Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What is a torturer?

This is a question so simple to answer that not only can the majority of the American people can answer it, even a twitter twit can answer it: Anyone who deliberately causes physical pain or discomfort as part of interrogation is a torturer.

Now, you get the tighty righties saying that technique X, Y, or Z isn't torture. "It's just fraternity hijinks!", Rush Limpdick famously proclaimed after the Abu Ghraib torture photos came out. But unless I've a mistaken view of fraternities, I wasn't aware that anybody got interrogated in a fraternity. Hazed, yeah. Interrogated, err, no.

Now, this has nothing to do with causing mental discomfort to a suspect that you're interrogating. You can put that prisoner into solitary confinement until he's happy to see a face, any face, and babble his brains out, for example. Or you can play good cop bad cop where the bad cop is verbally abusive and threatens the prisoner's relatives and friends, for example. But once you lay a hand on that prisoner and start inflicting physical discomfort or pain, you've crossed the line. You're no longer an interrogator. You're now a torturer.

Yes, it really is that simple, no matter how complicated the tighty righties try to make it. Forcing the prisoner into excruciatingly uncomfortable "stress positions" that causes pain as part of the process of interrogating the prisoner isn't "fraternity hijinks". It's torture. Simulated drowning -- waterboarding -- isn't "a little splash of water on the face." It's torture. Throwing the prisoner naked into an unheated cell such that the prisoner is shivering is not "winter sports". It's torture. Same deal with anything else that causes physical pain or discomfort to the prisoner. It really is that simple, and if someone says it isn't, they're either a damned fool, or a liar.

-- Badtux the Torture Penguin

Update from one of those loonie lefties at the National Review: Waterboarding is unacceptable, period. The money quote: In the actual situation we face, to demand that our government waterboard detainees in dark cells is cowardice.

Enough said.


  1. Tux, you are a bit haughty in your attempt to impose the meaning of your choice onto a word. There are other meanings to torture. In fact the number 1 and 2 definitions at M-W do not match your definition. Physicality is not a precondition in 1, and in both intensity is a factor.

    P.S., define it as torture if you want, I support the level of intensity used. I am capable of evaluating moral trade-offs, in in my calculus, it was a good balance.

  2. I'm sorry, but I'm talking about the definition of torture that is in U.S. law and in the U.N. Convention on Torture, not what's in a dictionary somewhere. Regarding "level of intensity", "low level torture" is sort of like "half-virgin". Sorry. It's either torture, or it's not. If it looks, smells, or can even be *confused* with torture, Americans do not need to be doing it. That's the sort of shit that evil fascist/Communist dictatorships do, not Americans, and frankly it pisses me off that there are un-American *EVIL* people who want to tarnish America with that kinda shit.

    Me, I wish we could get back to the days when Americans were the good guys and could say "We do not torture" with a straight face. President Obama's ban on torture is a good start towards that goal.

    - Badtux the aint-that-evil Penguin

  3. Severity is wholly relevant in the U.N. Convention definition. You must be talking about Article 16, but the U.S. accepted that article with reservations. I see plenty of legal room for water boarding.

  4. I don't think you got my point of my last point. IF THERE IS ANY QUESTION WHETHER IT IS TORTURE, THE UNITED STATES SHOULD NOT BE DOING IT. Period. The America I grew up loving does not do anything that can even be *confused* with torture, because that is the America that is the home of the free and land of the brave, where we do not torture, period, and certainly not in the craven underwear-soiling manner that the U.S. tortured people these past few years.

    BTW, in case you missed it, the U.S. TORTURED SEVERAL PEOPLE TO DEATH during those past several years... including some poor slob cab driver who was guilty of nothing more than driving his cab at the wrong place and wrong time. That is the kinda shit that the U.S. does *NOT* need to be involved in, and any kind of statement that *any* kind of physical abuse of prisoners is permissible simply is not acceptable for the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. The Land of the Cowards and the Home of the Subjects, yeah. But that wasn't the America I grew up in... and I sure the hell hope it isn't the America I die in.

    ANYTHING THAT CAN BE CONFUSED WITH TORTURE IS UNACCEPTABLE. Period. We MUST have clean hands by any reasonable standard, or we are NOT America -- we are simply EVIL. Period. I will not argue with this. This is a matter of core morality on my part. If you defend torture OR ANYTHING THAT COULD BE CALLED TORTURE BY A REASONABLE MAN regardless of legal definitions, I'm sorry, I cannot agree with you, and I will not agree with you, and I will call you evil. PERIOD.

    - Badtux the Not-evil Penguin

  5. I'm not inflexible. I see the virtue of the U.S.'s new torture policies. It will lead to less intelligence. But life is tough. I also see the virtue of the Bush policies. Hum, I thought only conservatives were supposed to see the world in Black and White. I think your position is a step function if I ever saw one.

    The country you grew up loving has used torture for quite some time. After reading this article I find Bush's policies the most humane of them all.

    u.s. torture history

  6. 2209
    What possible intelligence can be gained by torture?
    Simple answer - Absolutely NONE.
    Who says so? A great number of the people who were supposed to be interrogating people. Like the FBI. Like the military. People who actually got information from prisoners before they were tortured.
    So even if it was not stupid, ignorant and just plain wrong ALL the time, it does not get good information. In simple language - it does not work, unless you don't care about actually getting proper intelligence and only about covering your ass.
    IOW - I agree with you 100%
    This shit is not what I signed on for, either when I was in the military or as just a citizen.


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