Inconvenient possibility?

by on May 2, 2011 at 11:45 am in Current Affairs | Permalink

Usually in such matters it takes a long time for the full and true story to come out, if indeed it ever does, but an MR commentator drew my attention to the following, concerning the courier who led them to the bin Laden hideout:

Detainees at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had given the courier’s pseudonym to American interrogators and said that the man was a protégé of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed the confessed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The story (1/20) is here, and from Haaretz here is the same point made more explicitly.  I have never been pro-Guantánamo, or for that matter pro-torture (and do note the caveats above), but I am willing to report results which may run counter to my views.  The moral and the practical do not always coincide, and perhaps we should be celebrating just a bit less.  It is possible this is not a totally “clean” victory on our part.

Peter May 2, 2011 at 11:58 am

I do not care what had to be done to get the Guantanamo prisoners to talk. If they were tortured, so be it.

Rahul May 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm

The practical problem with torture is you never know who deserved the torture without trying it out.

k May 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Bravo!

JooJoo May 2, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I’m sure you don’t care, just like I’m sure someone getting tortured undeservedly most certainly does care (as do his family, friends, and country). Your distinct lack of empathy is sometimes called idiocy, sometimes “being a fascist pig.”

dorothy tyler May 2, 2011 at 3:01 pm

How do we determine who deserves torture

eliot May 2, 2011 at 7:26 pm

We first determine if they are human beings.
That’s all.

Bernard Guerrero May 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Lack of empathy stupidity. Orthogonal issues, really. And for the record, I’m with Peter. Most activity carries with it the risk of the false-positive.

Buzzkill May 2, 2011 at 11:18 pm

I say we torture Bernard. Never know what secrets he’s hiding.

Bernard Guerrero May 3, 2011 at 11:34 am

I’ll never talk! (Open to whispers after bribery, tho.)

Jim Nazium May 3, 2011 at 9:06 am

JooJoo, your distinct lack of a direct criticism of your opponent is sometimes called “passive agressive”.

Foo Fighter May 3, 2011 at 9:50 am

Jim, your need to attack the person instead of the idea is what is sometimes called “ad hominem,” which is what many philosophers call a “logical fallacy,” and what I call “what is wrong with civil discourse in this country.”

Also, I’m thinking you don’t know what passive aggressive means.

Unless you were being sarcastic?

albatross May 3, 2011 at 11:33 am

How many people is it acceptable to torture, in order to find your man? How many innocent people? How many US citizens?

JooJoo May 3, 2011 at 2:09 pm
Zach May 2, 2011 at 11:59 am

It should go without saying, but the fact that information was obtained during a decade of extralegal detention and torture doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have been obtained as or more easily in some other way.

Tom May 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm

You think they stopped looking at all the avenues of information once they opened Gitmo?

Zach May 2, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Other avenues with the people who gave us this information? You can’t untorture someone. There are a finite number of leads as well as talented individuals in intelligence; torture (using the pre-9/11 definition) as a primary method of interrogation did preclude alternatives.

Jim May 2, 2011 at 6:21 pm

“Other avenues with the people who gave us this information?”

That is clearly not what he was saying. There are more people in the world with information than the ones you have managed to round up, and you get that information by paying for it, or asking for it, or asking for it from the people who are holding those people.

Zach May 2, 2011 at 11:07 pm

If he meant that other information may have been used in capturing bin Laden, then I agree. All I’m saying is that contentions from anonymous sources that bin Laden’s capture hinged on evidence from GTMO interrogations don’t mean that detainment/interrogations that conformed to international law wouldn’t have been as or more effective.

Aaron May 2, 2011 at 12:47 pm

What’s more disconcerting is that, given what we know about the efficacy of torture as opposed to more humane interrogation techniques (i.e. those methods used by the FBI), the tactics used in guantanamo may have even prolonged the hunt for bin Laden.

Regardless, I am glad the man is dead.

JooJoo May 3, 2011 at 2:10 pm
Christy Rhoton May 2, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I’m not sure how this would qualify as a “clean” victory even if necessary American intelligence information was not a result of torture.

Meg May 2, 2011 at 12:06 pm

It is also not clear whether it was obtained from the program of torture or the other interrogation processes. It would be interesting to know whether the information came out of waterboarding, emotional manipulation, voluntary cooperation or 8 years of boredom.

calling all toasters May 2, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Well, exactly. It’s not likely they were tortured constantly and then 6 years later gave up a lead. Chances are, this was not torture. Especially since they gave up the last bit of info once Obama was President.

Jana H May 2, 2011 at 12:07 pm

@Zach

Well, golly, anything is possible, isn’t it?

Andrew' May 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Yeah, but 10 years or so? I’d have waited another year to not bone up our police state infrastructure and precedent. Heck, I’d have waited for natural causes.

Jim May 2, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Right. If it turns out that you were completely and totally wrong, for nine consecutive years, and GTMO was in fact an absolutely brilliant idea conceived by the Bush Administration (God help you), then perhaps we should be celebrating a bit less.

Andrew' May 2, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Because we assassinated the genius who came up with the brilliant plan to hijack planes with boxcutters? Okay.

But, how many other ‘couriers’ and the like were they told about? This is possibly a case of narrative survivorship bias if they pursued 1000 of these leads (and at this point it isn’t clear to me how the courier connects to the compound) and this is the one we are told about. And “this is the courier that he trusts most” just culls down the possible people to pursue. Again, they’ve had time to pursue a lot, and they’ve constantly told us of all the actions that we never even hear about. Additionally, we would BE safer had we relied on voluntary tips. Remember that “winning hearts and minds” doesn’t always mean two to the heart and one to the head.

E. Barandiaran May 2, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Are you in favor of targeted killings and revenge other than justice (in the practical sense of a due-process right)? Can you detail the conditions under which you are willing to sacrifice justice to revenge?
I have always been in favor of capital punishment because it deters at least one person –the killer (please don’t tell me about errors, leave that to progressives that are always right).
Hope you can talk to Gordon Tullock and Ilya Somin to have a serious discussion.

Bernard Yomtov May 2, 2011 at 4:11 pm

.. please don’t tell me about errors, leave that to progressives that are always right

Why? Does the thought of errors disturb your righteous sleep?

It’s odd for someone who doesn’t want to hear about capital punishment mistakes to accuse others of claiming to always be right.

Bernard Guerrero May 2, 2011 at 4:54 pm

All human decision making (and the activity that flows from it) runs the risk of the ‘false positive’. I remain undisturbed.

E. Barandiaran May 2, 2011 at 8:27 pm

I know I make mistakes and I take responsibility for my mistakes. I preach internalizing all costs of actions and I try to practice it –yes, it’s hard, very hard, but if I want the benefits of the many opportunities that life offers me I know I have to take risks and to assume the consequences of my actions. Hope you do the same.

Bernard Yomtov May 2, 2011 at 10:15 pm

You take the consequences? You!!?? What a remarkably self-centered comment.

No. You don’t take the consequences. The wrongly condemned defendant does.

E. Barandiaran May 3, 2011 at 7:24 am

Yes, he takes the consequences of my action but I take the responsibility of my mistake. And I take the consequences of the costs that other people’s actions impose on me –everyday I cross many streets and any of the car drivers can kill me by accident so the probability that I get killed by a car is much higher than the probability that I make the mistake of supporting capital punishment to a suspected killer. As I said I may be wrong but I take responsibility for my mistakes the same way I take the consequences of other people’s actions (regardless of any corrective action that I may take later with the assistance of a lawyer or if needed a hired ruffian). How do you protect yourself? How far are willing to go to prevent everyone else to impose a cost on you? How do you constrain yourself to avoid imposing a cost on others? How careful are you?

Eric May 3, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I’m sure, E., that if you were captured and tortured by Islamist extremists, you would take great comfort in knowing that your torturers took responsibility for their actions, assumed the risks and consequences, etc.

E. Barandiaran May 3, 2011 at 2:22 pm

It may happen just when I take a walk later today and a driver kills me by accident. I take comfort in the idea that the driver may assume his responsibility and asks his insurance company to compensate my children. What can/should I do? Stay home? Ask a politician to prohibit driving? I will look in both directions when crossing every street.

Jim2 May 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm

“revenge other than justice ”

Has it occurred to you that vengeance was only one motivation for taking him out? even operationally impotent, UBL was a potent figurehead and symbol of this particular movement. This was as much about the present and the future as it was about the past.

E. Barandiaran May 2, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Maybe five years ago I had agreed with you. Not today.

Andrew' May 2, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Of course they had to come by the information somehow. They could have gotten it in other ways too. This method certain wasn’t expeditious, which is the usual excuse for torture. Not to mention the spooks could be lying.

affe May 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Outside high school athletics, “victory” doesn’t come with adjectives attached.

albatross May 3, 2011 at 10:12 am

affe:

That’s what I always heard from my old high school football coach, Mr Pyrrhus.

JohnMcG May 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I actually do care.

I would like to think that it was possible to have this victory without having to resort to tactics like torture.

If it turns out that such methods were necessary in order to kill Bin Laden, then what is this a victory for?

In any instance, I’m skeptical of the claim that the torture of detainees provided the key to this operation. Here’s the sentence suggesting the strongest link:

“One of these interrogations, of top al-Qaida operative who was close to Khaled Shiekh Muhammad, was helpful in indentifying some of bin Laden’s closest aides. U.S. intelligence caught up to them and put them under surveillance.”

So, I’m not sure the lesson to be learned here is that “Torture = Victory.”

It seems like we’ll never know for sure if we could have done this without the torturous tactics. And some will use this to make the case that these tactics are necessary for our security. While I celebrate the end of Bin Laden, I wish this weren’t the case.

albatross May 3, 2011 at 10:36 am

Many important victories were accomplished with unsavory methods. To use an obvious example, WW2 was won by siding with Joe Stalin.

The false lesson to take from this is “only by using the evil methods used in one notable victory can we win in the future.” Most of the time, there’s no value in becoming Joe Stalin’s ally, though in WW2 it was probably the best way to defeat Hitler. There was probably very little benefit to interning huge numbers of Japanese, though we did that and also won the war against Japan. It’s quite possible that we found OBL by doing all sorts of nasty stuff, and that most of that nasty stuff either wasn’t necessary, wasn’t even productive, or was useful only because of special circumstances that are unlikely to recur.

The true lesson is that there are often situations where you must choose between evil methods and a lower probability or higher cost for victory. Refusing to be allies with Stalin would have been morally better, but we might not have defeated Hitler and dismembered the German war machine at the end of that war.

Even worse, there’s not some inner circle of geniuses or angels to give those decisions to. The people who actually made those decisions, while apparently fairly bright and capable, were just men, like us. For every evil but necessary decision to send aid to Stalin, there are plenty of evil and unnecessary decisions to intern the Japanese. The same leaders who will actively lie and deceive the public to get us into a necessary war in one case, will do the same to get us into an unnecessary one in another case. Often, they’ll believe they are doing the right thing, that they’re saving the world from a genuine threat that nobody else can see. People being people, that will usually overlap with the stuff that is best for them personally or politically.

Rahul May 3, 2011 at 11:16 am

Best comment so far.

Jody May 2, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Citing Gitmo as the critical source would also cover other potential sources in the field.

I lean towards datamining as the major “source”, though.

Emanuele May 2, 2011 at 12:27 pm

However what is missing is a counterfactual analysis.
Anti-Guantánamo people don’t say the informations aren’t arriving from torture, the point is the informations are so mixed to lies the overall impact isn’t positive. Or, at least, not as positive as “it’s worthed to torture people”-positive.

The fact the information WAS given under torture doesn’t mean:
1- The same information wasn’t also delivered from traditional sources. Often these pieces of intelligence are confirmed from multiple sources.
2- Without the time and money spent following wrong leads from tortured people, Osama would have been found before/at the same time/slightly later.

I don’t think some serious person was saying tortured people aren’t ever going to tell you the truth. If that was the point, yes, this single fact debunk the “never” statement. However, if the argument is that lies are more common then truths, one point, without counterfactual analysis, isn’t debunking or confirming anything, even statistically.

E. Barandiaran May 2, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Bottom line –torture is rarely a good option; it may be a good one when (filled the blank). Hope you agree that (1) by definition all bad things in life are just like that, and (2) the challenge is to fill the blanks.

albatross May 3, 2011 at 10:55 am

Also, we don’t have any particularly good methods for making sure some great evil is never done except in the most critical of circumstances. For example, torture has been justified in terms of the ticking time bomb scenario, where you set the circumstances up a perfect way to make the choice one between letting millions die in a nuclear explosion, or torturing one certainly guilty man. And yet, that doesn’t seem to be what we’ve done with it. Assuming this information was extracted by torture, it wasn’t remotely a ticking time bomb situation–we got information on the location of a fugitive by torturing his friends and associates until they told us enough that we could find him.

Along the way, we’ve apparently tortured *thousands* of people. (I believe over a hundred people are documented to have died under US interrogation, from FOIAed memos released by the ACLU on their website.) Perhaps a few of them really did have ticking time bomb type information, but probably most either had short-duration tactical information (where did the Taliban hide the mines in this town), or long-duration information useful in an investigation (what are the names of the people you think might have had something to do with OBL). Many apparently were random innocent people swept up in our net, or low-level nobodies who had little information worth knowing, or people sold to us by some warlord.

I don’t know whether torture is really effective at getting information–I’ve heard the claim that it isn’t by people with genuine expertise in the area, but I don’t know enough to be sure. However, one thing is clear–when we’ve used torture, it’s been done on huge numbers of people something a lot more like a fishing expedition than like a nice exercise in moral philosophy. That’s what we should expect. Just as with giving the state the power to secretly assassinate or disappear or spy on citizens, you can’t give it those powers and assume they’ll be used only on real bad guys or for good purposes.

E. Barandiaran May 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Thanks for giving a good example of the challenge I mentioned. Some people want to believe that they are good because they argue that they never, never will do a bad thing. Unfortunately one can always think of a situation in which perhaps a bad thing is the price to be paid to save a life. The challenge is because it is almost impossible to define such a situation in advance. In his book “Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age”, Law Prof. Alan M. Dershowitz proposed that no torture would be permitted without a torture warrant being issued by a judge. I didn’t follow the debate of his proposal (I understand several law professors objected to it), but I think it’s reasonable to grant such a power to a judge whenever an advanced definition is not possible.

albatross May 3, 2011 at 1:14 pm

How does the history of civil forfeiture track with that idea? My impression is that the original idea was to use it only against drug kingpins and mob bosses and such. But it became an extremely common tool of police, often an unofficial way to fund the police department.

I very much fear that torture warrants would follow the same trajectory. We’d justify it with discussions of ticking time bombs, but in a few years, we’d be waterboarding Jose to find out where he buys his cocaine.

The other problem is that, in general, there are few consequences for powerful people who violate the law. There have been several instances of massive wiretapping that have been disclosed, in unambiguous violation of the law. Nobody *ever* goes to jail for those. So it’s easy for me to imagine that we set up state torture chambers and torture warrants and such, but then it turns out that when the authorities haul a bunch of suspects in and beat answers out of them without the warrants, they suffer no actual legal consequences, other than maybe not getting the conviction.

By contrast, to my mind, the actual threat to us from terrorists looks pretty small. If they killed 3000 people once every ten years (and I don’t believe they’re remotely capable of that), I’d consider that a small price to pay to avoid having the cops or FBI or secret police set up a network of routinely used torture chambers.

Rahul May 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm

The major difference is that civil forfeiture has no judicial oversight. What Alan Dershowitz is saying is that, pragmatically, if we are going to allow torture after all why not do it in a documented, auditable fashion rather than bury our heads in the sand and pretend that it does not exist. I tend to agree: Better a torture warrant than an extra judicial Gitmo.

My reasoning is, fine, you want to use torture at Gitmo on some select few cases where you have the ticking bomb argument. But then be willing to publish your decision so that the whole nation can then either have the torture on its collective conscience or censure you for misusing it.

John Thacker May 2, 2011 at 12:45 pm

This other AP article is specifically claiming that the information was obtained from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his successor Abu Faraj al-Libi. It reports that “Both were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics inside CIA prisons in Poland and Romania.”

I generally feel that most arguments against torture, civilian bombing, harsh tactics, etc. rely ultimately (and correctly) on moral objections, and that the clever arguments about their ineffectiveness are more justifications after the fact for a belief held for moral reasons. But I may be wrong.

John Thacker May 2, 2011 at 12:46 pm

KSM and al-Libi are two of the supposedly only handful of detainees to have been waterboarded, IIRC.

Andrew' May 2, 2011 at 12:52 pm

How many potential torturees were there? Not the scrubs. Who did they not torture that they really really wanted to?

We know waterboarding ‘works.’ That’s why it is torture. Have we forgotten that people denied it was torture? Let’s say Khalid named everyone he knew the name of. One of those people ends up being THE guy. What does that really prove?

jimmy May 2, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Nothing, which your question is designed to suggest.

But did he in fact do something so unhelpful and presumably unmanageable as name “everyone” he knows? Or did he give us an actionable list of names, of which one happened to be THE guy? How do we know which of these scenarios is most likely to be produced by torture?

As an aside, given all the caveats about whether some info really did come from someone in GTMO, why are so many here ALSO assuming it came from someone tortured?

Andrew' May 2, 2011 at 2:08 pm

The question is how long is the total list?

Zach May 2, 2011 at 2:54 pm

According to the CIA OIG report (pg 36), Al-Nishri (one of the few confirmed to have been have been waterboarded) was tortured right from the beginning of his interrogation. I recall similar bits in other memos, but don’t remember exactly which.

albatross May 3, 2011 at 11:37 am

We know it works in the sense that you can get people to confess to anything you want, including (say) having personal meetings or sexual congress with the devil, by doing it long enough. We don’t know (maybe you do, I don’t) whether it’s a generally effective way of getting information, particularly in the situation where you often don’t know which of these two dozen guys has useful information, and which are nobodies picked up for having the wrong friends.

Emanuele May 2, 2011 at 1:17 pm

It’s possible.
It’s also possible the cognitive consonance is what brings the others to believe it is effective: since it has a (moral) price, it’s probably worth it. The kind of fallacious argument starting from “a good medicine has to taste bad”. Actually, there is no reason for that.

Sometimes the pricey choice is chosen only to make clear you are willing to pay it, as a show of strength. Sometimes, as you say, people claim there is not effect because they are unwilling to pay the price.

Both options are possible. Generally, I’m to avoid paying an high price if I can’t test the effectiveness of the medicine.

bbartlog May 2, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Does it make sense to believe the CIA or whoever it is that is giving us this narrative about how they found him? They’re not in the business of transparency, and would have every reason to tell us a story just like this even if (for example) some Pakistani contact decided to rat out Bin Laden in exchange for a few million $US. Protect the source while providing cover for our interrogation operation.

Andrew' May 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Bingo. Especially if you want to keep access to your shiny new goody bag.

John Thacker May 2, 2011 at 1:19 pm

The official White House briefing definitely specifically says detainee interrogations, but is unclear about whether it was at Guantanamo or in secret CIA prisons or where.

Brian J May 2, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Really? Where?

Perhaps I am being too literal, but “detainee” just means that someone is in custody. The word itself doesn’t mean anything specific as to how that person was being treated.

Ed May 2, 2011 at 1:22 pm

It wasn’t a victory.

By the U.S. government’s own admission, this guy got away from it for ten years. And he wasn’t even living in a shack somewhere, he was living in a mansion in a wealthy neighborhood.

There is also the issue that the US pretty much did what Osama wanted (run around in circles in the Middle East, draining the economy and pissing people off in the process). Plus the issue about what the US objective in the war on terror was. Was it to defend the rule of law? Or was the problem with Al Qaeda that they were attacking us, which is fine, but there is nothing wrong with using terrorist methods as long as we do it.

I would argue that Osama won about the time Bush left office. The positive thing about yesterday’s event is that we finally have confirmation that he is really dead.

Jim May 2, 2011 at 1:22 pm

If you are itching to feel “unclean” about this, your only real hope is that Obama gave the order to go in there and slaughter the guy, regardless of his desire to surrender. He could have been kneeling on the floor, unarmed, holding an infant and begging for mercy, but Obama commanded that his head be blown off right then and there.

Fortunately, he’s a Democrat, or else the media might have a problem with this.

Andrew' May 2, 2011 at 2:10 pm

No! This is the greatest fugitive in the history of civilization. There was no reason to kill him unless we wanted him killed. Give the Seals some credit. They aren’t street cops.

Andrew' May 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Two shots to the face probably is an execution after identification, I’m guessing. I’m wondering why. If I’m in the Seal Team, worrying about my personal safety on the greatest mission of all time would be like Neil Armstrong opting for a flyover.

Captain Obvious May 2, 2011 at 4:24 pm

He was probably point an AK-47 at them

Cyrus May 2, 2011 at 1:41 pm

The reported is possibly true, but also a very good cover story for any other source of intelligence. It is difficult to conclude anything.

E. Barandiaran May 2, 2011 at 2:03 pm

You’re right. There are too many interests in manipulating the story. In addition to politicians and journalists –the ones that claim to be honest but lack both the abilities to find the truth and the integrity to tell it — we have to face several bureaucracies and NGOs that have invested too much in favor or against this sort of action.

Rahul May 2, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Personally, I suspect the Pakistani government snitched on Osama. But now they need a cover lest the rest of the Islamic world, and a part of their domestic votebank, brand them as traitors.

albatross May 3, 2011 at 11:40 am

They seem more likely to need a cover for why they didn’t snitch on him during the many years he apparently lived in that complex.

Rahul May 3, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Depends on who’s asking. Are they more afraid of accountability to the international community? Or their local vote-banks and Islamic leaders? I suspect the latter. When was the last time anyone was scared much of the toothless UN Security Council? Hell, Obama actually thanked the Pakistanis for their “cooperation”! Cooperation?! Since when has harboring a fugitive been cooperation?

dirk May 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm

The inconvenience of this victory in my view is that Obama’s determination to take out Qaddafi will increase. All we have to show for two expensive campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan are Saddam and Osama’s heads. Since our only victories have been Pyrric, are we now encouraged to make the most of them and continue down that path?

I hope I am wrong and Obama will instead use this as an excuse to cut our losses, declare a major defeat a minor victory and withdraw from everywhere.

Andrew' May 2, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Oh yeah, I guess we’ve decided assassinating leaders is cool. Too bad we didn’t acknowledge that before entering Iraq. We took Saddam alive btw.

Baphomet May 2, 2011 at 2:12 pm

The Web edition of the New York Times currently has one of their most amusing headlines ever: “Afghans Fear West May See Death as the End.”

affe May 2, 2011 at 3:53 pm

The Vatican’s been beating that drum for a while now…

E. Barandiaran May 2, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I agree with you but let me make clear that the Afghans are wrong: both the East and the West see death as the end.

k May 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm

who cares if Bin laden is dead? Will this change any of the reasons he turned up in the first place?

TD May 2, 2011 at 2:34 pm

It is kind of intriguing how Osama’s fate was tied up with Pakistan’s dependence on IMF.

When 9/11 happened, Pakistan was on the verge of default.
http://www.pakistaneconomist.com/issue2000/issue43/f&m.htm

Osama’s death comes after the IMF approved a stand-by program.
http://nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Business/12-Apr-2011/Hafeez-leaves-for-US-today

Anotherphil May 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm

One of the unfortunate problems with apparent fulfillment of the Orwellian truncation of language is the loss of meaning, specifically distinction. Torture and discomfiture are not the same thing.

Torture is the infliction of pain or injury, something that (can be reasonably expected to) cause some morbidity. Denying sleep for limited periods or making people wear pink underwear makes one uncomfortable, its discomfiture. Torture is what the Germans and Japanese did it World War II, and the Soviets did through out their history. Their prisoners emerged broken and frail, Gitmo detainees gain weight.

I really do love how the Obamabots who were driven to fits of apoplexy over torture are silent now. No Code PInk or Cindy Sheehan. It never was anything but partisan politics, pure and simple.

Of course, Obama is to be congratulated for being mugged by reality and given up on the idiotic idea of closing Gitmo, if in fact that was ever a serious policy consideration and not the promise of a cliff to his army of lemmings.

Brian J May 2, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Who is being silent about torture?

JohnMcG May 2, 2011 at 3:06 pm

FWIW — I voted for Bush in both 2000 and 2004, and abstained from the 2008 election, and am vehemently opposed to torture, including tactics like waterboarding, sleep deprivation and cold cells that others have decried as torture. I don’t think Prof. Cohen, whose opposition to torture prompted this post, could be described as a partisan Democrat.

Like every movement, the anti-torture movement includes its share of political oppportunists who see at is a handy issue to use against their political opponents. The same as true for almost any issues. But there are also many who have principled objections to it.

Anotherphil May 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm

” torture, including tactics like waterboarding, ”

Once again, that’s not torture. Its uncomfortable, but it is so without peril that our guys go (went) through it for training. That is discomfiture, not torture, no matter how many times the left asserts that treatment with anything harsher than the white gloves adorning the young ladies in Westminster Abbey this past Friday is an affront to humanity to be compared with the gulags and concentration camps.

“Like every movement, the anti-torture movement includes its share of political oppportunists who see at is a handy issue to use against their political opponents”

Not every movement, but every (leftist) transient movement is almost exclusively orechestrated by disingenuous opportunists. It isn’t just the people I cited with their faux indignation of Gitmo, it’s the environmentalists that give the carbon sasquatchs like Al Gore a pass on his lifestyle, while telling the rest of us how many sheets to use after that most intimate activity,
the now gone “homeless” advocates, AIDS advocates, family farm advocates and myriad of other causes that disappear when the President is affiliated with the letter “D”.

mulp May 3, 2011 at 1:11 am

But if torture et al was so effective in finding bin Laden, and all was done pretty much only during Bush’s first term, why didn’t Bush announce the capture of bin Laden?

Is the idea that intelligence gets better as it gets older?

The compound was built in 2005 after most were put in gitmo.

Bernard Guerrero May 3, 2011 at 11:41 am

Incorrect chaining of data. The info on the courier was developed early, his location in Abbottabad only later (and logically, only after the compound had been built) and the possibility that OBL was there built up after that. In this case, the intelligence did get better as it got older, in the sense that a puzzle gets better after you’ve worked on it for a few hours as opposed to a few minutes.

albatross May 3, 2011 at 11:48 am

So, when the Spanish Inquisition and the Khmer Rouge waterboarded prisoners, was that torture? Or was it always just splashing a little water in their faces?

If you want to see prisoners tortured to keep yourself safe, at least have the balls to say so out in the open. There’s an argument to be made there, though not one I agree with. But actually make the argument. Don’t try to pretend you’re talking about something else.

Rahul May 3, 2011 at 2:25 pm

@Anotherphil:

I sincerely suggest you try getting waterboarded tonight. It’s not that hard to set up really. Call over a friend or two; not too messy either. Preferable have your “discomfiture” videotaped. Let’s see it.

For reference Erich “Mancow” Muller lasted 6 seconds:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/22/mancow-waterboarded-video_n_206906.html

Andrew' May 2, 2011 at 3:01 pm

“is not a totally “clean” victory on our part.”

Now that success was derived from actual intelligence work, can all those other statist measures please be sunsetted?

Just asking.

Barkley Rosser May 2, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Well, there is a lot we do not know about this and may never know about this. But, even if the information came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and at Gitmo, there is no guarantee that it was gained during waterboarding or other torture. There have been numerous reports of FBI or others getting useful information out of detainees using “humane” methods, only to have somebody else come and start engaging in torture, only to have the detainee clam up or start spouting false information, or simply breaking down and going insane.

Reportedly most of the useful information Mohammed ever gave came from the computer seized with him, although he later claimed it belonged to somebody else. He was waterboarded extensively, but has been reported to have claimed that he provided nothing but “white noise” lies when this was done.

It should be kept in mind that neither the Gestapo, Japanese military intelligence, nor the various Soviet “organs” used torture to extract actual information. They all knew that information gained that way is unreliable. Rather, such torture was used to intimidate and frighten prisoners, to “soften them up,” and keep them in line.

As it is, we do not know which prisoner gave the crucial information or how it was otained. Not everything going on at Gitmo was torture, and indeed, the public record so far has been that most of the useful information gained there was obtained by other methods, despite a few claims to the contrary (mostly coming from the execrable Dick Cheney).

Tom May 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm

I do believe that what was widely reported, as in the AP article posted above, that it was only after the enhanced interrogations were performed that KSM started talking. He is actually the one who has provided us with the most actionable information.

I don’t like the idea of torture. But, for those who truely are execrable, not those who offend our delicate sensiblities, torture is OK, as it has proven to be effective. Frankly KSM is the poster boy for torture’s effectiveness. For anyone who is adamantly against torure, he should be said to be the exception, as you use your crediblity when you deny the obvious.

Barkley Rosser May 2, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Tom,

The latest reports are that what KSM gave was only a nickname, however it was gotten out of him. The crucial information of the actual name came much later from another source, presumably after we were no longer waterboarding, although we do not know that or who that source was.

Tom May 3, 2011 at 9:55 am

And without the nickname we could not have found out that was the person we were looking for. KSM gave up what he knew, which was crucial, and then we followed that lead to get the actual name, then followed him to Osama. I see why Tyler named this ‘Inconvenient’.

Bernard Guerrero May 3, 2011 at 11:36 am

“presumably after we were no longer waterboarding” ?

On what basis would you make that presumption?

mulp May 3, 2011 at 12:52 am

KSM was waterboarded in 2003. The lead on the courier came out of gitmo in 2007, so the waterboarding wasn’t very useful in getting information that was useful in getting bin Laden. The fact bin Laden used a courier is like a “duh!” and the name wasn’t very useful until a courier was suspected and was associated with the name. But even that wasn’t useful until the courier seemed to have a connection to a compound in a region that seemed completely unlikely.

but I suppose one might postulate bin Laden communicated via telepathy because all al qeda terrorists are super humand and can kill with their minds once on US soil so they must be held on Cuban soil where the commie vibes can suppress the jihad juju.

albatross May 3, 2011 at 11:56 am

So, with Osama Bin Laden caught, does anyone expect to see the AUMA repealed? After all, just about everyone involved in the 9/11 attacks is apparently dead or in custody. So we don’t need it anymore, right?

Or will it turn out that the administration finds the AUMA too useful in terms of justifying new powers or backfilling justifications for things they did in the past?

Glenn Schafer May 2, 2011 at 4:46 pm

It is interesting that a a non lethal or non permanently disfiguring water boarding is so widely condemed and yet we drop a bomb on a Quadafi compound killing several innocent women and children and nothing much is made of it. The reason you hear about drone strikes consitently killing less than 12 people is if it is more than that an investigation is required. Thousands of actual innocent people have been killed by drones and Guantamino is not even in the same league. I guess it is ok if you are a Democrtatic president doing it but not a Republican.

Yes I have been water boarded as part of survival training and it is very unpleasant but it is better than being castrated or having your finger nails pulled out or bones broken or blinded or hung by arms or any number of other things done to prisoners by our enemies. I also think we should extract ourselves immediately from Afghanastan . It is an unwinnable war. We also need to declare total victory in Iraq and come home and leave Lybia alone. It is impossible to occupy these countries successfully because of the diverse nature of the population unless you are willing to kill millions of people which we are not. The occupations of Germany and Japan were both sucessfull because the populations are very disciplined and inclined to obey orders.

k May 2, 2011 at 8:50 pm

wow.

“It is impossible to occupy these countries successfully.”

just wow. Occupying a country as a notion should not arise, I would think. But, duh, who’s winning?

Andrew' May 3, 2011 at 9:21 am

We’ve established we want to be better than people who maim and torture. We are now negotiating how much better we want to be.

albatross May 3, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Just as an aside, I’m pretty sure there’s a big difference between being waterboarded by people on your side whom you know want you to survive, and being waterboarded by your enemies, who have you entirely in their power, in the midst of doing all sorts of other nasty and horrible things to you.

mulp May 2, 2011 at 11:59 pm

It took years for the information to come out, while in other cases in other places, lots of information has been obtained in weeks and even days. Saying this is proof of gitmos superiority is like saying the 18% of GDP the US spends on health care in the US proves no one lacks access to health care for any reason because the US spends more than 50% more than other nations with universal health care.

Andrew' May 3, 2011 at 9:22 am

You are right mulp. And you are also right that you can’t draw any conclusions from a higher absolute level of spending.

Tom May 3, 2011 at 9:58 am

Waiting for some mighty backpedaling here.

Andrew' May 3, 2011 at 11:54 am

mulp makes a good point. It’s not like anyone else had an opportunity to question the prisoners at Gitmo. And we also don’t know exactly what techniques were used to elicit the information. Previously mulp points out the timeline for waterboarding Khalid don’t match up. So, you can’t just assume the benefits result from the costs of Gitmo and its methods. You have to dig into the data a little further.

And then there is this. When I told my wife we chucked him in the ocean even she thought I was joking. April Fool’s worthy.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110502/ts_yblog_thelookout/was-it-burying-bin-laden-at-sea-a-mistake

And Mohammed al-Qubaisi, Dubai’s grand mufti…added: “Sea burials are permissible for Muslims in extraordinary circumstances,” he added. “This is not one of them.”

Wait a second, trying to make sure extremist Muslims don’t get irritated doesn’t qualify as a good reason to bend Muslim law in disposing of the body of their martyr? When people were thinking this through, did they actually think to themselves “we’ll find the most respectful, and yet most dismissive method?” Did people really think that people wouldn’t be ticked off as long as we expunged the evidence? This guy loves the drama. Maybe he really put Osama in the locker he was keeping his birth certificate in.

You know what, now that I think about it, maybe they did take him alive. It’s starting to sound easier and more plausible.

Mike May 3, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I would not equate water boarding with torture. Anyone who thinks they are one in the same should endure both and be force to tell which they prefer. Water boarding is no more torture than a Taser.

But water boarding clearly violates the Geneva Convention for maltreatment of a prisoner. Even unlawful combatants are protected from this. There’s no reason we can’t make terrorists uncomfortable before and during questioning, but water boarding crosses the line into physical and psychological torment.

In the “ticking time bomb” scenario, I’d personally cut up a terrorist into 1000 small pieces to make him talk – damn the GC! But we were never in that scenario.

Rahul May 3, 2011 at 2:28 pm
Ryan Vann May 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Let me get this right, people are actually accepting the idea that OBL was employing the evasive tactic of hanging out in a mansion for months?

Andrew' May 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Again, are we talking about Obama or Osama here?

Ryan Vann May 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm

OBL = Osama Bin Laden. I find it difficult to accept OBL would stay put long enough for any information extracted from KSM to be particularly relevant. There has to be other intel that made this possible.

Jim May 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm

More hilarious inconvenience for you:

The name of the courier who led us to Osama bin Laden was extracted from Hassan Ghul, an al-Qaeda member who was captured… in Iraq. In 2004.

I can’t remember who ordered the invasion of Iraq, or if anyone has ever complained about it happening, but I’m sure you’re all fine with it now.

Andrew' May 3, 2011 at 2:21 pm

So, we entrapped them by starting a war. Couldn’t we have just told them they won a boat?

Loren F. File May 3, 2011 at 9:21 pm

It is also possible that chasing down bad leads obtained via torture/waterboarding is the reason it took so long to find him at all!

lff

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