Thursday, September 14, 2006

Subjective Evaluation on Torture

Nixon Center president and TNI publisher Dimitri Simes has launched his own blog, Subjective Evaluation. He offered this comment, which I reproduce in full below:
____

I have a little certificate on my office wall confirming that I spent fifteen days in the fall of 1973 in a Moscow prison—by the way, the same prison later visited for much longer by defiant Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The certificate claims that I was sentenced for hooliganism. According to the prosecution, I had participated in a hunger strike by Jewish activists at the Moscow State Telegraph Office. Never mind that all the hunger strikers were doing, other than not eating, was sitting in a public area designated for writing telegrams and producing messages to the United Nations, President Richard Nixon and other international leaders asking for help in getting permission to emigrate. The Soviet authorities claimed that I and other defendants stayed at the Telegraph for many hours, depriving other people of the opportunity to write telegrams and disregarding repeated police orders to leave the building. The participants disputed this, saying that no such orders were issued.

My situation was a little different, however. Not only was I not on a hunger strike, I had come to the Telegraph straight from a restaurant in the company of a friend who was the daughter of a senior official. After checking her ID, the police allowed her to leave; they arrested me with the others and I spent a night in the police station and was taken to court with them. I explained to the judge that I was not a part of the protest, that I had been at the Telegraph for fifteen minutes at most, and that no one had asked me to leave. Other defendants confirmed my story, clearly puzzling the judge. As a result, she left the court room in the company of the KGB officer responsible for our case. They returned five minutes later and the judge said that on the basis of the evidence she just received, it was established I was clearly guilty as charged. I never learned what the evidence the KGB provided, but nobody was surprised. Those were the Soviet rules.

So, here we are now in the United States, after a victory in the Cold War, where the President of the United States—and not just any President, but one who has made moralism his trademark—is asking Congress to approve legislation that would allow finding people guilty of serious crimes without revealing key evidence against them. Joseph Stalin used to say that “the [security] organs don’t make mistakes.” Do we really want to have a legal system making the same assumption about the CIA?

Our President’s insistence that it is acceptable to use “alternative interrogation techniques” is likely to be viewed as Orwellian by skeptical publics abroad, even in Western Europe. What kind of alternative techniques? Would investigators pray with the suspected terrorists to appeal to their better selves? Show them pictures of the innocent children they are trying to murder? Recite the Bible and Koran with them? Hardly anyone doubts that the President is talking about physical pressure, which he may not consider torture, but apparently thinks would be sufficient to break down a committed militant. And, to be clear, the individual who might be subjected to torture has not yet been convicted of anything and is denied the presumption of innocence applied in American courts. For all we know, a few may be victims of mistaken identity, something already documented as occurring in some recent CIA-conducted investigations.

It is true that any rule, including the rule against torture, should allow for exceptions under the most extraordinary circumstances. So, if there is credible evidence that a nuclear bomb is ticking in a major American city and the only way to disarm it is to force a suspected terrorist to confess, the Commander-in-Chief should be able to do whatever necessary—but the authorization should be provided personally by him. And, for God’s sake, it should be called what it is, not an “alternative technique.”

It’s troubling that Mr. Bush does not accept as self-evident truth that torture is wrong and un-American. The argument that it may save innocent lives misses the point. Through the history of combat, most torture was not inflicted by pathological sadists, but rather by interrogators who wanted to get information that could save the lives of their troops and civilians. If the United States makes it acceptable to use “alternative techniques” against enemy combatants, it is a no-brainer that American soldiers and even ordinary Americans living abroad would be in great peril.

More broadly, in taking the positions he does on torture, President Bush should forget about the ideological struggle he has proclaimed to win the hearts and minds of Muslims. Since as a practical matter that the vast majority of those subjected to “alternative techniques” are likely to be Muslims—and in the age of the internet, their stories are bound to be quickly known all throughout the Islamic world—all Mr. Bush’s claims about his noble desires to make the world safe for democracy would sound hollow. Senator John McCain, Senator John Warner, Senator Lindsey Graham, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and retired Army General John Vessey are exactly right to insist on modifying the President’s military tribunal plans on the grounds of both security and morality. No improved homeland security procedures, no tighter screening of airline passengers, or even better examination of containers at American ports, can compensate for turning millions of Muslims into America’s enemies. Yet President Bush is proposing is another new step in that direction.

Comments:
Nick, thank you for reproducing this comment, and I'll thank Dimitri personally, if I ever meet him again.

Espscially because several of the arguments in favor of this sort of thing are often made by realists, this post genuinely surprised me.

But I was glad.

Never has The National Interest been so far apart from the Republican party - not just in allowing alternative viewpoints, but endorsing them - so clearly.

It picked a very good time to do so.
If human rights retreat in America, they will retreat globally.

I don't have anything analystical to add, I just endorse it 100%.

Jordan W' 02
 
I am with you guys on this.

It was despicable to watch ordinary Americans and their thinkers and their government supporting torture. All that human-rights from the Cold War was just propaganda.

God only knows what Americans would do if their state were really endangered; would they be acting like little Stalins?

And then was not Stalin justified in his repression?
 
Americans, it seems, are easily frightened. We are acting like a frightened people. Free thought and individualism are becoming suspect here. Arguments that were considered puerile fifty years ago are routinely made without being questioned or analyzed. We now believe that the end justifies the means. Torture is OK if it makes us a little safer. Preemptive war is fine if we happen to be feeling uneasy. Privacy is a luxury to be dispensed with at the slightest threat. Freedom isn’t that important if it makes us at all uncomfortable. What has caused all of this? Nineteen thugs with box knifes have brought us to the edge of hysteria.
We should be ashamed of ourselves. In London every night of the Blitz was ten times worse than 9/11. When I lived there during the IRA bombing campaign it was a matter of honor not to change your routine in any way to accommodate the terrorists. We have something to learn from the English. It’s time for us to have the courage of conviction. It’s time to suck it up, stop whining and get on with the battle.
Bamberg
 
"It is true that any rule, including the rule against torture, should allow for exceptions under the most extraordinary circumstances. So, if there is credible evidence that a nuclear bomb is ticking in a major American city and the only way to disarm it is to force a suspected terrorist to confess".

So, we are now to try to discover and develop expertise in who can be tortured and who might dies under torture.

Do not go there, this is the road to Hell.
 
Am I wrong in seeing the roots of these developments within our victory in the cold war?

Not to minimize the crushing effect that the arms race had on the USSR, but it seems that among so many hawkish politicians it was the superiority of our M-I complex and not the inherent contradictions in communist ideology itself that was solely the cause of our victory. The idea seems to have such a mythic place in our subconscious today that in every “war of ideologies” we reach for the gun first – for war and violence and torture – to such a degree that, ironically, we erode the moral ground we stand on, which now as in the cold war was our greatest asset, our greatest weapon against enemies of The American Way. Is that the lesson of the cold war, that fear-mongering at home and fear of violence (of bombs, of torture) abroad defeats our ideological enemies? What kind of ideology is that, then, for America? What are we left to defend? If our enemy stands on such weak moral ground, is our advantage so slim as to require torture to achieve victory?
 
We are not in an ideological war. We are in a religious war in which US will loose. And I do not care how much money and resources are thrown at it.

And then ask yourself, why is US continuing to be in the business of overthrowing sovreign states?
 
So far from Republican viewpoints? So Senator McCain is also not a Republican? What about Senator Hagel? I guess people think Colin Powell was always a superficial Republican so he doesn't count.

President Bush is not the Republican Party, simply because he says something doesn't make it gospel truth for all Republicans. And a lot of Republicans don't buy either big government conservatism or Wilsonian utopianism as being particularly Republican.
 
It will be a truly shocking collapse of our national security if our only defense against nuclear weapons is whether or not we can torture some terror suspect.

Why is this larger collapse to be taken for granted? We shouldn't be having to have this debate at all.
 
If America allows the fascist warmongers, profiteers, and rapturist fanatics in the Bush government to pervert our core principles, and dismantle, dismember, and reengineer our laws and the Constitution - then we deserve whatever fiery pit and hell the Bush government shaitans hurl us into!

Deliver us from evil.
 
The Koran expressly Commands World Jihad and World Domination for Islam. Here are the verses:
http://www.transworldnews.com/NewsStory.aspx?storyid=9761&ret=news.aspx&cat=
 
We are at war unlike any other. In past wars if we captured soldiers in uniforms we could hold them in prisons until the war was over, victory declared, or aggreement to cease-fire and end of hostilities.

There are some real naive statements being made here. First and foremost, terrorist do not act by Geneva conventions. Anytime they capture our soldiers they have brutally massacred them.

Yet I see no one here complaining.

Second, it is a religious war being fought according to the doctrine of Islamic so-called "sacred" text. It fights this war by deception and lies, by sword, and oppression. All things are allowable and taught by the "prophet".

The people that are captured on the battlefield do deserve rights. But since they are not fighting by geneva conventions, not in uniform, and this war is neverending by their leaders and indeed - their religion.

This has been going on since early 600's when Mohammed instructed his followers to kill and chop off heads of those who disagreed with him.

With all due respect to someone who has spent jail time in Russia, terrorist are not USA citizens and they do not deserve US Law. They are terrorist who break all laws in any state and the actual laws of war. The USA bends over backward for the current terrorist giving them food, medical care and their so-called "sacred" book of hell on earth.

People need to wake up. Islamic terrorist are at war in over 50 countries around the world. They are murdering, bombing Buddhist, Hindu, Jews, Christians, all religions and atheist. Every nation that is not "subdued and on knee to Islam" is considered "at war" with Islam.

They have two terms for such conditions. One is Islam at Peace, the other is World at War.

America, India, Russia, Europe and every other free nation not under the thumb of Islamic Law is open season for war. They do not come to our nations to spread the word of Mohammed. They come to spread hatred, violence, racism and death.

Please WAKE UP!

If we tie the hands of our intelligence officers and soldiers, we could lose another 3000 people. If Pakistan had not captured and possibly "tortured" some of these SCUM, then at least 4000 people would have died over the Atlantic ocean.

Then all you bashers of the President would've blamed him for not doing enough.

Frankly I am sick of your whining and complaining. Your rights are still in place. No one is bugging your phones.

We are at war since 1993 when the first bombing of the WTC. Six people Died! And hundreds were injured. Since then, since 1993, Sudan Islamic government has murderd over THREE MILLION people.

But you go ahead and complain why millions die around the world to this false religion, false prophet and the corrupt, evil leaders that use it to mass murder, bomb and kill innocents.

Even Clooney is beginning to understand that it is NOT all America's Fault!

Geesh! Where was Clinton when Three Million people died??? He was smoking a cigar in the oval office saying everything is rosey and blue skies.

I AM and independent and I detest most politicians. But the Democrats are completely losing it.

And I've been to Russia multiple times. I was there in 1998 when the scumbag Soros brought the entire nation to its knees when he made a run on the Russian ruble. He completely undercut that nation sending millions of Russians scrambling to the banks to try and get what poor savings they had.

He is nothing but scum and he's tearing our nation apart in the far leftist, socialist, schemes he supports behind closed doors.

WAKE UP! He made Billions on the backs of poor Russians! And yet he wants to tell America how to behave????

Sheeesh
 
The Muslim polities have been trying to eliminate the political influence of the infidels in their societies for the past 180 years.

If you look at history of the past 180 years, you will not fail to notice that first the political peneteration of the infiedels have been stopped and then reversed in these polities.

We are in a struggle that has been going on for 180 years and will continue in one shape or another until the infidels' political position in majority-Muslim states is eliminated; as they have been eliminated in Turkey, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, and elsewhere.

We have had: Al Afghani, Muhammad Ali, Jinah, Atta Turk, Mossadegh, FLN, FIS, Khomeini, OBL, Nasser, etc. The faces change, the nationalities change, the politics change but the aim remains the same: to expel the Infidel and his lackeys.

Patrick Buchannan stated: "The reason that they are here is because we are there!". At least he understands enough to know that US cannot win this struggle and it will only dissipate its strength in god-fosaken parts of the world that are irrelevant to either US security or to her prosperity.
 
Michael wrote:

"If we tie the hands of our intelligence officers and soldiers, we could lose another 3000 people. If Pakistan had not captured and possibly "tortured" some of these SCUM, then at least 4000 people would have died over the Atlantic ocean."

There's a problem with using the means the President suggests in this situation, Michael. One of them, prolonged sleep deprivation, was a favorite technique of the NKVD back in the 1930s. It was found that after a week to 10 days, a person subjected to it will confess to anything, and implicate anybody, in order to be allowed to get a bit of shut-eye. If its reliable information you want, the techniques the President wants to use just don't produce the goods.

On the other hand, if you want to destroy the reputation and international standing of the United States of America, they're just the thing.
 
Michael:

Next time, I will hold the fellow down and you will please use a garden shearer to cut his fingers one joint at a time.

Or better yet, you hold the guy and ask your dad to use an electric drill against his knee-caps.

And if you are not willing to do these types of things; whom do you expect to perform these abominations? The Uniformed Military? The Medical Professionals? Or are you now proposing to declare "no cruel and unusual punishment" clause null and void?

Next, I suppose, will be the new profession of torturer and executioner while we export our engineering and manufacturing jobs to India and China.
 
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