like 'coercive interrogation' as the Prez likes to call it, but we would still have to ask whether that kind of action is justified in the situations in which it is used. I think the answer is 'no'.

As for your argument that we must all think that torture is effective since we might allow it in "ticking time-bomb" cases, I think you're misunderstanding me at least. I am saying that IF torture is effective, then those are the kinds of cases it would be justified in. But I don't know whether torture is effective so I'm not granting the pro-torture community that.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Why is this not about semantics?

The question at hand:
Do acts of waterboarding constitute a sub-class of the class of acts of torture?

The question re-conceived as a semantic question:
Does the term 'waterboarding' mean something like "a kind of torture"?

We're really interested in the acts, not the words. Acts of waterboarding are acts of torture.

Now, Tom could have a point since, I take it, 'waterboarding' is a semi-technical term or a "term of art."

The question is not best construed as a semantic question, but it has a semantic aspect, and could be translated into a primarily semantic question without loss.

But, as Tom says, which kind of question it is needn't concern us all that much.

The real question is: is it wrong.

The answer: the best arguments seem to be that torture is wrong in all but a small number of cases (e.g. ticking time-bomb (TTB) cases).

It isn't clear that such cases ever happen, and it seems unlikely that any of our prisoners are ticking time-bomb-type prisoners.

The bottom line:
Our best evidence indicates that this administration is vastly over-using torture. It should almost never be used; information available to us indicates that it is being used with some frequency.

Hence our country is engaging in immoral acts of a particularly horrific kind--frequently.

Tom asks, reasonably:
Isn't the real question: "does torture work?"

Answer: That's one of the questions, but not the only one.

Even if torture works, that doesn't mean you can use it, nor use it in all cases. If some minor al Qaeda functionary knows some minor fact, I think it's clear that we don't get to cut his legs off to make him reveal it. Consequences are not the only things that matter.

And if you're not sure what the person in question knows, then I doubt that torture is ever permissible.

Tom asks:
If you admit that it's permissible in ticking-time-bomb cases, aren't you admitting that it works?

No. We're admitting that it *might* work. TTB cases are carefully constructed. We KNOW that the prisoner knows how to stop a disaster, and we know of no more efficient and humane way to extract the information from him. That means--ignoring a few details--that we are obligated to torture him IN CASE we can extract the information that way.

Actually, I think that in the purest form of the TTB cases, it's even just STIPULATED that the torture will be effective. Whether or not we make that stipulation will matter greatly to our reflections.

Tom asks: don't a lot of liberals really believe in their hearts that torture is not effective, and isn't that the basis of their opposition?

A great question.

I think I know the answer, and it goes like this:
Most people who are anti-torture are anti-torture for a mish-mash of reasons. They don't know-and there is no fact of the matter--about whether they're against it in principle or because they think it's ineffective. Many people actually believe it's ineffective BECAUSE they are against it in principle! (Or so I conclude.)

(Many conservatives are pro-torture for a similar mish-mash of reasons, including that they think the detainees are guilty and deserve punishment.)

That's why TTB cases (and other, similar, philosophical cases) are important: they help us clarify our thinking on the matter. You think about different cases in which all the controversial factual matters are stipulated, then you make a judgment about the cases and think about what you've thought.

Then scientists and semi-scientists go out in the world and get the relevant facts, and you put facts and principles together to determine what you should do.

As it turns out, the ineffectiveness of torture makes it less necessary to get completely clear about when we can use it.

I could go on and on...but I think that most people recognize that it's permissible to torture a very bad person who is, in effect, in the middle of perpetrating an act of mass murder (by withholding info that could stop it).

The most important fact here, however, is that, for most of the folks we have in detention, we don't know whether they know anything of value at all...and we've got excellent information that some of them are just innocent. THAT'S what really makes torture out of the question here.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Now, Tom could have a point since, I take it, 'waterboarding' is a semi-technical term or a "term of art."

The question is not best construed as a semantic question, but it has a semantic aspect, and could be translated into a primarily semantic question without loss.

Thank you, Winston. As long as I'm cleared of the "red herring" charge, which offends me, I'm fine with disagreement over whether the issue is semantics.

Jared writes that I'm wrong, but goes on to say

In the end, we don't even have to call waterboarding 'torture,' we could call it something different, like 'coercive interrogation' as the Prez likes to call it, but we would still have to ask whether that kind of action is justified in the situations in which it is used.

which constitutes agreement over the larger point.

Winston writes that he and Jared agree that torture *might* work. That's sufficient for our purposes and is my position, too---I don't know for sure, but reject the easy blanket dismissal of its effectiveness by many, a dismissal that short-circuits any further discussion.

For if we know it doesn't work, then its use even in the ticking bomb scenario is certainly morally unacceptable, as it's mere sadism.

I certainly agree with Winston that positions on both sides are a mish-mash---to my mind an undifferentiated stew of morality, pragmatism, emotions and partisanship. With occasional asides about my own conclusions on this and that, my purpose has simply been to clarify the debate, to break it into its component parts with an emphasis on the core moral dilemma, inflicting pain vs. the loss of life.

Waterboarding = Torture = Immoral = Unacceptable in any case

WS writes:

Our best evidence indicates that this administration is vastly over-using torture. It should almost never be used; information available to us indicates that it is being used with some frequency.

From what I've gathered on the internet, the claim is that it has been used a grand total of three times and not since 2003, on high-level al-Qaeders including Sheikh Mohammed, who endured it once for 2 1/2 minutes, gave up the info---which putatively saved innocent lives---and was never waterboarded again.

This seems to meet WS' reasonable standard of rare, safe and legal.

Bing West, a former soldier, spook, and Assistant Secretary of State may be a credible enough witness for those here gathered, since he's permitted to write for the Atlantic magazine, which I consider center-left, but perhaps the most even-handed of all the American media (except perhaps for Reason).

Bing allows the figure may be as high as 10 or 20, which still seems rare enough to meet WS' standards. He points out the Congress was briefed every step of the way, and that Congress had the opportunity to ban waterboarding explicitly had it wanted to. [True, it was a GOP congress, but split closely enough that only a few defectors were required for passage.]

It's Bing's contention that the issue of waterboarding is merely a partisan political football at this point, and unsurprisingly, I agree. The practice has been discontinued, and as I previously noted on this blog, its greatest effectiveness may be in the threat of it, not its use, which is why it's effective for Mukasey to remain weaselly about it.

Now there are some prevailing arguments from the left that even that Sword of Damocles is unacceptable terror in itself (see, I keep up with the other side), but that's farther afield than the locus of this discussion.

[I realize I've been using too much shorthand during my tenure here, assuming the reader is familiar with arguments from my side of the aisle, and so, leapfrogging them. This tends to make it look like I'm non sequituring, or employing red herrings, if you will. I'm attempting to be more thorough in explaining my thinking, as I realize now that folks are unfamiliar with some of my baselines. Thank you, Jared and Winston, for what has become a fair hearing.]

3:11 PM  
Blogger Joe the Blogger said...

In order to assess whether or not the administration has engaged in illegal activity, we would need to clarify whether waterboarding is torture.

Another possible reason why waterboarding is no longer used is that the terrorists know about it now and can prepare to resist against it. If it had never become general knowledge that the US used waterboarding, the administration still may be engaged in it.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


1. It IS important to recognize, however, that this not "a semantic issue." So, while many disputes have a semantic aspect, or can be translated into issues about semantics, that does not make them "semantic issues" in the ordinary use of that term. So: not a semantic dispute.

2. As for the "agreement on the larger point"--I don't think there's ever been any disagreement here that the more interesting issue is whether waterboarding is immoral.

But note that this IS a larger point, and not the original point. The original question was: is it torture. It clearly *is* torture--there's no doubt about that. That was what the original post was about, the claim was true, and nothing that's been said here in any way impugns that.

Now, I'm fine with saying "now that that's decided, let's ask whether torture is always immoral." But the point stands: the subject has, in fact, been changed, for better or for worse.

3. Tom writes:
"Winston writes that he and Jared agree that torture *might* work. That's sufficient for our purposes and is my position, too---I don't know for sure, but reject the easy blanket dismissal of its effectiveness by many, a dismissal that short-circuits any further discussion."

So, wait a sec...(a) the original point of the post (that waterboarding is torture) is clearly true...and (b) all this spilled ink has been about the claim that torture MIGHT work? A claim that no one here has ever disputed?

We've GOT to get more efficient about these discussions...

4. As for:
"Waterboarding = Torture = Immoral = Unacceptable in any case", nobody's ever claimed that around here.

What has been claimed here is more like:

"Waterboarding --> torture --> immoral in almost all cases."

So, again...lots of spilled electrons...

5. The actual numbers of torture victims is, of course, relevant (Though, again, none of this has much to do with the point of the post, which was that waterboarding is torture). 10 or 20 frankly seems too high for me, but (a) what do I know?, and (b) less bad than I thought it would be. Though (i) this seems to be the number of waterboarded, not the number of tortured, which is higher, and (ii) this seems to be only the number that WE'VE waterboarded, and doesn't seem to include the extraordinarily if we're stalking all the big game in the vicinity, we might want to say something about THAT immoral practice...

So, conclusion:
Original post: true. Number of those directly waterboarded by the U.S.: possibly not as many as we thought. Torture: not actually effective, but possibly effective. Red herring? Well, nothing even close to a refutation of the original post, though other interesting issues opened up. But red herrings involve an intention to distract, which there's no reason to believe was present here.

6:51 PM  

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