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Posted by on Jan 1, 2010 in Politics, Society, War | 19 comments

“The Line That Defines Torture”

I see that Andrew Sullivan has a post up about the same subject I blogged about earlier this evening under the title “The Normalization of Evil.” And he is on to the same expanded argument for the use of torture that I saw in the Andy McCarthy piece I quoted from (emphasis is mine):

The comparison with Richard Reid is, of course, instructive. The Bush administration treated the shoe-bomber exactly as the Obama administration has treated the pantie-bomber – and convicted him the way no one has yet convicted anyone directly connected to 9/11. But after years of banging the drum for torture as a routine tool for US government, and accountable only to one supreme leader, the right has now shifted the goalposts again. The ticking time bomb is now an ancient criterion. Torture, for Cheney, is about treating every seized terror suspect as an intelligence target, and the entire system he created – of lawless prisons, disappearances, black sites, freezing cells, stress position shackles, upright coffins, neck-braces to slam prisoners repeatedly against plywood walls, waterboards, sensory deprivation techniques, dietary manipulation, forced-feeding, threats against relatives and children – was designed for torture as its end.

Sullivan goes on to note a line in one of Thiessen’s several posts on this subject that truly gives the game away (emphasis is mine):

Marc Thiessen, one of those most committed to institutionalizing torture as part of the Western tradition, wants to torture the Detroit pantie-bomber:

It likely would not be necessary to use the waterboard to get Abdulmutallab to talk — only 3 terrorists underwent it and only 30 had any enhanced techniques used at all.  But the vast majority of Americans have it right:  You don’t put an enemy combatant who just committed an act of war into the criminal-justice system — and you certainly don’t give him a lawyer and tell him “you have the right to remain silent.”  You make him tell you what he knows so you can prevent new attacks.

There is a lie in this, of course. Far, far more than thirty people were subjected to the torture techniques Cheney borrowed from the Gestapo, the Communist Chinese and the Khmer Rouge. Hundreds were treated this way at Abu Ghraib, Camp Cropper, Camp Nama (under the authority of Stanley McChrystal), Bagram and in many secret sites taken over from the KGB (yes, I’m not making this up!) in Eastern Europe.

But here’s the critical line:

You make him tell you what he knows so you can prevent new attacks.

That’s the line that defines torture. If you can impose enough mental or physical pain or suffering to make someone tell you something you want to hear you have forced them to say something, true or false, to get the torture to stop. The fact of the matter is: this is illegal under any rational understanding of domestic and international law. In fact, domestic and international law mandates that governments do not even contemplate such measures, especially in extreme circumstances.

John Hinderaker and Paul Mirengoff congratulate themselves on their “moderateness” because they agree that Abdulmutallab should be waterboarded only if other forms of torture “all other aggressive interrogation techniques” have been tried.

And God weeps.