Who bears the costs of moral vanity?

A high-ranking Taliban commander is captured in Pakistan, and the (now entirely predictable) dance begins. Says the Guardian:

Mullah Barader has been in Pakistani custody for several days, with US and Pakistani intelligence officials both taking part in interrogations, according to the officials. Though Barack Obama has banned US agencies from using forms of torture such as waterboarding, Pakistani questioning techniques are frequently brutal.

That’s right. Because the American chattering classes have their panties in a bunch about acts of “torture” that don’t do any permanent damage to the victim, Barader is in the hands of Pakistanis who are likely to fuck his shit up the old-school way, with knives and cattle-prods and blowtorches. And yet, this is supposed to count as a moral victory.

All the manufactured indignation about Guantanamo Bay has similarly perverse effects. When you tell U.S. troops that every enemy combatant they accept a surrender from is going to be made into an international cause celebre that will be used to damage their war effort, the effect will be — count on it — that they stop accepting surrenders. This means that all the soi-disant “innocents” swept up in these operations will become innocent corpses. Instead of being stuck in a facility that’s a resort hotel compared to any prison in the Mideast, they’ll be dead — victims of someone else’s moral vanity.

I was born and educated into the class that produces “gentry liberals”, but I’ve come to loathe them. This is why. It’s always someone else who pays the cost of their posturing. Very often, it’s the people they claim to be helping: the black teenager who ends up in a drug posse because because minimum-wage laws would force the small businessmen in his ‘hood to take a loss if they hired him for a legal job; the coal miner who gets pneumoconiosis because nuclear-plant construction was strangled in environmental red tape; the woman found in an alley strangled with her own pantyhose, because the handgun she could have shot that rapist with was denied her by force of law.

They’re so very, very convinced of their moral superiority, they are. The pious anti-torture crusaders, the “economic-justice” cod-Marxists, the no-growth environmentalists, the gun banners, and all their kin in the tribe of wealthy white left-liberals. Armored by their certitudes and their sheepskins and their class privileges, they sail serenely above the deadly consequences of their meddling. Not for them any need to worry about second-order effects or process costs or who actually pays the cost for their delusions, oh, no. They are the anointed, and lofty intentions are their sovereign excuse however much damage they do.

Truly, I hate them all. Perhaps I hate them more intensely because I so narrowly escaped being one of them. But it’s really the invincible stupidity and myopia that gets me, and the way their “compassion” stinks of narcissism. Some days I think if I could have just one wish, it would be this: let their folly come back on their own heads.

329 thoughts on “Who bears the costs of moral vanity?

  1. Why is it so important to extract a false confession out of Mullah Barader?

    ESR says: Wow. Way to entirely miss the point, there…

  2. > Why is it so important to extract a false confession out of Mullah Barader?

    Why is so important to concentrate so many false arguments into one question?

    Love of irony?

    Yours,
    Tom

  3. Even thinking in terms of “confession” indicates the sort of foolishness Eric is talking about. A confession is worthless. He’s not going on trial. He’s going to be held for the duration of hostilities. What they are trying to get out of him is actionable intelligence, to direct strikes against his co-belligerents. There’s a limited time frame for that, and it’s probably just about past. After that, he just goes in the hole until we either get a surrender, are feeling magnanimous, or have to make an exchange.

  4. That has to be the worst set of examples to make your case on, Eric. I identify as the sort of liberal that you’re arguing against, I don’t take any of the positions that you’ve attempting to foist onto me. Quit attacking non-existent strawmen.

  5. Anytime someone tells me that someone tells me that “torture” is worthless because a person will tell you anything you want to hear to avoid it, I reply “… and that includes the truth.”

  6. >Love of irony?

    Like an anarchist suggesting that denying government the power to extract false confessions by torture is “moral vanity”?

  7. pete says:
    >>> Like an anarchist suggesting that denying government the power to extract false confessions by torture is “moral vanity”?

    Pete, this is not about getting a confession, it is about gathering intelligence, which will be used to go after terror networks and in the long run save lives.
    What would you do Pete, read this guy his Miranda rights and get him an attorney?

    Btw, Eric, have you read Thomas Sowell’s “The Vision of the Anointed?” It talks about the very stuff you mentioned in this post. Namely, the dangers of self-congratulations and moral preening as policy.

    I hate to say this, but sometimes I think we need another attack, in blue state America, to force us to get serious again. It has been a long time since 2001 and we have started getting stupid again.

  8. >ESR says: Wow. Way to entirely miss the point, there…

    I got the point … you’re whining that “liberal elites” are insulated from the supposed bad outcomes of policies that you don’t support.

    But it’s not like the conservative elites who pushed for the introduction of torture are the ones getting tortured to death at Guantanamo.

  9. >Like an anarchist suggesting that denying government the power to extract false confessions by torture is “moral vanity”?

    See, now that implies an argument I’d actually respect. But it’s not the one the gentry liberals actually make – and my post wasn’t about torture, it was about vanity masquerading as high-mindedness.

  10. >But it’s not like the conservative elites who pushed for the introduction of torture are the ones getting tortured to death at Guantanamo.

    Logic fail. Nobody’s even been properly tortured at Guantanamo, let alone tortured to death. And the measures you’re referring to were approved by a Democratic-controlled “they were for it before they were against it” Congress that could not properly be described as “conservative”, though elite is certainly correct.

  11. This post marks yet another post in your long spiral away from any objectivity you might once have had. Conservatives suffer from their own vanities that are no lesson poisonous.

  12. >Nobody’s even been properly tortured at Guantanamo

    Define ‘properly’. I’m sure Guantanamo in this instance was a place-holder. Substitute ‘Abu Ghraib’ if you’d like. Your insistence on blaming liberals for rendition policies is bizarre in any case. If I am against torture, and people then choose to go even further, that is on their own head.

  13. >Conservatives suffer from their own vanities that are no lesson poisonous.

    Quite true. But there is one significant difference: conservative vanities aren’t perpetually reinforced by a media/academic/show-business complex that seems increasingly to exist for no other purpose than affirming the left-liberals’ self-delusions. Conservatives live an an environment saturated with gentry-liberal ideology, not in a bubble that needs puncturing.

    And, more personally, there was no danger (given my background) that I was ever going to turn into one of the conservatives’ kind of smug elite. So I don’t have to dislike them as much.

  14. >Logic fail. Nobody’s even been properly tortured at Guantanamo, let alone tortured to death.

    Oh, of course not … they were taken to “Camp No” for that. But if you die at Camp No you die in real life.

    >See, now that implies an argument I’d actually respect. But it’s not the one the gentry liberals actually make.

    That’s the only argument I’ve seen any sort of liberal make. I don’t know who these “gentry liberals” you’re talking about are.

  15. >Define ‘properly’.

    Irreversible physical or psychological damage. Anything you can get over with a good cry and some indignation, like having your holy book desecrated in front of you or having soiled underwear wrapped around your head, certainly doesn’t qualify. (I chose these examples precisely because idiots have described them as torture.)

  16. >Irreversible physical or psychological damage.

    Do you believe that stress positions and sleep deprivation can cause irreversible psychological damage?

  17. >Do you believe that stress positions and sleep deprivation can cause irreversible psychological damage?

    Stress positions, no — not unless accompanied by sufficiently brutal coercion that whether it qualifies as “torture” rather becomes a side issue. Sleep deprivation, maybe; the evidence is unclear. I know it can induce temporary psychosis if prolonged sufficiently; I don’t know whether or not it has permanent affects and am open to evidence either way.

  18. Stress positions & sleep deprivation?

    We do the same things – and more – to our own people in SERE training, you simpering nance!

  19. “Armored by their certitudes and their sheepskins and their class privileges, they sail serenely above the deadly consequences of their meddling.”

    That is an intentional feature, not a bug. Liberalism works as “I am not a filthy prole” status signaling precisely because it signals that unlike those filthy proles, the gentry liberal does not have to personally worry about the nasty societal consequences of liberalism.

  20. We sexually mutilate over a million innocent children in this country, annually. And we do it out of nothing more than ignorant sexist tradition.

    You’re going to have to come up with a lot more than just three enemy combatants having been subjected to a process of simulated drowning as an interrogation tactic, which was primarily done to prevent attacks of massive destruction against our civilian population, and which also was, is, and will continue to be done to some of our own military servicemen as part of their elite training if you want to get my active participation.

    Because frankly, your particular issue of social justice is a trivial little nothing compared to mine. I can understand your being ignorant of this because of the taboo against addressing it in both the mass media and in common culture, and pardon your behavior up until this point.

    However, now that you’ve had it pointed out, you no longer have an excuse. Every fraction of a moment of time and erg of energy that you waste from this point forward on complaining about waterboarding instead of working to protect the single largest, most vulnerable, and least protected contingent of your fellow Citizens serves as more incontrovertible proof that Eric is exactly dead center target accurate about your fundamental vanity.

    I don’t hate you the way Eric does. I only feel strong emotions such as hate towards human beings.

  21. Let me stipulate that whatever our agents do on the battlefield, or in a forgotten dungeon in some benighted Central Asian hellhole, is probably none of my business. If it were my business, they’d be looking for a job just like everyone else. As it is, if our leaders keep them searching for fingernails to extract, and they keep finding such, I’ll keep buying the pliers. Fear is a powerful emotion, and I know how most of my countrymen feel. Like the liberals you loathe, I don’t actually care about the life or comfort of some mullah.

    However, it’s a long stretch from that position to what we find in Gitmo. Anything our employees in the gubmint can do in broad daylight to random foreigners they’ve rounded up, they’ll soon be doing to random American citizens. Granted, at first it won’t be “our kind” of people. They’ll start with suspected drug dealers, lolicons, deadbeat dads, homeless dudes, gun enthusiasts, taxpayers who wonder why government employees are better compensated than any of those they serve, etc. Just like in the beginning they were only going to tap the phones of everybody who placed an international call; we’re learning how that really turned out. I’m not one of these constitutional originalist freaks, but you know, I have read the 5th and 6th amendments, and they seem pretty clear on this topic. Any half-ass statist bullshit legal cover they can innovate for this crap, they’ll soon find additional use for. I want to fight at this barricade so I don’t have to fight at the next one.

    ESR, I realize this may be one of your patented have-it-both-ways arguments: if I say the terrorist shouldn’t be tortured, you’ll say you were arguing that Gitmo represents a controlled, family-friendly torture environment rather than the basement of horrors the Pakis have; if I say he should be tortured I’m a Neanderthal fascist reactionary nationalist monotheist asshole. Bygones. As long as he stays in the Eastern Hemisphere in the custody of another country, I don’t care what happens to him. Before anyone admitted we held him, I didn’t care. After he’s been turned over to any conceivable third party, I won’t care. Unlike your liberal friends, I’m not looking for a fig leaf. I genuinely don’t care about morality; I do care about the rule of law. Our spooks have been pulling awful shit at least since WWII, but for most of that time they’ve had the good grace to keep from rubbing our noses in it. Now that they’re no longer ashamed of their actions, I wonder what besides book deals they have planned next. Actually, I don’t wonder, and I want them spanked hard, now, so they’ll reconsider.

    I mistrust our government far more than I fear the terrorists.

  22. >We do the same things – and more – to our own people in SERE training, you simpering nance!

    That’s not a good reply. It is logically possible that they could qualify as torture if they weren’t undergone voluntarily.

    Note: I would jump at the chance to take SERE training. Is there any way a civ can get it?

  23. Missing the point… where is that point… here point point point…

    The real message I get from this blog entry is that genuinely wanting the USA to be a beacon of hope and of justice is no excuse for laying down and dying when enemies are at our metaphorical gates. In fact that’s the one message I’d say defines the Armed and Dangerous blog. Whether or not you buy all his arguments, at least you can count on the fact that ESR sincerely thought his logic thru before he posted and it added up for him.

    Another, more obvious, message here is that some things about the world can’t be changed by good intentions. ESR correctly notes that if you train a large force of men to be killers, and you send them out into the battlefield with the mission of killing our enemies, you can’t then say “but be nice and polite to all the foreigners you meet” and expect the military to take you seriously. They’ll pay lip service to your nonsense and then they’ll go out and find a way to accomplish their true, lethal mission anyway, right up to and including torture. And sometimes, (but not always) that torture will even be justified and will produce positive results.

    Both of the above messages are true and are important to the very survival of our culture. Yet where do half the commenters on this blog always immediately go? Arguing about complex or ill-defined labels such as “liberal” vs “conservative”.

    The only thing I can find to criticize about this blog is that I think ESR’s frequent tone of hostility may be counter productive to his message. Do the “gentry liberals”, however ESR defines that group, truly deserve our hated? For trying to be noble but blowing it thru blatant stupidity?

    On the other hand, I’ve read enough ESR to think twice before automatically assuming the projected hatred is part of his character. He may simply be projecting it for some side effect. Or, it may always be perfectly sincere hostility (sincere, and reasonable, given that ESR is a man who has received death threats and every other manner of unfair criticism), but he may have concluded to his satisfaction that the tone is not counter productive to his purpose.

    What I find amusing is that some of the commenters here apparently feel they are superior to ESR because of the hostility. The universe itself is hostile.

  24. >I hate to say this, but sometimes I think we need another attack, in blue state America, to force us to get serious again

    I tend to think a better alternative is no more attacks ever. However, it’s clear this is just an immature revenge fantasy, as is par for this blog. Is there evidence that harsh interrogation techniques are a dominant factor in the success/failure of US military operations? Frankly, if US intelligence is known for one thing it’s crazy, useless boondoggles. I don’t think there’s any reason to think this is any different, and it is a PR disaster that hurts the war effort.

  25. >The real message I get from this blog entry is that genuinely wanting the USA to be a beacon of hope and of justice is no excuse for laying down and dying when enemies are at our metaphorical gates.

    Laying down and dying? It’s worse than that – the gentry-liberal perversion of patriotism is to side with our enemies because, you know, conservatives are Neanderthal crazies and anything conservatives like must automatically be the Worst Possible Thing. I’m no conservative, but at least I know better than that.

  26. On torture and psychological damage: according to my wife, the psychologist, things like sleep deprivation or simulated drowning could produce permanent psychological damage depending on the psychological makeup of the individual — it depends on the person’s coping skills, overall psychological health, etc.

    I also think that in an ideal world, government shouldn’t have the power to obtain whatever they want by any means necessary. The problem with torture isn’t so much a moral issue as it is a an issue of government coercion trampling on the rights of individuals. OTOH, we don’t live in an ideal world: we live in a world where our country has many enemies. At what point do the needs of the many out-weight the needs of a few enemy combatants? It’s a matter for debate, but know that if the tables were turned, our nation’s enemies wouldn’t be cutting our agents any slack.

    My more general point is that these arguments are often made over purely ideological concerns, but pure ideologies rarely meet with the practical needs of reality.

  27. >Anything our employees in the gubmint can do in broad daylight to random foreigners they’ve rounded up, they’ll soon be doing to random American citizens.

    That’s a weighty argument – which is one reason why ninnies screaming about “torture” because some jihadi was forced to listen to Madonna records drives me straight up a wall. If you oppose Guantanamo on trivial, stupid, morally unserious grounds you lose the ability and the standing to oppose it on serious ones.

  28. >>> I tend to think a better alternative is no more attacks ever.

    Well hey great. No more attacks would be fine. But the terrorist types out there don’t agree. They are watching and waiting for an opening and are very patient.
    There is evidence that harsh interrogation works, intelligence was gathered at Gitmo that allowed to go after these networks.
    It would be great if Al-queda would just close up shop and go away, but that is not going to happen.

    And don’t forget that Iran is on the verge of getting nukes.
    Getting serious about this problem would make another attack less likely, not more.

    But liberal pussies like you will continue to not take this problem seriously.

  29. >There is evidence that harsh interrogation works, intelligence was gathered at Gitmo that allowed to go after these networks.

    You missed the point. I don’t think anybody disputes that harsh interrogation can work. The question is, is the cost justified by the results? Of course, you would never even think to ask this question because you are a complete simpleton.

    >Getting serious about this problem would make another attack less likely, not more.

    Who said getting serious would be a problem? You want a terrorist attack on a blue state. Why do you hate Americans who live in blue states? You have revealed yourself to be no more than a simple bigot.

    >But liberal pussies like you will continue to not take this problem seriously.

    A 3rd grade level analysis from you is not unexpected.

  30. Roger Phillips Says:
    > Frankly, if US intelligence is known for one thing it’s crazy, useless boondoggles.

    There’s a statement I can agree with. But on the other hand, isn’t that practically the definition of an intelligence op? A successful op is not known. Only the boondoggles are known, and probably not all of them.

  31. >It’s a matter for debate, but know that if the tables were turned, our nation’s enemies wouldn’t be cutting our agents any slack.

    Which enemies? Are you implying that said enemies would have no restraint whatsoever? In modern history this experience is hardly universal.

  32. >There’s a statement I can agree with. But on the other hand, isn’t that practically the definition of an intelligence op? A successful op is not known. Only the boondoggles are known, and probably not all of them.

    I’m not arguing with the usefulness of the intelligence services. However, just because some intelligence agency says something is necessary doesn’t make it so.

  33. >>> Laying down and dying? It’s worse than that – the gentry-liberal perversion of patriotism is to side with our enemies because, you know, conservatives are Neanderthal crazies and anything conservatives like must automatically be the Worst Possible Thing. I’m no conservative, but at least I know better than that.

    You know, Eric, I think you are a conservative, you just don’t want to admit it yet, or don’t realize it.

    This post, and many others, have a strongly conservative feel to them.

    Many people don’t want to admit to this because they don’t want to be associated with Pat Robertson or something. I understand, I sometimes don’t much like these douchy christians either.

  34. Darrencardinal Says:
    > I hate to say this, but sometimes I think we need another attack, in blue state America, to force us to get serious again.

    Roger Phillips Says:
    > You want a terrorist attack on a blue state. Why do you hate Americans who live in blue states?

    He said he hated to say it. From that you concluded that he wanted an attack?

    This is exactly what I was just saying about how some things about the world can’t be changed by good intentions. From Darren’s tone I perceive that he, like me, loathes the thought of another attack on US soil. (He can correct me if I’m misrepresenting him.) But at the same time, he is pragmatic enough to wish that if another attack must occur, at least it would be nice for it to occur in a location where the anti-defense-spending crowd tends to congregate, because then the attack would have the maximum possible positive side effect of bending popular opinion towards facing the problem (the enemy).

    There is nothing immoral about such a wish.

  35. >>> >Getting serious about this problem would make another attack less likely, not more.

    Who said getting serious would be a problem? You want a terrorist attack on a blue state. Why do you hate Americans who live in blue states? You have revealed yourself to be no more than a simple bigot.

    >But liberal pussies like you will continue to not take this problem seriously.

    A 3rd grade level analysis from you is not unexpected.

    You said in an earlier post that it was all a boondoggle. This implies, why bother?

    If it is a boondoggle, shouldn’t we just stop it?
    And it is not that I hate blue states, per se. But that is where the attack will come, as it did on Sept. 11. The attack will hit New York, LA, or Boston. They are not going to attack rural Ky.

    But rather than argue, just call everyone who does not see it your way, a racist bigot sexist or homophobe.

  36. >The problem with torture isn’t so much a moral issue as it is a an issue of government coercion trampling on the rights of individuals.

    I disagree. I think it’s both. I think real torture is a both a dangerous power for governments to be conceded, and a moral issue. This is one of the reasons I bridle at people who want to use the term “torture” in a trivializing way.

  37. >>> “This is exactly what I was just saying about how some things about the world can’t be changed by good intentions. From Darren’s tone I perceive that he, like me, loathes the thought of another attack on US soil. (He can correct me if I’m misrepresenting him.) But at the same time, he is pragmatic enough to wish that if another attack must occur, at least it would be nice for it to occur in a location where the anti-defense-spending crowd tends to congregate, because then the attack would have the maximum possible positive side effect of bending popular opinion towards facing the problem (the enemy).

    There is nothing immoral about such a wish.”

    Thank you techtech. You expressed my thoughts exactly. I do loathe the thought of such an attack. Was 3000 dead the first time not enough?

    Remember how the country was immediately after that terrible day? We were serious, and united to go after these evil jerks.

    Now, not so much.

  38. >You know, Eric, I think you are a conservative, you just don’t want to admit it yet, or don’t realize it.

    Nah. I’m not a conservative because I don’t think we can fix our problems by returning to some idealized past or reasserting “traditional values” – some of those “traditional values”, like racism and faith-centered religiosity and and the subjugation of women and sexual repression, just plain sucked.

    >This post, and many others, have a strongly conservative feel to them.

    No, they have a strongly classical-liberal feel to them. The fact that you consider this “conservative” is an error that’s not really any of my problem.

  39. esr Says:
    >>This post, and many others, have a strongly conservative feel to them.
    >No, they have a strongly classical-liberal feel to them.

    In the USA most people associate the concept of limited government with conservatives. Why is that? The Republicans are as bad as the Democrats about big government — they all like big government. The main difference is that the Democrats will mess with your life by destroying the economy around you, whereas the Republicans will mess with your life by throwing you in jail for having sex.

    ESR, in contrast, wants the government primarily to go away and stop ruining everything.

  40. Eric,

    What techtech said. Anyone today who supports limited government today is undeniably speaking in a conservative voice. We conservatives are the classical liberals, in the Burkean and Hayeakean sense.

    Nor do I think the past was ideal, or identify with racism. Those who identify conservatives with racism are making an error that is not my problem. The worst of the liberals like Keith Olbermann do this when they have no rational argument to make, and discredit themselves.

    And, btw, republicans are not going to throw you in jail for having sex unless you are talking about pedophiles. This is at best an outdated stereotype.

    The ESR of today is undeniably more conservative than, say, the 20 year old ESR.

    One of us! One of us! One of us!

  41. The reason why torture is wrong is not because of the fact that more often than not it doesn’t provide any good intel, or because it is morally or ethically wrong….it is to protect our troops in the next conflict they fight.

    When fighting an adversary that doesn’t feel that death is the path to paradise, we are going to be concerned about how our soldiers who are captured are treated. That’s not to say that we aren’t concerned in the current conflict, where we just assume the worse. But the next war that is fought, and there will be a next one, we want to ensure that our warriors are treated humanely and not tortured. If we have a reputation of either torture, or using proxies to torture, then we will have no defence when our next enemy tortures our men and women in uniform. By embracing torture, we are almost guaranteeing that the next war, be it against Russia, China, Venezuela or Iran, the members of our armed forces will be tortured.

    Now make no mistake, having the moral high ground doesn’t guarantee their safety, but when it comes to getting other countries tto side with us to put pressure on another nation to prevent our prisoners from being tortured, our position is greatly weakened.

  42. Liberal, conservative, left, and right: they just aren’t useful terms; can’t we admit that?

    (How’s my elocutionary punctuation? *wink*)

    And, btw, republicans are not going to throw you in jail for having sex unless you are talking about pedophiles. This is at best an outdated stereotype.

    Lawrence v. Texas.

    Two thousand.

    And three.

    If the Republicans are masters of one thing, it is pretending they were never against something. Prediction: If the Republican party is still around in thirty years, they’ll claim they never supported supply-side economics. Oh no, never, they’ll say: that was a air-headed lefty-liberal cause.

  43. What techtech said. Anyone today who supports limited government today is undeniably speaking in a conservative voice. We conservatives are the classical liberals, in the Burkean and Hayeakean sense.

    Where in the world do you get the idea that conservatives support limited government? President George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congress heralded in some of the biggest government expansion in American history! The USA-PATRIOT act? The Department of Homeland Security? How about a 33% increase in Federal Spending in W’s first term alone?

    And it’s not just Bush — Reagan, Nixon and Bush Sr. all led government expansions. Ever heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act? One of the greatest government expansions since the Civil Rights Act? Yeah, that one was signed into law President George H. W. Bush.

    Sorry, but conservatives are not about small government, no matter what they claim.

  44. What techtech said. Anyone today who supports limited government today is undeniably speaking in a conservative voice. We conservatives are the classical liberals, in the Burkean and Hayeakean sense.

    Where in the world do you get the idea that conservatives support limited government? President George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congress heralded in some of the biggest government expansion in American history! The USA-PATRIOT act? The Department of Homeland Security? How about a 33% increase in Federal Spending in W’s first term alone?

    And it’s not just Bush — Reagan, Nixon and Bush Sr. all led government expansions. Ever heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act? One of the greatest government expansions since the Civil Rights Act? Yeah, that one was signed into law President George H. W. Bush.

    Sorry, but conservatives are not about small government, no matter what they claim.

  45. Remember how the country was immediately after that terrible day? We were serious, and united to go after these evil jerks. Now, not so much.

    I think it was primarily the botched execution of the going-after that effected this change: Hundreds of billions of crony corruption. Political meddling in military plans. Torture.

  46. re: Lawrence vs. Texas

    Look, I personally wish the govt would stay out of people’s bedrooms. Most conservatives don’t support this. If people are into anal, so be it. And the supreme court struck it down by the way.

    And I am tired of all this out of control expansion of government. There has been too much of it, the govt is too big.

    Many of us on the right were annoyed at Bush for the out of control spending. (And things like campaign finance reform.)

    That’s the thing about modern times: no matter who you vote for, govt grows.

    It’s annoying. But we conservatives are the only ones who speak for limited govt; the libs don’t even pretend to believe in it anymore.

    And David McCabe? Your elocutionary punctuation is AWESOME!

  47. I doubt your assertion that most soi-dissant conservatives oppose bedroom meddling. I don’t know where we can get data on this, though.

    There’s been talk on this blog of good intentions versus good outcomes. If you agree with this, then it shouldn’t matter to you who “speaks” for limited government.

  48. >Sorry, but conservatives are not about small government, no matter what they claim.

    Yup. They lost that cred long ago. I hear individual conservativs like Darrencardinal claim to be classical liberals, but this never ever seems to translate into actual classical liberalism in more than rhetoric – that is, actual policy when conservatives are in power.

  49. Let me see if I follow your basic argument, ESR.

    Since the morally vain in America don’t wait the US to use simulated execution, we are instead “forced” to hand prisoners over to the Pakistanis. But shouldn’t we be doing… neither?

  50. Well what about Ronald Reagan? He tried to cut as much as he could, which turned out to be not much. The whole system is rigged against it.
    Bill Clinton, surprisingly, came close to balancing the budget on his watch, thanks in part to gridlock.

    There is a culture is Washington of govt growth, no matter what. Nothing is ever cut, nobody is ever fired.

    If it were up to me, I would get rid of the depts of Agriculture, Education, and Energy right now.

    The Dept of Education is especially bad. It was created when Jimmy Carter was president in 1978, and is useless. Education is most properly handled at the local level; there is no reason for the federal government to be involved. How did anyone ever get an education prior to 1978?

    No doubt these positions would cause many people to label me a right wing extremist.

    But the real problem of spending is not these departments, or pork earmarks. The real problem is entitlements; that is where the vast majority of the spending is happening. And all of these big entitlement programs (SS, Medicare) are broke. Just name one, any one you can think of; and it is broke. Insolvent.

    In the real world, about the best you can do is restrain future increases in spending. Base line budgeting in Washington is part of the problem, where future growth in spending in just assumed into the numbers.

    Thus, a program that was supposed to increase 12% only increases 6%, and because of this republicans are accused of starving kids and killing old people with draconian “cuts”. But there are no real cuts, spending still increased. This happened most memorably in the 1995 budget battles.

    Eric, you have a point, we conservatives have not live up to our ideals of limited govt. They want our votes at election time, then say screw you when they get to Washington. I think this is a large part of what is animating the tea partiers, people are tired of this crap.

    I am not sure what the solution is.

    But I for one will not abandon the ideals.

  51. Eric: One of your best. And the liberals on this thread proving your point. Awesome

  52. Meanwhile, the GOP just voted unanimously against renewal of pay-as-you-go rules, which lapsed in 2002 (or so?), having been instated by the Democrat-majority congress in the early nineties.

    Education is most properly handled at the local level; there is no reason for the federal government to be involved.

    Then I pity the children of Arkansas. Moreover, I’ll have to share a planet and a polity with them.

    As Adam Smith noted, the more healthy, well-fed, well-educated citizens get thrown at a free market, the better it should work. The DoE is a clumsy, statist approach to the problem, but don’t you think we have an interest in having high education standards throughout the country?

  53. ESR, if you like to view things from classical liberal point of view, you should be aware that one of the earliest and most manifest goals of classical liberalism of the 18th century – at least in continental Europe – was outlawing coercive interrogation means, and that included various variants of waterboarding. The whole campaign took about 100 years, some German princely states only allowed torture in the 19th century. Alas, the positive results were almost obliterated by the wave of totalitarianism in the 20th century.

    Back in those classical times, political correctness in language was a yet-unknown bane, and so all interrogation methods that made prisoners scream from pain were called torture. Including all the “water methods”. Sleep deprivation was used only in some parts of the continent (Venetian inquisition), but where it was, it was also included in the definition. Me, being a simpleton, would be happy with that definition.

    The attempts to limit the definition of torture to things that cause “permanent” damage are, in my view, a misguided reaction to the fact that loonies extend the definition of torture to desecrating Quran (other holy books do not get such status, at least de facto). Nevertheless, such attempts are a recent innovation that breaks the traditional meaning of the word since the ancient times up to at least 1950s. It relies on such undefinable things as “permanent psychological damage”, which are absolutely impossible to measure, and it circumvents the very fact that extremely painful procedures can be done on humans without causing them permanent damage. The fact that some damage can be reversed does not mean that it is not extreme at the moment.

    I would like to know your answer to the following hypothetical argument. It is not an attempt for a straw man, just a thought experiment.

    Let us, for the sake of argument, assume that the medical science has advanced so far that it can grow back teeth in adult people (in fact, this development is underway and it might be commercially available in the decade to come). Imagine an interrogator pulling all your teeth out with pliers – no pain killers – and then, after the (successful) interrogation, but before trial, the government authorities paying for the grow-back procedure (you have to look good on the bench). No permanent damage was done – everything was duly healed, and you will have good teeth again, maybe better than before. So, no torture? Are you sure that you want any branch of your country’s legal system to have this power?

  54. If you are unable to take prisoners, but you are ordered to fight a war, what do you do? You make sure there are no prisoners left after the gunfight.

    In the case of Afghanistan (and I may be completely wrong, but let me indulge my western logic), since these people are warriors they don’t want to spend years in a US Military detention facility, but would rather die gloriously on the battlefield. I mean, after all, even US servicemen idolize dying in combat over other forms of dying (friendly fire, dysentery in a pow camp, stepping in front of a moving tank).

    I understand where you come from. I can’t stand the republicans, but I can’t stand the democrats either (took me longer to figure this out).

  55. We just need to invent that machine from The Empire Strikes Back. Then we can get all the information we want without any permanent tissue damage!

  56. Christopher, I sort of think that this has been the case for a long time. There are not very many “true mujahideen” captured alive in any of the hot-jihad zones (and that includes Chechnya etc.).

    On the other hand, the opportunistic rag-tag bandits that often accompany the hardcore jihadis would be probably prone to surrender. They also make the bulk of the actually captured terrorists in Iraq, it seems. Saddam surely did not help his country by releasing all the criminal scum from the prisons on the eve of OIF.

  57. One thing is really simple: Anybody who expresses approval of government torture gives up the right to use the labels libertarian, anarchist, minarchist. Forever. The liberals you decry — like the ones who animate the ACLU and Amnesty International — have done far, far more to reign in the power of the state than any amount of libertarian wanking.

  58. >Since the morally vain in America don’t wait the US to use simulated execution, we are instead “forced” to hand prisoners over to the Pakistanis. But shouldn’t we be doing… neither?

    What realistic alternatives to these choices do you think we have?

  59. Sure, offering a cup of tea and a cigarette to a terrorist in detention is going to make him talk. :P

  60. >You said in an earlier post that it was all a boondoggle. This implies, why bother?

    No, I did not. I stated that the CIA was known for boondoggles. This implies that we should be cautious about accepting assertions of necessity from intelligence agencies.

  61. Hari, regular criminal investigators have no violent means of extracting information from suspects, and yet they have a good record in that. Why do you think that a Talibani is harder to crack than a member of some street gang?

  62. >The attempts to limit the definition of torture to things that cause “permanent” damage are, in my view, a misguided reaction to the fact that loonies extend the definition of torture to desecrating Quran (other holy books do not get such status, at least de facto).

    Reaction, yes. Misguided? Maybe. I’d prefer not to be in a position of excusing anything that’s historically been labeled “torture”, but if the alternative is to cede the field to these loonies I can’t do that. Hence the attempt at a principled distinction. If you have a better one to propose, I’m listening.

    >Let us, for the sake of argument, assume that the medical science has advanced so far that it can grow back teeth in adult people (in fact, this development is underway and it might be commercially available in the decade to come). Imagine an interrogator pulling all your teeth out with pliers – no pain killers – and then, after the (successful) interrogation, but before trial, the government authorities paying for the grow-back procedure (you have to look good on the bench). No permanent damage was done – everything was duly healed, and you will have good teeth again, maybe better than before. So, no torture? Are you sure that you want any branch of your country’s legal system to have this power?

    No, I think this would clearly qualify as torture and don’t want governments to be able to do it. Accepting your premise of no irreversible physical damage, I’ve had teeth pulled and know how deeply invasive it can feel; as framed, I think we are over the threshold into serious psychological damage here. I’m not sure what consequence you want me to draw, though.

  63. >What realistic alternatives to these choices do you think we have?

    Is torture currently providing intel that we simply cannot forgo? Has it been measured that it is necessary for our success? It is not clear that it would be much worse to simply detain suspected terrorists for the duration of the conflict, releasing them as is expedient.

  64. “The liberals you decry — like the ones who animate the ACLU and Amnesty International — have done far, far more to reign in the power of the state than any amount of libertarian wanking.”

    Not if you properly subtract everything they’ve done to so very, very much expand it, as you should.

    OH NOES! INCONVENIENT NARRATIVE IS INCONVENIENT!

  65. ESR, my intent was to stop and examine the following two problems:

    – the first is of “irreversible physical damage”, where you seem to see the point… I unfortunately think that, should such formulation be enacted into law, it might actually encourage the investigating authorities to use various non-lasting (or healable) coercive physical methods,

    – the second is that serious psychological damage, although it certainly exists, is hard to define and it will always be up to the courts to evaluate whether some action resulted in such, or not.

    The psychological damage is even more complicated stuff, because human minds differ more than human bodies. Almost 100% subjects will experience tremendous pain when being burnt with hot iron, but reactions of humans to adverse psychological conditions differ widely. In the first world war, reaction to the conditions on the Western Front ranged from relatively minor troubles to full-scale shell shock.

    Consider the situation when the authority decides to apply a method which is known to cause serious psychological damage in, say, half of the subjects; is that criminal negligence, or not? Can the authority say to its defense: “we evalued the individual and the conclusions were that he will be in the other half”?

    The fuzzy boundary of the word “torture” is definitely wider and larger than of the word “murder”; we will have to learn to live with that.

  66. >Is torture currently providing intel that we simply cannot forgo?

    That’s not necessarily the right question. We’d have to be in a pretty extreme situation, like “where’s the nuke with the timer in the major city” before I would even consider condoning actual torture (that is, as opposed to “enhanced interrogation” methods that don’t do permanent damage).

    The right question is: is enhanced interrogation giving us intel that is worth the systemic risks we take by institutionalizing it, including the risk that it might be applied to U.S. citizens and the slippery-slope risk that it might lead to the institutionalization of actual torture?

    I don’t think there’s any glib or easy answer to this question. What makes me mad enough to spit is people who, either out of moral vanity or callousness or a desire to score points in domestic political disputes, won’t even engage it.

  67. >The fuzzy boundary of the word “torture” is definitely wider and larger than of the word “murder”; we will have to learn to live with that.

    If “living with it” means ceding the field to people who believe (or insincerely claim to believe) that desecrating a Quran in front of a jihadi is “torture”, no sale. Those people aren’t “anti-torture”, they’re on the enemy’s side using our tender-mindedness against us.

    The morally unserious have forced me (and you, too, I think) into a position where we have to traffic in distinctions finer and more ambiguous than we’d prefer to make. This is another thing I hold against them.

  68. I think you’ve expressed your position more clearly in these last two comments than in your original post, for what it’s worth.

  69. > The right question is: is enhanced interrogation giving us intel that is worth the systemic risks we take by institutionalizing it, including the risk that it might be applied to U.S. citizens and the slippery-slope risk that it might lead to the institutionalization of actual torture?

    > I don’t think there’s any glib or easy answer to this question. What makes me mad enough to spit is people who, either out of moral vanity or callousness or a desire to score points in domestic political disputes, won’t even engage it.

    Agreed (though it would be fair to say that this is a much more nuanced formulation than your original post).

    My own view, for the little its worth, is that when the final calculus is performed, the answer to your question is likely to be no. It is a question, however, that demands sensible debate.

  70. >Agreed (though it would be fair to say that this is a much more nuanced formulation than your original post).

    You need to bear in mind that my original post wasn’t actually about torture at all, it was about moral vanity and its consequences.

    Somewhere in Pakistan it is possible that ISI interrogators are attaching electrodes to Mullah Bahader’s genitals right now – and this is happening because gentry liberals in the U.S. came all over squeamish at the thought that a U.S. Marine might wrap womens’ panties around his head or flush a Koran down a toilet with him watching. Mullah Bahader is going to pay for their fecklessness, not them. Even as worthless a piece of human scum as he is doesn’t deserve that.

  71. > Hari, regular criminal investigators have no violent means of extracting information from suspects, and yet they have a good record in that. Why do you think that a Talibani is harder to crack than a member of some street gang?

    I think it has to do with the fact that terrorists are often physically and psychologically motivated, trained and hardened, besides being ideologically indoctrinated.

    Regular criminals have the opportunity to get away with a light sentence and this is a big motivation. Besides the police understand the pattern of normal criminal behaviour much better anyway and can get to the truth without even having to interrogate in many cases.

  72. >By embracing torture, we are almost guaranteeing that the next war, be it against Russia, China, Venezuela or Iran, the members of our armed forces will be tortured.

    I grant you this argument is morally serious. However, I think it is defective because it makes a false assumption about the nature of our future enemies.

    The last war in which the U.S. had any reasonable expectation that the enemy would refrain from prisoner torture because of our behavior was WWII, and that expectation was falsified. All our wars since then (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I, Iraq II) have been conducted against enemies who used prisoner torture as a matter of course and could not have been dissuaded from doing so by good example.

    I do not believe the U.S. will ever again be at war against a civilized nation — that is, as opposed to a thugocracy that uses torture as a matter of course. Accordingly, the argument that we need to have set a good example in the previous war loses its force.

    There remain good arguments against prisoner abuse, but this is not one of them, and has not been since we ceased fighting civilized opponents.

  73. List of alleged torture methods used in Gitmo:
    Religious harrasment
    Sleep deprivation
    Repeated beatings
    Forced drugging
    Sexual humiliation
    Forced Isolation
    Short shackling

    Eric, surely some of those methods count as torture?
    Sources: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6876549/ and http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/aug2004/guan-a06.shtml

    I think the main problem with places like Gitmo is the lack of openess. I would be much more comfortable with Gitmo if they did fair trails and were open about the methods they used. My request is that they release footage of all interregations (beeping out sensitive information) and release details of all trails (like normal ones).

    Eric does have a point that American torture is preferable to Pakistani torture. Deciding where to draw the line relies on public discourse. Secrecy allows soliders to get away with otherwise unacceptable stuff, because nobody who cares gets caught.

    Peter

  74. Modern Term –> Traditional or Classical Description

    Neocon –> Judeo-Christian Socialist
    Paleocon –> Burkean conservative
    Libertarian (minarchist) –> Classical liberal
    Liberal –> Socialist or Progressive

    “Science policy is to science as birdshot is to birds” — Dr Petr Beckmann

    And similarly with other gov’t departments, such as Energy, Education, and HHS.

  75. David Mcabe said:
    ‘As Adam Smith noted, the more healthy, well-fed, well-educated citizens get thrown at a free market, the better it should work. The DoE is a clumsy, statist approach to the problem, but don’t you think we have an interest in having high education standards throughout the country?’

    Those “standards” should be shown to work first. So, when Washington, DC, which is the sole responsibilty of Congress, shows to have the best schools in the country, then their “standards” should be applied to the rest of the USA. As things are now, this won’t happen for the next hundred years.

    I’d hate to have our (Austrian) schools regulated by some idiot Brussels bureaucrat.

  76. >Eric, surely some of those methods count as torture?

    Well, let’s see. Religious harassment and sexual humiliation, certainly not. Not gonna roll on short shackling or forced isolation, either.

    Forced drugging? Depends on the drugs. Serious psychotomimetics, maybe; those can do irreversible damage — but I doubt this is going on as it would be pointless. Scopolamine or other deinhibitors and hypnotics of the sort interrogators might actually find useful, no. There are cogent arguments against using these (e.g. the quality of information recovered is often poor), but they don’t damage the subject.

    Sleep deprivation and (especially) repeated beatings worry me more, for tolerably obvious reasons. Those methods can easily go over the line into what I’d consider torture.

    >I would be much more comfortable with Gitmo if they did fair trails and were open about the methods they used.

    I sympathize, but no. If the prospect of going to Gitmo doesn’t terrify a jihadi shitless, it loses much of its utility. “Openess” would probably result in a requirement for more painful and coercive methods, not less; it’s better if a prisoner breaks early because he fears what might happen to him than to actually have to use iffy methods like sleep deprivation or beatings.

  77. ESR: A lot of good points, I would like to comment on them all, but I am now in a whirl of work… just one short comment to your comment at 7:17 am:

    If you look at jihadism in current world, a lot of jihadis are active in areas where they can expect absolutely no mercy and restraint from their enemy if caught. Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Chechnya. Jihadis who have started their careers in such countries (and they probably form the majority) will never be “terrified shitless” about Gitmo – they dared worse.

  78. > The right question is: is enhanced interrogation giving us intel that is worth the systemic risks we take by institutionalizing it, including the risk that it might be applied to U.S. citizens and the slippery-slope risk that it might lead to the institutionalization of actual torture?

    The right question is: how many of the pro-torture arguments presented here (yes, saying it might give useful intel is one of them) could be applied to justify anything, really. Free speech? Questioning your government makes it less efficient in catching terrorists. Guns? It’s easier to fight the bad people if they are unarmed. Universal health care? The higher deficit is surely justified by the number of people saved. And so it goes.

    What alternative is there, you ask. How about not torturing? That the risk for another attack would increase is hardly an established (or intuitive) proposition.

    Finally, it’s sad how easy people here jump to “them vs. us” comments. Bad liberals. Good libertarians. AGW supporters – conspiracy, bad, bad, bad. Why don’t they commit suicide. I fail to see any achievement of such rhetoric.

  79. If I wanted to destroy a jihadist’s judgement, I’d give him some Maui Wowie, some coke, some lil gal who could suck chrome off a 57 Chevy. When your zipper’s down, you brag.

    Puritans misunderstand human nature.

  80. If I wanted to destroy a jihadist’s judgement, I’d give him some Maui Wowie, some coke, some lil gal who could suck chrome off a 57 Chevy. When your zipper’s down, you brag.

    Hell, you want to talk about bragging, give ‘em some beer and shots of Jack Daniel’s. Ever been to a bar? Men, especially, tend to brag about their exploits when liquored up. Marijuana tends to make people paranoid, however, but I suppose in the right situation it would work.

    One problem with all of this, though, is that there many people who actually went to Gitmo and are still being held without any specific charges. Many on the Internet got upset when they did exactly this to Kevin Mitnick, yet when they do this to people who quite possibly did nothing, but were imprisoned by mere association, conservatives and ardent Bush supporters think this is ok because, after all, those Muslims blew up the World Trade Center.

  81. Merciful God, another thread derailed into irrelevancy and going on for days.

    True for liberals/Progressives and conservatives both: If any concept, regardless of content, related to law enforcement and the judicial process occurs to you in the case of Baradar and others — back away from the keyboard and let somebody else at it.

    They don’t want a “confession” from Baradar. They have no intention of “punishing” Baradar, and the whole complex of concepts related to that has nothing to do with the case. Indeed, a confession would be redundant — Baradar himself has vaingloriously declared, in public, everything that might be regarded in that light. Similarly for the guys at Guantanamo. They aren’t being “punished”. That’s why the military doesn’t mind making their lives there as easy as reasonably possible. They’re being interned — kept away from repeating the behavior that got them there in the first place.

    Regards,
    Ric

  82. Wow, you never cease to amaze me with your swinging-dick arguments, gross over-generalizations, and convenient interpretations of any situation in which a “left-liberal” could be conceivably cast in a bad light. You don’t even pretend to care about objectivity. I feel embarrassed for you.

  83. As I said a year and a half ago, all this muddle about Koran desecration is a smokescreen to avoid talking about, for example, Dilawar of Yakubi being beaten to death, or José Padilla having his mind turned to mush by persistent sensory deprivation. There’s far more talk about how some unnamed and uncited individuals are harshing Eric’s mellow than there ever is about the very real torture going on, in and by the country where, as Eric assures us, “liberty dwells”.

  84. It’s funny you mention interfering gentry liberals, esr, because I’ve always been struck by how gentry conservatives like yourself are the people advocating for torture. *Not* the soldiers in the field or the intelligence folks. The people who write op.eds, make a big deal about fighting the war on terror at the terrorists’ level, and basically using logic that would make more sense in a spaghetti western or Tarantino flick (and let’s be brutally honest, most of their arguments come in the form of mangled quotes from the characters in these movies).

    Don’t pretend this is anything but a political ploy to make liberals look weak. Most of these techniques are completely useless and the “ticking time bomb” scenario only exists in bad movies.. Some people just hate themselves for belonging to the “gentry”, and resort to Internet/Editiorial Section Tough Guyism, instead of learning a contact sport like rugby (just a suggestion).

    And to make a positive recommendation for liberals, this *is* an issue we can advocate against and look good to the Independent voter on, provided the politicians loudly put their arguments in a Christian framework wrapped up in American exceptionalism (“We won’t stoop to their level, blah blah blah, God, mercy, etc.”) That should be our own political ploy.

  85. esr Says:
    > I’d prefer not to be in a position of excusing anything that’s historically been
    > labeled “torture”, but if the alternative is to cede the field to these loonies I
    > can’t do that. Hence the attempt at a principled distinction. If you have a
    > better one to propose, I’m listening.

    What’s wrong with this definition of torture?

        Physical pain and damage are both torture; other emotional distress is not.

    Its not a perfect definition. It leaves sleep deprivation on the table for one thing, unless we can make a case that lack of sleep is painful or damaging. But the rule seems like an obvious place to start.

  86. Regarding the comments about attacking a “blue state” — weren’t the 9/11 attacks in two blue states? And further, one of them was in one of the major liberal, left-wing bastions in the entire WORLD — New York City. Have you fucktard revenge-fantasy assholes forgotten that?

  87. > Physical pain and damage are both torture; other emotional distress is not.

    It’s both too loose and too tight. “Physical pain and damage” could include a black eye that’ll go away in four days. I also think methods that can destroy sanity (psychotomimetics, extreme sensory isolation, possibly prolonged sleep deprivation if it has permanent effects) need to be off the table even if they leave the subjects physically unharmed.

  88. >I’ve always been struck by how gentry conservatives like yourself are the people advocating for torture

    Anybody who can describe me as a conservative, or believe that I’m actually advocating torture, isn’t paying attention to anything but the little voices in their heads.

  89. We have Miranda warnings because cops will torture prisoners who can’t talk freely to a lawyer outside.

    We can’t let jihadists talk freely to their friends outside.

    So, we give them US military lawyers, we investigate complaints, we muddle along. We could do worse. Over time, we probably will do worse.

    And this will drag on for generations. The Arabs want the Jews gone, bad. Israeli Jews want to stay, bad. Arabs hate friends of Jews. The USA has a large Jewish population. Arabs will be micromanaging our foreign policy with mad bombers for at least a couple generations.

  90. “Anybody who can describe me as a conservative, or believe that I’m actually advocating torture, isn’t paying attention to anything but the little voices in their heads.”

    Labelling you as a conservative was off the mark.

    I like how offended you are about me pointing out that you advocate torture. You know perfectly well what you are doing and the pose you are striking, Internet Tough Guy.

    Vanity masked as high-mindedness, indeed.

  91. > If the prospect of going to Gitmo doesn’t terrify a jihadi shitless, it loses much of its utility.

    That’s an interesting statement. The suggestion seems to be that, to the purpose of extracting information, the public image of what happens at Gitmo is almost as (perhaps more?) important than the actual methods employed. “Everyone knows what’s in Room 101″ and that sort of thing.

    ESR says: Er…this wasn’t obvious? And better a terrified jihadi than a tortured one, under any definition of “torture”.

  92. There is a mechanism at work here that I call the “shell game”:

    1) A class of behavior is highly objectionable to the overwhelming majority of people.
    2) That class is given a name
    3) That name acquires negative connotations,
    4) Sanctions against it are built up.
    Here’s where the shell game kicks in:
    5) The definition of the class is expanded to include other behavior, thereby imposing the same sanctions against the new behavior.
    If you object to step 5, you are maligned for wanting the original behavior to go unpunished.

    Example: “pedophilia”. This term originally referred to sexual desire for the sexually immature. There are very good reasons to object to someone acting out on that desire, so we declare that the sexually immature cannot legally grant their consent, and their more mature partner is guilty of a crime.

    But the definition shifted. It varies per jurisdiction, but it is stated as a certain chronological age. At the same time, the trend has been toward children becoming sexually mature at ever-earlier ages. The result is a disconnect between the legal and biological definitions, and teenage boys go to prison and/or Sexual Predator registries (for life), for the “crime” of consensual sex with a “child” who is physically more mature than any of her great-great grandmothers were when they bore their first children.

    And if you object to the Age of Consent being so low, you are painted as advocating the rape of kindergartners, if not some secret desire to commit such an act yourself.

    The “torture” debate follows similar lines. If you don’t oppose all “harsh interrogation” techniques, you want to shove red-hot pokers into the anuses of every swarthy-complexioned person in the world.

  93. esr Says:
    > “Physical pain and damage” could include a black eye that’ll go away in four days.

    I realize now that you were trying to define how much torture is acceptable, whereas I was trying to define torture. Under my definition, you’re right, giving someone a black eye to get information out of them is torture. I think that’s obviously true.

      Irreversible physical or psychological damage.

    I can’t see any way to reconcile your definition of acceptable torture with the slippery slope problem(s). The kind of people who are capable of standing in a room with another human being and hurting them, over and over, for a long time, probably can’t be trusted to respect any “uncrossable” line you draw, no matter how clear. The kind of government that is allowed to torture an enemy soldier “for a just cause” is likely to soon be allowed to do the same thing to me and you for what we say or how we vote. On the other hand it is conceivable that some situations are so dire as to justify torture. (But who makes the call?)

    The best standard I’ve thought of so far is to allow torture, but only with publicity and with such a high level of approval that the torturers are effectively forced to behave. Ex: a signed executive order and full review of the entire session by the Supreme Court.

    But my idea is worthless. The people we train to protect will find a way to work aroudn the rules whenever they feel it is necessary. Either they’ll go off the grid to get the needed info. Or they’ll get someone else to do our dirty work, like Pakistan.

    > Anybody who can describe me as a conservative, or believe that I’m actually advocating torture, isn’t paying attention to anything but the little voices in their heads.

    This is why I don’t blog. When and if I’ve proved someone wrong I like them to notice.

  94. > The kind of people who are capable of standing in a room with another human being and hurting them, over and over, for a long time, probably can’t be trusted to respect any “uncrossable” line you draw, no matter how clear.

    Didn’t the Milgram experiment prove this kind people was nearly everyone, as long as someone in authority told them to do so?

    So here is another substantive argument, Eric. We need strong legal sanctions against torture so that the instructive power of the law and the voice of authority clearly tells people that torture is wrong.

    But you are clearly making the case that the religious ritual purity impulse (avoiding anything close to torture as if ritually impure) should not govern our reaction to coercive interrogation techniques that are not torture, like disrespecting a holy book.

    BTW, couldn’t we get almost any information out of terrorists via the wire-head method of installing a device that allows us to stimulate the pleasure center of their brains? Would that be torture, since it involves only pleasure and no pain at all? If you object to an operation, consider a TASP. I’m inclined to think using a TASP would be unethical, but would it be torture?

    Yours,
    Tom

  95. >The kind of people who are capable of standing in a room with another human being and hurting them, over and over, for a long time, probably can’t be trusted to respect any “uncrossable” line you draw, no matter how clear. The kind of government that is allowed to torture an enemy soldier “for a just cause” is likely to soon be allowed to do the same thing to me and you for what we say or how we vote.

    Very true. Which is the actual, substantive, morally serious argument against torture at Gitmo. Unfortunately, we are now in a situation where, by defining torture down to sillinesses like “sexual humilation” and desecration of the Quran, the gentry liberals have forced us to try to draw a bright line through places none of us want to go. The cost of failing this challenge would be measured in the deaths of innocents.

  96. >So here is another substantive argument, Eric. We need strong legal sanctions against torture so that the instructive power of the law and the voice of authority clearly tells people that torture is wrong.

    We need something else even more. We need a culture in which children learn that the ethically correct response to being ordered to perform grossly immoral and unethical actions is to commit extreme violence, immediately, on the order-giver.

    My first reaction on learning of the Milgram experiments was disgust that the experimenters actually survived them.

  97. > This is why I don’t blog. When and if I’ve proved someone wrong I like them to notice.

    You have a method of communication that works for this? Tell us! Tell us! We could make a fortune!

    Yours,
    Tom

  98. > We need a culture in which children learn that the ethically correct
    > response to being ordered to perform grossly immoral and
    > unethical actions is to commit extreme violence, immediately, on
    > the order-giver.

    I wonder if such violence could be justified as self-defense. I think so. A person with power and with the willingness to abuse that power is dangerous to everyone.

  99. > We need something else even more. We need a culture in which children learn that the ethically correct response to being ordered to perform grossly immoral and unethical actions is to commit extreme violence, immediately, on the order-giver.

    Is this hyperbole? Has there ever been a culture like this? Could humans actually be trained to behave thus? How about holding the order-giver at gunpoint and dialing 911? Do we really want a culture with such an extremely violent response? Oh, and BTW, aren’t you describing what John Brown and Scott Roeder thought they were doing?

    I’m not sure this was a well thought out response, Eric. Do you want to try again, or are you going to defend it?

    Yours,
    Tom

  100. You’re right, this isn’t about advocating torture. It’s about ESR’s deep and abiding resentment at his low status relative to the “gentry”. Despite his achieving a measure of fame as a spokesman for geeks, he’s still a geek in the eyes of the adults who run the world. This chafes so much that he thinks that the “moral vanity” of torture opponents is a bigger problem than torture itself.

    You must be close to 50 years old. Isn’t it time to grow the fuck up?

  101. >Is this hyperbole? Has there ever been a culture like this? Could humans actually be trained to behave thus?

    The Sioux Indians were nearly this individualist, so some human cultures have come close. Whether it’s actually possible I don’t know; it may be that the instinct to obey senior males is so deeply embedded in humans that we’d have to edit our genome to rid ourselves of it. If so, that would be a tragedy – and, in a world with weapons that make megadeaths routine, perhaps our final tragedy. The costs of the obedience response were local and containable when we lived in roving nomadic bands of a dozen or two each; now they aren’t.

    The examples of John Brown and Scott Roeder aren’t on point. No one tried to give either of them an order to torture; AFAIK nobody tried to order them to do anything at all.

    The reason I focus on obedience is that it’s the way individual evil and sociopathy gets magnified to the point where it can do damage to people out of reach of the tyrant’s hand and voice and personal charisma. If we don’t learn how to disrupt the Milgram mechanism, I think we’re doomed.

  102. >It’s about ESR’s deep and abiding resentment at his low status relative to the “gentry”.

    Thanks, that may be the best laugh I get all week.

  103. The right question is: is enhanced interrogation giving us intel that is worth the systemic risks we take by institutionalizing it, including the risk that it might be applied to U.S. citizens and the slippery-slope risk that it might lead to the institutionalization of actual torture?

    The obvious answer to that question is: “no” when you include on the risk side:
    (a) the risk of going off on a wild goose chase due to false intel
    (b) the “expert” view that torturing suspects can make them *less* likely to tell you anything helpful than the alternative of, yes, having a drink and a smoke with them and getting them on your side.

    The fundamental problem here is statistical – the “ticking time bomb” scenario is fictional and the vast majority of people we pick up won’t know anything useful to us, even if we think they might. So suppose we have a hundred prisoners and none of them know any useful details about a “next attack”. If we have a policy of torture, setting aside the moral wrong of torturing those hundred people that’s a hundred chances for someone to come up with a plausible-sounding story that leads us to capture and torture more innocent people. While we do this, any scary scenario we can dream up will eventually get parroted back to us – we will get “confirmation” of our nightmare fears, leading us blindly into more wars.

    Nobody – not even your imaginary liberal demons – was ever seriously worried about “desecrating a Koran”; that was just PR nonsense. All the other stuff people were worried about – the stuff people do on “24” – threats and sleep deprivation and beatings and waterboarding and “stress positions” and more – works well in a fictional context because the plot is carefully constructed so there is one – and only one – good lead to follow at any given time and there is a solution to be found but it’s not clear it even could work in the real world, much less that it has.

    In the real world, we don’t know if there’s a findable plot. If there is a plot, we don’t know if anybody we’re holding knows anything about it, much less enough to stop it. We do know that we’ll get a few “confessions” with kindness and a few “confessions” with torture. Kindness might take a little longer as a tactic but the “confessions” we get with kindness are intrinsically far less likely to result in confirmation bias-based wild goose chases that suck up our resources following false leads of our own invention that we place a high confidence in because they were obtained via torture. That’s a big win.

    Bayesian reasoning has served you well in other contexts; you might want to try it here. What are you assuming is the base rate of “mad terrorists who know something critically useful to us” in the population at large? Or in the population from which we bribe people to send us any suspicious-looking malcontents? Shouldn’t that number have an impact on the credibility of claims that this particular guy in front of us knows something important enough to torture for? And when you advocate terrifying people as a better tactic than patience and kindness if he does, what do you know that Haviland Smith and Steve Kleinman don’t that leads you to this conclusion?

  104. Tom DeGisi Says:
    > How about holding the order-giver at gunpoint and dialing 911?

    Agreed that vigilante justice is a bad idea. But what about when the powerful criminal may actually have influence over the people working at 911 or with the police who respond? That situation is a bit fuzzier.

    I’ve often thought that the problem with the human race is that we have yet to evolve a strong desire to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the group. If they tried to search your underwear when boarding an airplane, and as a result you felt compelled to break one of their arms for their insolence, our society might be a much saner place to live.

  105. Sorry techtech….I may very well be being a dumbass here…but…

    How do you reconcile:

    I’ve often thought that the problem with the human race is that we have yet to evolve a strong desire to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the group.

    …with…

    If they tried to search your underwear when boarding an airplane, and as a result you felt compelled to break one of their arms for their insolence, our society might be a much saner place to live.

    ???

  106. Reconcile? There’s nothing to reconcile. You must be one of those people who thinks airport security improves public safety. I don’t. I think searching everyone who travels far is a convenient way for the government to keep tabs on their own citizens and waste a bunch of money at the same time. I find those searches insulting.

  107. The reason I focus on obedience is that it’s the way individual evil and sociopathy gets magnified to the point where it can do damage to people out of reach of the tyrant’s hand and voice and personal charisma. If we don’t learn how to disrupt the Milgram mechanism, I think we’re doomed.

    I find myself nodding in agreement. So did Etiene de la Boetie…and Thoreau…

  108. Reconcile? There’s nothing to reconcile.

    You lament the fact that we haven’t ‘evolved’ a desire to sacrifice for the good of the group [may evolution never take this horrifying path], yet bemoan making such a sacrifice at the airport.

  109. @esr: I think where you’ve created a lot of confusion in this essay is that you used a technique that you often use well — deliberately picking an example involving a common logical point of vulnerability. In this case, though, you come out looking like you support torture (which I knew you didn’t, but that’s beside the point) when you’re merely trying to get people to think about the costs of the moral vanity and self-righteous indignation of the gentry liberals. Or maybe I’m missing something.

    While I agree that the use of real torture is a moral outrage, I do think it’s useful to step back and try to see things in a more objective way. Otherwise, you tend to get the kind of over-emotional chest-thumping responses I’ve seen elsewhere here on this thread.

    Just my $0.02.

  110. >All the other stuff people were worried about – the stuff people do on “24″ – threats and sleep deprivation and beatings and waterboarding and “stress positions” and more – works well in a fictional context because the plot is carefully constructed so there is one – and only one – good lead to follow at any given time and there is a solution to be found but it’s not clear it even could work in the real world, much less that it has.

    This sounds to me uncannily like the school of anthropologists who tried to write cannibalism out of the human record because it was just too icky to imagine human being could do such things. Um, how many instances of a case officer reporting that the results of an interrogation did in fact yield information that was true and important would you require before you’d consider it refutation?

    >We do know that we’ll get a few “confessions” with kindness and a few “confessions” with torture. Kindness might take a little longer as a tactic but the “confessions” we get with kindness are intrinsically far less likely to result in confirmation bias-based wild goose chases

    Good argument, but not really on point since I have at no point advocated that harsh interrogation is preferable to being kind and winning. If that works reliably, wonderful; it relieves us of the necessity of making deeply unpleasant choices. In the real world, I suspect that playing nice is effective in a majority of cases but the ones where it doesn’t work are exactly the fanatical, high-value core members that we most need to extract intelligence from.

    >And when you advocate terrifying people as a better tactic than patience and kindness

    Stop there. My position about terrifying jihadis with the prospect of torture is only that it’s better than actually torturing them, not that it’s better than patience and kindness. But patience and kindness have to actually work as a way of extracting intel, or your case against terrifying jihadis is undermined. Again, I suspect that it usually will, but that it tend to fail in exactly the cases where the cost of failure is highest.

    Your point about how priors about the suspect population affect the reasoning is a sound one, but I don’t think it buys you much. By hypothesis, all our suspects were taken while being seen to operate as illegal combatants in association with terrorists. This makes the odds that they’re innocent lost sheep rather low.

  111. > The examples of John Brown and Scott Roeder aren’t on point.

    Sure they are. I would have thought the train of logic was obvious, but I’m clearly wrong about that, and maybe about the train of logic as well.

    > No one tried to give either of them an order to torture; AFAIK nobody tried to order them to do anything at all.

    The law is nothing but a bound set of orders from a group authority, Eric.

    > The reason I focus on obedience is that it’s the way individual evil and sociopathy gets magnified to the point where it can do damage to people out of reach of the tyrant’s hand and voice and personal charisma.

    It’s also the only reason we haven’t had a civil war over abortion. Look, people routinely obey orders not to protest to closely to abortion clinics. Your solution substitues one person’s possibly flawed estimate of what a grossly immoral and unethical action is for police, prosecutor, jury and judge. John Brown and Scott Roeder did the same thing. I can’t think you are making a serious proposal here.

    > If we don’t learn how to disrupt the Milgram mechanism, I think we’re doomed.

    Yep. The traditional way to disrupt the Milgram mechanism has been obedience to an even higher, non-human power.

    It seems like all the threads on this site end up relating to one another.

    Yours,
    Tom

  112. Bemoan? I looked that word up to make sure I wasn’t misinterpreting it.

    I was saying everybody should resist being searched at the airport. We need to evolve a willingness to sacrifice ourselves to destroy insane governmental decisions. I’m not even necessarily implying violence. If everybody refused airport searches in mass, then the government would have to stop searching people, or the airlines would go out of business.

  113. >you’re merely trying to get people to think about the costs of the moral vanity and self-righteous indignation of the gentry liberals. Or maybe I’m missing something.

    No, you got it right. I keep pointing out that my original post wasn’t about torture and I don’t advocate torture, but some people just refuse to get it.

    Admittedly, I’ve allowed the issue to get confused by trying to perform a serious ethical analysis of torture. But I think it is an important issue, and one that cannot be ceded to thugs or the excessively tender-minded.

  114. Tom DeGisi Says:
    > It seems like all the threads on this site end up relating to one another.

    Yes probably one of the reasons this blog really nags at my intuition. ESR wants to discuss government and society, but I want to solve them like the math problems they are. I’m not even sure what I’m saying, but its very important.

  115. >The law is nothing but a bound set of orders from a group authority, Eric.

    Yes, your logic is flawed. Because there’s a fundamental difference between an order to do violence and an order to refrain from violence. When people obey orders from the law not to trespass on abortion clinics, the effect is not to amplify the decision of one sociopath into mass murder. At worst (if you take the most negative possible view of abortion, which I don’t) it interferes with multiple individual decisions to commit individual murders, leading to a lower count of deaths than even a single serious civil riot.

  116. Glen Raphael,

    Stop calling coercive interrogation torture. You are begging the question. Our police use coercive interrogation right now every day. They lie. They make illegal threats that they know they can’t carry out. They make legal threats which they can and do carry out. They don’t just use kindness. We are talking about three categories here: 1) kind interrogation (good cop), 2) coercive interrogation (bad cop) and 3) torture (illegal cop). It does not help for you to lump all of class 2 with class 3. It’s an invalid argument. Please argue about why a particular method or type of method belongs in a particular class, rather than assuming your conclusion.

    I hate second guessing people in the field. When you lump coercive interrogation and torture together I assume you want every cop to be Hopalong Cassidy and shoot the guns out of the criminal’s hands. I assume you always blame the cop and the soldier and never the criminal or the enemy. Those are probably not fair assumptions. I just want a sense that you are giving our people in the field the benefit of the doubt. I don’t have that sense now.

    Yours,
    Tom

  117. > When people obey orders from the law not to trespass on abortion clinics, the effect is not to amplify the decision of one sociopath into mass murder.

    OK, consider John Brown more than Scott Roeder. Consider the Fugitive Slave Laws. I know John Brown did not commit extreme violence on a sherrif who told him “Hand over that fugitive slave!” Are you contending that would be the proper course? I think bears might be that individualistic, but not us monkey types.

    > At worst (if you take the most negative possible view of abortion, which I don’t) it interferes with multiple individual decisions to commit individual murders, leading to a lower count of deaths than even a single serious civil riot.

    Eric, there are 1.2 million abortions every year. We have never fought a war much less had a riot with that kind of a yearly death toll.

    Yours,
    Tom

  118. >OK, consider John Brown more than Scott Roeder. Consider the Fugitive Slave Laws. I know John Brown did not commit extreme violence on a sherrif who told him “Hand over that fugitive slave!” Are you contending that would be the proper course?

    Yes, I am. Radical individualism or radical evil; I don’t think we actually have a third choice, however much we might like to fool ourselves that we do.

    >Eric, there are 1.2 million abortions every year.

    I understand that. Please compare apples to apples. Riots kill people at a higher rate than abortion clinics do; if you scaled anti-abortion riots up to the entire U.S. the casualties would be horrific. No moral claim is implied here, just the observation that an abortion takes longer than dying in a streetfight.

  119. > You must be close to 50 years old. Isn’t it time to grow the fuck up?

    While it’s true that Raymond is a bit of a man-child and that his over-the-top dislike of liberals is repulsive, he essentially has it right here. His opinion seems to be that torture might be useful under some circumstances, and that it is wrong to describe trivial acts as torture. He blames the wrong people though.

  120. I was saying everybody should resist being searched at the airport. We need to evolve a willingness to sacrifice ourselves to destroy insane governmental decisions.

    OK. I get the way you were thinking now :) I agree with you.

  121. “I’m not a conservative because I don’t think we can fix our problems by returning to some idealized past or reasserting “traditional values” – some of those “traditional values”, like racism and faith-centered religiosity and and the subjugation of women and sexual repression, just plain sucked.”

    But that’s just the most primitive version of it. I’ve read many _intellectual_ Conservatives and neither even tried to say anything like that. What you say sounds like a political program of creating a certain state of things and these folks I’ve read had no political program. They simply found – many different and often very interesting – methods or approaches to analyse or explain modern problems. The only common in those methods and approach was that generally they were old and largely forgotten. It’s a big fun to discover them, IMHO. For example you could start with John Kekes’ The Morality of Pluralism, because that’s already close enough to what you believe but is represented in entirely different terms. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2346/is_n411_v103/ai_15696978/?tag=content;col1

  122. > Yes, I am. Radical individualism or radical evil; I don’t think we actually have a third choice, however much we might like to fool ourselves that we do.

    OK. I see a bootstrapping issue. First, you need to have some kids, so that your family culture can reflect your values. Second, you need to go somewhere else and start a new community with a new culture to reflect your values. What you are proposing just is not going to happen here. I can barely imagine a culture where you hold the order-giver at gunpoint and call 911 in this country. I don’t think even our Revolutionary forebears were within an order of magnitude on this scale of individualism. And I’m sceptical of the Sioux. Maybe they were that individualistic when confronted with U.S. government authorites, but I’ll bet they weren’t with their own war councils. (I’m pretty sure a Sioux cheif was more like a respected elder than a King.)

    Yours,
    Tom

  123. >And I’m sceptical of the Sioux. Maybe they were that individualistic when confronted with U.S. government authorites, but I’ll bet they weren’t with their own war councils. (I’m pretty sure a Sioux cheif was more like a respected elder than a King.)

    Indeed; this is why they distinguished between peace chiefs and war chiefs. Ruth Beebe Hill’s anthropological novel Hanta Yo is the best narrative description I’ve found, and yes it’s backed up by primary ethnological sources. There was a line in Dances With Wolves where a Lakota says “No man can tell another what to do, of course.” The movie romanticized the hell out of the Sioux in a way that Hanta Yo did not, but the movie got that part right; individualism of a Stirner-like degree was baked into their language and culture at a very deep level.

    To establish that I am not romanticizing, I will note that the Sioux treated their women horribly, hunted buffalo by running entire herds of them over cliffs and leaving most of the corpses to rot, and practiced a revolting degree of cruelty against their enemies. Nice they were not. They were pretty sane about the non-obedience thing, though.

    Further note: Their version of shamanism was powerful and beautiful. Black Elk Speaks is worth a read and has rightly been an inspiration to modern neopagans.

  124. Um, how many instances of a case officer reporting that the results of an interrogation did in fact yield information that was true and important would you require before you’d consider it refutation?

    In the case of waterboarding, it might be a big help for your argument if we had even one independently verified claim. Or a claim that hasn’t already been debunked.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/01/26/cia_man_retracts_claim_on_waterboarding
    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1893679,00.html

    In the real world, I suspect that playing nice is effective in a majority of cases but the ones where it doesn’t work are exactly the fanatical, high-value core members that we most need to extract intelligence from.

    What you “suspect” is all very nice, but do you have any evidence for it? The notion of a fanatical master terrorist who is immune to all “normal” interrogation but will only crack under “special” interrogation is, like the ticking time bomb, a movie-plot threat. I don’t get what in your view justifies treating these guys extra-forcefully that wouldn’t apply just as well to, say, an accused mafia member. From my vantage point the biggest difference between WOT criminals and common street criminals is not fanaticism but that we have language barriers and cultural barriers that make it much harder for us to understand what these prisoners are saying much less determine whether they are lying or if their behavior is “suspicious”. The cultural differences make us more likely to see a threat where there isn’t one and consequently more likely to err on the side of assuming there’s more to be told when there isn’t. (On the flip side, it also makes it harder to “gain their trust”, of course. But that’s still the course I’d advocate.)

    If street criminals cooperate in response to the credible promise of a lighter sentence, why not do the same for “terror” suspects?

    Incidentally, “true and important” might be too low a bar. You actually need something more along the lines of “true and critical”. If the info isn’t time-sensitive, there’s no significant harm in waiting a little longer, catching a few more people, following up on other leads. And remember, I’m not claiming you can’t get true info from torture. Just that the statistically-likely costs outweigh the benefits. Where the costs include (a) following up on all the stories KSM invented after we started torturing him, (b) cases in which somebody “on the fence” was hardened against us by the knowledge that we torture, (c) the fact that a truly cooperative/friendly suspect is more useful to us than an unwilling one, (d) that people are more likely to surrender to us if they don’t know that we torture.

    I don’t know how to estimate the costs of b-c, but (a) seems like something one might be able to calculate in theory – and somebody should try.

    Your point about how priors about the suspect population affect the reasoning is a sound one, but I don’t think it buys you much. By hypothesis, all our suspects were taken while being seen to operate as illegal combatants in association with terrorists. This makes the odds that they’re innocent lost sheep rather low.

    I’m frankly not seeing it. We paid bounties to third parties for people who were *claimed* to associate with terrorists. The people we paid had a monetary incentive to make such claims, so some unknown fraction of the claims will simply be entirely bogus. But suppose they aren’t. Suppose that, say, half the people we rounded up actually did “associate with terrorists”.

    How many people do you “associate with” in an average year? The barber, the guy who sells you shoes, a cab driver, a casual friend, a close friend, and so on. If we rounded all those people up, how many of them would know anything substantial/crucial about your future plans that wasn’t known by any of the others? How many of those people have unique, special knowledge about you that we couldn’t find out any other way than by asking those particular people – say, by reading your blog or asking somebody else? How many of those people feel a deep and abiding personal connection to you such that they would be highly likely to betray your confidence? How big is the intersection of those sets – people who know something important, which is unique, and have unswearing fealty to you not to reveal it?

    Now imagine you were a terrorist. You probably still “associate with” many of the same types of people – cab drivers, relatives, etcetera – but you tell them less about yourself. The people you confide in may be more loyal, but there are fewer of them, percentage-wise. And they are more careful. The odds of getting an innocent dupe goes up.

    Out of a hundred WOT suspects, there might possibly be a wolf in there somewhere, but the vast bulk are going to be sheep. And we can’t reliably know which one is the wolf, so if we think torture “works” we’ll do it on all of them to varying degrees, settling down to escalate on a few once our initial round starts producing “information” we find promising.

    (Which helps explain the “hardening” problem. Suppose torture “works” but is really really unpleasant. If we do torture, admitting you have any non-sheep qualities at all is likely to get the torturers focused on you. So everybody clams up, even ones who have useful low-level info they otherwise wouldn’t mind sharing.)

  125. Considering the Sioux futher, they seem a lot like Afghans and other tribal cultures. According to Hanson, the Western way of war, which seems to depend on Milgram style behavoir, always beats the stuffing out of other ways of war.

    This would seem to be the reason why our culture is not like that of the Sioux.

    I think you may wish to consider another solution. Maybe we could go with a culture that is strongly protective of human rights via a Code of Law even while under existential threat. OTOH, maybe the State of Israel won’t last either.

    Yours,
    Tom

  126. Certainly torture “might be useful under some circumstances”. It is useful for despotic regimes to keep their population in line through terror. It is useful for extracting false confessions. It is, I suppose, useful as a punishment for criminals, although that is out of favor. It is useful for sadists as a means to get their rocks off. And it is apparently useful for pasty pseudo tough guys to fantasize about.

    On the other hand, it has approximately zero utility in warfare, intelligence, or foreign relations, as attested to by just about everyone who knows what they are talking about. And it has tremendous disutility since it destroys the moral reputation of states that employ it.

    People like ESR remind me of communist apologists in the 30s and 40s — they were idealists too, eager to excuse Stalin’s brutality because it was necessary for the defense of the revolution or something like that. Most of them thought they were working in the cause of freedom.

  127. >Considering the Sioux futher, they seem a lot like Afghans and other tribal cultures.

    Other tribal cultures have been individualistic, but I don’t know of any others that took it to the Sioux degree. I’d like to have a generative theory explaining the differences, but I don’t.

    >According to Hanson, the Western way of war, which seems to depend on Milgram style behavoir, always beats the stuffing out of other ways of war.

    I think Hanson’s thesis is generally sound, but he overplays it. One big outlier is the Japanese; it’s fairly hard to explain the Russo-Japanese war in his terms without making “Westernized” an almost vacuous predicate, and he also fails to explain why Western militaries have found it functionally useful to internalize important pieces of Japanese martial culture. But for this discussion, the important problem with his thesis is how centered it is on the combat psychology of shock infantry. And shock infantry has, arguably, reached its sell-by date…ah, heck, this needs an entire post of its own.

  128. goddinpotty,

    You are also conflating coercive interrogation and torture. You aren’t even arguing against Eric. You aren’t even arguing against a straw man. More like a straw G.I. Joe doll.

    Yours,
    Tom

  129. The Monster: The “torture” debate follows similar lines. If you don’t oppose all “harsh interrogation” techniques, you want to shove red-hot pokers into the anuses of every swarthy-complexioned person in the world.

    I don’t think this is what’s going on. The problem is that Eric speaks at length about his belief that desecrating the Koran isn’t torture, but is remarkably silent on the topic of, for example, beating prisoners to death; he uses weasel words like “harsh interrogation” to refer to torture rather than calling it what it is–at least, when he’s referring to Americans doing it. If he’s speaking out against torture, he either defines torture as “not what Americans do” or is speaking out very quietly.

  130. Further note: Their version of shamanism was powerful and beautiful. Black Elk Speaks is worth a read and has rightly been an inspiration to modern neopagans.

    That’s a good book I’m considering adding to the required reading list for my students. They’ve got lots of used copies on Amazon for less than $4 and they’re eligible for free shipping.

  131. >I don’t get what in your view justifies treating these guys extra-forcefully that wouldn’t apply just as well to, say, an accused mafia member

    Your typical mafia nember doesn’t have an internal narrative about martyrdom for Allah. This makes a difference.

    >If street criminals cooperate in response to the credible promise of a lighter sentence, why not do the same for “terror” suspects?

    Of course the “credible promise of a lighter sentence” is the first thing to try, but jihadi fanatics have different motives from street criminals. I’d be very surprised if that kind of inducement worked on a Jose Padilla or a KSM, and in fact I think we can fairly conclude that it didn’t from the very fact that they were subjected to sensory deprivation and waterboarding. Unless your hypothesis is that their interrogators were drooling sadists?

    Playing games with the word “associated” doesn’t make me respect your argument any better.

  132. >but is remarkably silent on the topic of, for example, beating prisoners to death

    What the fuck? I start this thread with a post that condemns Mullah Barader’s landing in the hands of the Pakistanis for physical torture as an unequivocally bad thing, and you somehow turn this into “remarkable silence”?

    That’s nothing but dishonest of you.

  133. @grendelkahn:

    is remarkably silent on the topic of, for example, beating prisoners to death

    Um, no:
    #esr said:

    Sleep deprivation and (especially) repeated beatings worry me more, for tolerably obvious reasons. Those methods can easily go over the line into what I’d consider torture.

    he uses weasel words like “harsh interrogation” to refer to torture rather than calling it what it is–at least, when he’s referring to Americans doing it.

    We’ve already distinguished the definitions of “harsh interrogation” and “torture”. Torture is pretty much anything that would result in permanent physical or psychological damage. Pissing on the Koran, wrapping filthy underwear around someone’s head, or giving someone a black eye do not constitute torture, but they are, instead “harsh interrogation”. Beating someone to death is torture. Conflating the two helps no one here.

  134. >Conflating the two helps no one here.

    But conflating the two does help someone. It helps the jihadis, which is why I judge that people who persist in conflating the two are in fact apologists for the jihadis. See Orwell on “objectively pro-fascist”.

  135. grendelkhan,

    You are also beating a straw G.I. Joe doll. Argue with Eric, not some ridiculous cartoon you made up.

    Yours,
    Tom

  136. esr: What the fuck? I start this thread with a post that condemns Mullah Barader’s landing in the hands of the Pakistanis for physical torture as an unequivocally bad thing, and you somehow turn this into “remarkable silence”?

    Yes, yes, you’re very brave to condemn torture when it’s done by Pakistanis. It would help if you read the rest of my comment before getting all huffy–my point is that you use weasel words when Americans torture. You’re not addressing my point; if anything, you’re reinforcing it.

  137. >my point is that you use weasel words when Americans torture.

    Bullshit. I have at no point made any distinction between the ethics of Pakistanis committing torture and of Americans committing torture. I condemn both.

    Ethical analysis of what constitutes “torture” is orthogonal to nationality. More generally, I hold that ethical claims should never contain proper names.

  138. Playing games with the word “associated” doesn’t make me respect your argument any better.

    Government officials lie. They lie in ways designed to make their actions and decisions and situation look better, and the most popular method of lying is the statement that seems to imply more than it actually says. During the Lewinsky scandal, anybody with half a brain could tell exactly what Clinton was doing by removing the spin and just taking the exact words used and resolving all ambiguity in favor of the least-favorable-to-his-case interpretation. The guys who wrote for _Liberty_ and _Reason_ spotted it faster than anybody else. Why? Because they didn’t automatically give the president the benefit of the doubt.

    Why do you give the military guys the benefit of the doubt when they claim somebody is associated with terrorists or that some group is the worst of the worst? Why do you not see through this bureaucratic bluster? If something stronger than “associated” was being claimed they would have said something stronger than that. After all the false reasons to invade Iraq and all the false claims to have gotten actionable intelligence from waterboarding, what makes you so eager to believe the next claim of that sort is really valid?

    I’d be very surprised if that kind of inducement worked on a Jose Padilla or a KSM, and in fact I think we can fairly conclude that it didn’t from the very fact that they were subjected to sensory deprivation and waterboarding.

    Why can we conclude that? I assume the causality goes the other way – that they were tortured because they had given up useful info prior to torture, suggesting to the torturers that there might be more where that came from.

    Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times, producing no new intel of value. KSM was waterboarded over a hundred times; producing a vast array of lies told to stop the torture. Everybody now agrees that both men gave us their best info prior to being tortured. What do you know that Ali Soufan doesn’t?

    Unless your hypothesis is that their interrogators were drooling sadists?

    My main hypothesis is confirmation bias. If you’re sure somebody is holding out on you so you torture him and he tells you something more – regardless of whether the new thing is true or important – that reassures you that you’re on the right track and you should keep torturing the guy. After a while it just seems like the right thing to do and you’re reluctant to look too closely at any argument to the contrary. In reporting the results to your superiors you’ll tend to exaggerate the value of the info you got and its apparent credibility (neither of which you’re in much position to verify at the time), and there will be an upward error cascade leading people at the top to claim “based on what they’ve read” that torture really works. One way to reliably avoid this horrible negative feedback loop – the more the guy talks, the more you torture him until he dies or you find somebody better to torture – is just to have a hard rule against torture.

  139. > The movie romanticized the hell out of the Sioux in a way that Hanta Yo did not, but the movie got that part right; individualism of a Stirner-like degree was baked into their language and culture at a very deep level.

    A little off-topic, but what do you think of the republic of Lakotah?

    ESR: A noble effort, but doomed. They’ve got no economic base, no political power base, and no ability to resist the coercion that will be brought to bear. The legal point about asserting an existing condition of sovereignity is interesting, however.

  140. esr: Bullshit. I have at no point made any distinction between the ethics of Pakistanis committing torture and of Americans committing torture. I condemn both.

    That would carry a lot more weight if you weren’t in the habit of denying that Americans have been committing torture as a matter of policy during the present conflict (admittedly, this may have changed since the 2008 discussion I referenced above, but I haven’t seen any explicit turnabout), and didn’t keep arguing that Koran desecration doesn’t constitute torture, as if that had anything to do with the subject at hand.

    Ethical analysis of what constitutes “torture” is orthogonal to nationality.

    Well, one would hope so, but apparently what was worth executing Germans and Japanese over isn’t worth even taking Americans to court for. Things that are bad when others do them are (at least) not as bad when we do them, because We Are The Good Guys. Your bias is showing, even if you can’t see it yourself.

  141. It’s good that we have people in the US like Pete, Roger Phillips, and David McCabe. Who else but them would stand up against the human rights abuses of the Clinton administration.

    Oh, wait, that’s right, they were the ones supporting him when he incinerated gun owners and their families, when he made a secret illegal list of gun buyers, when he got the IRS to audit NRA, NRLC, and Paula Jones, when he got his minions to threaten Kathleen Willie’s children, and when he pulled the FBI files on his political opponents.

    But at least those were “inbred rednecks,” and therefore not fully human.

  142. >Why can we conclude that? I assume the causality goes the other way – that they were tortured because they had given up useful info prior to torture, suggesting to the torturers that there might be more where that came from.

    And that’s one too many assumptions. Evidence, please.

  143. Darrencardinal:

    <Bill Clinton, surprisingly, came close to balancing the budget on his watch, thanks in part to gridlock.

    <There is a culture is Washington of govt growth, no matter what. Nothing is ever cut, nobody is ever fired.

    <If it were up to me, I would get rid of the depts of Agriculture, Education, and Energy right now.

    I am no admirer of Newt "All Aboard the Lautenberg Amendment" Gingrich…but the fact is that if it had been up to HIM, we WOULD have eliminated those cabinets. (At least the last two…not sure about Ag).
    "Centrist" Clinton VETOED their doing so. If not for gridlock, we would have eliminated them.

    The problem with the Bush-era GOP wasn't lack of gridlock. It was that the Washington GOP had been neutered during the Clinton years, and had acquired the habit of pre-emptive surrender on spending cuts. In fact, Bush spent more with a "gridlocked" Democrat Congress than with a Republican one.

  144. My objection, to the OP, fundamentally, is that it labels dissenting opinion as vanity.

    One can object to private ownership of guns because “guns are bad”. Or one can believe (possibly correctly, possibly not) that reducing gun ownership causes a measurable decrease in crime-related deaths.

    Similarly, there’s a whole host of political opinions on which one can legitimately disagree — and one of the reasons we end up with some terrible policies is that while there aren’t as many people who vote for/make policy decisions on vague, woolly feelings (which is, I think, what ESR is really objecting to, fundamentally) rather than hard facts, there are enough that to get things done, politicians and activists of the practical/strategic bent end up having to ally with wooly-minded “family values” religo-conservatives and “meat is murder” (to pick a not-really random example) feelgood-liberals in order to get anything done.

    This means that the resulting policies tend to include garbage thought up by the wooly minded folks–and that from my end, I tolerate the woolly-minded liberals (to an extent) in the belief that social justice and protection of civil liberties are worth some amount of feel-good politics, whereas I suppose that “real conservatives” and “conservo-libertarians” (whom I oppose) tend to ally with totalitarians and religious conservatives (who I despise) in order to get what they think most important done.

    The problem is that except at the most extreme ends of things–zero tolerance and nanny-state censorship (and, yes, some forms of pacifism) at one end, and anti-evolution anti-intellectualsim, anti-sex censorship, and totalitariansm (including no-warrant, no oversight torture and extraordinary rendition) on the other hand, you can’t really legitimately tar the policy because -some- of its supports are idiots. Some supporters of -any- policy are idiots — but some policies are more idiotic than others.

  145. >Koran desecration doesn’t constitute torture, as if that had anything to do with the subject at hand.

    The subject at hand is precisely the fecklessness of people who label Koran desecration or “sexual humiliation” as torture.

  146. esr: The subject at hand is precisely the fecklessness of people who label Koran desecration or “sexual humiliation” as torture.

    My point is that you’ve gotten far more worked up about someone’s hyperbole than you have about the actual torture going on, at least the actual torture being performed by Americans.

  147. >My point is that you’ve gotten far more worked up about someone’s hyperbole than you have about the actual torture going on, at least the actual torture being performed by Americans.

    Some evidence of actual torture would be nice, first. Kindly do not assume your conclusion by raving about practices that I have clearly stated I do not consider torture. Whether they are performed by Pakistanis or Americans or Green Martians is irrelevant.

  148. The subject at hand is precisely the fecklessness of people who label Koran desecration or “sexual humiliation” as torture.

    Name two such people.

    And that’s one too many assumptions. Evidence, please.

    Have you read any of the links I’ve been giving? Um, try this one:

    Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent and perhaps the most successful U.S. interrogator of al-Qaeda operatives, says the use of those techniques was unnecessary and often counterproductive. Detainees, he says, provided vital intelligence under non-violent questioning, before they were put through “walling” and waterboarding…

    Soufan says Abu Zubaydah gave up the information between March and June 2002, when he was being interrogated by Soufan, another FBI agent and some CIA officers. But that was not the result of harsh techniques, including waterboarding, which were not introduced until August. “We were getting a lot of useful material from [Abu Zubaydah], and we would have continued to get material from him,” Soufan told TIME. “The rough tactics were not necessary.”

    So we know Zubaydah gave up “a lot of useful material” prior to waterboarding. And then…we waterboarded him 83 times, just to be on the safe side. My suspicion is that pressure was being applied from the top down to “get more results” and torture was regarded as a useful way to get results, so we applied torture to our best assets – the people we’d gotten the most info from in the past. In short, if you’re a suspected terrorist in US custody, your reward for being really really helpful to the authorities is: you get tortured. While people who have been less helpful don’t get the same level of personal attention.

  149. esr: Some evidence of actual torture would be nice, first.

    It would indeed be nice if you paid some attention.

    Kindly do not assume your conclusion by raving about practices that I have clearly stated I do not consider torture.

    Do you consider beating someone to death to be torture?

  150. >It would indeed be nice if you paid some attention.

    Link broken.

    >Do you consider beating someone to death to be torture?

    Actually, technically, no. I consider beating someone to the point of irreversible physical or psychological damage to be torture (as I have repeatedly stated). I consider beating them to death to be murder.

  151. >Name two such people.

    Andrew Sullivan is one very high-profile screamer. I wish I knew the names of the line editors at AP and Reuters who’d propagated this nonsense.

    Once again, your “evidence” that coercive interrogation followed on uncoerced confession is your own conjecture based on fact that are almost, but not quite, dispositive.

  152. But at least those were “inbred rednecks,” and therefore not fully human.

    Sorry, you’re the one trying to make this a brainless Culture War food fight.

    ESR, the idiots you attract here worry me a lot more than your own views, which, however challenging, are at least thoughtful.

  153. > Name two such people.

    Hussain Khan: Confirmation of Koran Desecration, Abuse & Torture of Muslim Prisoners

    Not a gentry liberal though.

    How about the ACLU: Guantánamo Prisoners Told FBI of Qur’an Desecration in 2002, New Documents Reveal

    That’s more than two. But perhaps they were really just calling it prisoner abuse. The article is careful never to distinguish between the two.

    How about the FBI: Islam as interrogation tool: need for limits?

    Of course we can’t tell whether authors of the FBI memos are liberal gentry.

    Gee, Glen, I would think you would have learned not to try the “name two” gambit in a world with Google.

    Yours,
    Tom

  154. > Link broken.

    Worked for me. They are on your site, Eric.

    Here’s the fist comment:

    > As I said a year and a half ago, all this muddle about Koran desecration is a smokescreen to avoid talking about, for example, Dilawar of Yakubi being beaten to death, or José Padilla having his mind turned to mush by persistent sensory deprivation. There’s far more talk about how some unnamed and uncited individuals are harshing Eric’s mellow than there ever is about the very real torture going on, in and by the country where, as Eric assures us, “liberty dwells”.

    Here’s the second:

    > > esr: But that’s not my position. I don’t think waterboarding is a “good” thing at all. But I do make a distinction between waterboarding and techniques I consider genuine torture, which have the property of producing irreversible physical and psychological damage.

    > I’m now rather confused about whether or not beating someone to death counts as “irreversible physical and psychological damage” in your view of things. It’s already been pointed out in this thread that the American “enhanced interrogation” regime has led to deaths; were you not paying attention?

    > > I see a lot of inflation of the definition of torture going on. We’re in a crazy place, solely motivated by anti-U.S. partisanship, when “torture” is taken to include desecrating a Koran in sight of a jihadi or wrapping women’s underwear around his head. I worry about this because I think too much crying wolf is eventually bound to erode anyone’s ability to object to the real thing.

    > You seem to be strapping rocket-skates to your goalposts, there. Nobody in this thread claimed that desecrating the Koran or whatnot was torture. People in this thread have been claiming, despite your Teflon-skulled refusal to notice it, that techniques such as sleep deprivation, “stress positions” and waterboarding are, in fact, torture, and there’s been consensus on this since medieval times. But because you don’t want to talk about that, you’re invoking Koran-desecration. Cheap move, Eric.

    So grendelkhan is complaining about real torture.

    Well that is a real problem, grendelkhan.

    And Eric is complaining about things that aren’t torture being called torture because, among other things, it makes it hard to fight real torture.

    Eric is right about that, grendelkhan. It does make it hard to fight real torture.

    Yours,
    Tom

  155. Honestly, in the case of Baradar I highly doubt any amount of coercion will yield intel that is actionable and useful for U.S. purposes. Not because he will “lie”, but because his capture by ISI screams to me that his usefulness to both the Taliban and their benefactors in Pakistan had already come to an abrupt end several months ago. Frankly, the ISI has been backing the Taliban (and other tribal clients) for a generation now. If they “captured” Baradar, it merely means they are cashing him in for the benefit of the endlessly hapless U.S. State Department, while sifting some other element to the tactical forefront. Pakistan’s goal aren’t, and never have been, to specifically aid the Americans in “building an Afghan state” (which is impossible nonsense, anyway) but rather to manage the various tribal conflicts in such a way that, after we finally leave, the de-militarized zone will be full of actors neither strong or weak enough to cause them border hassles. Our goofy, stringless-puppet Karzai will be mill grist ten seconds after we leave, and the central government of the Great Nation of Downtown Kabul will pass into the hands of a different set of Pakistani-backed gangsters. ISI may whip out the cattle prods and pliers to impress some C.I.A desk chief, but ultimately Baradar was probably functionally interchangeable with a host of other proxies both inside and outside the Taliban. If the CIA want to know what Baradar knows, they should’ve asked the ISI ten months ago. Perhaps over tea and biscuits.

    We are getting schooled, as usual, because while the chattering classes distract each other with their astral coefficients (this is torture, this is not, etc.) we continue to misunderstand the core political dynamic in this region. Afghanistan is Pakistan’s near-abroad, and that they entwined with the various ethnic and tribal factions there to a degree that renders our theater more hopeless than the Soviet’s. At least the Soviets didn’t pretend they could trust Pakistan, or mythologize the Afghans as a national bloc.

  156. While you quivering peckers fret over inconveniencing some medieval fuck, just tell me what you want to know and i’ll do the dirty job.

    Torture is a vital part of our toolkit. Cut the emotional morality bullshit over “being as bad as them” and deal with it. We are no more ‘like them’ for torturing, than a woman is like a murderer because she shot a rapist.

    When you’ll stand between me and one of these scumbags, and defend him with your life, _then_ i’ll respect your ‘principled’ opposition. Until then, you’re just being a bunch of fucking Antoinettes.

    Harumph

  157. By the way, the Afghan war was far more disastrous a realpolitik maneuver than Iraq. Iraq, at the very least, had the raw materials for a national identity, and the building blocks for a civilized industrial society. There was no guarantee that Iraq would be a success, but Afghanistan was a lost cause from the start. It is a No Man’s Land of tribal provinces and gangland territories that don’t even overlap most of the time, and only unite in temporary alliances to expel intruders.

    I’ve long thought the real folly of the Left has been that they underestimated Bush Jr’s ideological humanism. Unlike his realpolitik-obsessed Cold War spook of a father, or the historically-illiterate but occasionally pragmatic Clinton, Bush Jr. fully believed the classically liberal rhetoric of viral democracy. Ironically, while liberals were castigating Bush Jr. as the Great Conservative Satan, he was much more reminiscent of John Kennedy in his naive beliefs about war and the natural ascendancy of liberty. We are seeing another kind of dangerous naivete in our current president, but even more worrisome is the seeming impotence of the C.I.A. to engineer a useful chaos in the regions that are impossible for us to police or transform. This is a game that the intelligence agencies of our opponents seem to play quite well.

    Muttering about whether hardened killers like Baradar or KSM should be shouted at, slapped, or waterboarded is well beyond the point. Frankly, they are both self-declared enemies of the United States. We could have simply and justifiably shot them dead on sight. The notion of whether we can get anything useful out of them is more important, and that is certainly arguable on a case by case basis.

  158. It’s really quite simple. The US is signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which thus has the force of law. This defines torture quite clearly: “torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental…” Note that things like Koran desecration are obviously not torture but might well be considerered degrading treatment — but in any case, such issues are smokescreens that mask the actual torture being done in your name and mine.

    Such actions are illegal and the people who engage in or enable them are war criminals who deserve to be hauled in front of a latter-day Nuremberg tribunal. End of story. It doesn’t matter a bit if esr thinks torture should be defined differently, or if he gets a chubby at the image of his beloved government putting a scare into some jihadis.

  159. >Cut the emotional morality bullshit over “being as bad as them” and deal with it. We are no more ‘like them’ for torturing, than a woman is like a murderer because she shot a rapist.

    I won’t claim to speak for others, but “as bad as them” is not my main concern. It’s what torture does to the people and governments who employ it that concerns me.

  160. “This defines torture quite clearly: ‘torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental…It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.'”

    FTFY.

  161. I minimally agree with esr’s point in this post (which a broad swath of ninnies seemed to have missed entirely). Basically, Eric seems to be saying that if we don’t devise some sort of generally acceptable method of obtaining actionable intel, then the only way to wage an existential war against our enemies is by scorched earth and wholesale destruction.

    Likewise, if we don’t draw up a few rules on coercive techniques, then there will be *no* rules. We’ll make arrangements for them to be interrogated in jurisdictions that allow far more brutal leeway in questioning. What’s missing is the fact that whatever info our “allies” gather via these methods will be functionally less useful to us anyway. We can’t have Pakistani spooks running our interrogations for us. We still have trouble sharing information among our own national agencies, for crying out loud. Their spooks aren’t going to provide our spooks with anything but political tokens, and will keep the juiciest actionable intel to themselves for use in pursuing their interests. That is the reality of information warfare.

  162. Forced isolation is actually permanently damaging. You say that liberals are trivializing the badness of torture by calling these things torture, but I that you’re trivializing the badness of a range of abuses which are just as bad as torture. You’re only one step away from the rather empty proclamations by O’Reilly and Beck that they would love to be waterboarded. You do acknowledge that voluntariness makes a difference to the severity of these punishments, but you’re still underrating how damaging they are based on your gut feelings.

    Since you’ll just deny that forced isolation is permanently damaging, here is an article which discusses its effects. http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/140/11/1450

    I might also point out that the loud music is permanently damaging to hearing when played at the volumes and durations that they do at Guantanamo, and that the various other forms of abuse are probably emotionally traumatizing. Perhaps you have never been emotionally traumatized, which is why you think that it’s the kind of harm which is not permanent.

  163. >The pious anti-torture crusaders, the “economic-justice” cod-Marxists, the no-growth environmentalists, the gun banners,

    One of these things is not like the others. We ban cruel and unusual punishments for a reason, and torture is a crime. We were able to get information out of captive Nazis and Japanese imperial troops without adopting their methods.

  164. But there are “generally acceptable methods of obtaining actionable intel”, and torture and abuse are not among them:

    I spoke to numerous counterterrorist officials from agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Their conclusion is unanimous: not only have coercive methods failed to generate significant and actionable intelligence, they have also caused the squandering of resources on a massive scale through false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts—with Abu Zubaydah’s case one of the most glaring examples.
    Here, they say, far from exposing a deadly plot, all torture did was lead to more torture of his supposed accomplices while also providing some misleading “information” that boosted the administration’s argument for invading Iraq.

  165. Eric, with respect, it would be advisable to clarify what you mean when you say ‘sexual humiliation’ is not torture. There are people who would read that out of and make it sound like you are saying that it’s okay to rape terror suspects. So elaborating on what you mean by this would forestall that.

  166. > We were able to get information out of captive Nazis and Japanese imperial troops without adopting their methods.

    Don’t romaticize our forebears.

    I’ve read that when we captured someone high level in WWII they got tortured in secret. Maybe it’s not true. But back then we could actually keep secrets, it was an existential war, and our leaders (FDR and Churchill) were two or three orders of magnitude more ruthless than, say, W.

    Google for “Allies torture WWII”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_war_crimes_during_World_War_II#United_Kingdom

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_war_crimes_during_World_War_II#United_States

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-05-13/how-torture-helped-win-wwii/

    This one tries to debunk the previous one: http://2parse.com/?p=2912

    I say tries to debunk because I don’t believe one can debunk an bunch of opinions with another bunch of opinions. I’ve never been able to do it, often as I’ve tried.

    BTW, there is some backing for the position that torture produces false information:

    http://www.juliansanchez.com/2009/05/05/how-torture-helped-the-allies-in-wwii/

    There are other links, pro and con.

    Yours,
    Tom

  167. > Note: I would jump at the chance to take SERE training. Is there any way a civ can get it?

    > Me thinks ESR just volunteered to undergo water boarding.

    Me too.

  168. >Since you’ll just deny that forced isolation is permanently damaging,

    I won’t “deny”, I’ll treat that as evidence and do some research of my own to check.

  169. >Eric, with respect, it would be advisable to clarify what you mean when you say ’sexual humiliation’ is not torture.

    Good point. I was not intending to encompass rape or any form of coerced sexual act, but rather such ploys as wrapping a jihadi’s head specifically in female underwear, which these ignorant fucks consider ritually unclean. Squicks ‘em out something awful, or so I hear.

  170. >Me thinks ESR just volunteered to undergo water boarding.

    I suppose I have, though I wasn’t thinking of it in those terms and don’t intend to thump my chest about it the way your conservative betes noires apparently have.

    I’ve done some pretty hard martial arts training, including some from an ex-Special-Forces guy. I’d like to do SERE, not to score macho points with anyone and not to prove any definitional points about torture, but as the next step up. To meet the challenge, to prove to myself that I can hack it, for myself.

  171. It’s what torture does to the people and governments who employ it that concerns me.

    It concerns me too. Thoroughly vet, and constantly monitor, the people that administer the torture.

    And to head off the inevitable “but who monitors the monitors?” retort – have a few layers of monitors….whatever it takes to raise confidence in the practical inability of such a structure to collude….but don’t allow the childish “yeah but, yeah but, yeah but” protestations of the infantilized to result in paralysis. The job needs to be done, and done as clinically and efficiently as possible. Yes, we must always make sure that sadism doesn’t pollute the effort, but I won’t entirely begrudge a man that enjoys his work…so long as he gets results when they count.

    Oh yeah…to all you “torture doesn’t work” bullshit artists….5 minutes and a toilet plunger….that’s all it would take to break you.

  172. Tom wrote:

    Gee, Glen, I would think you would have learned not to try the “name two” gambit in a world with Google.

    No, in the age of Google I’d love to be proven wrong with a link that actually demonstrates somebody doing what esr said he’s upset about. You gave me three links, *none* of which involved anybody in particular – anybody we can name – specifically calling Koran desecration or “sexual humiliation” torture.

    I don’t deny that you can find specific people who have *criticized* Koran desecration or “sexual humiliation”. Most of said criticisms seem to amount to that (a) it’s ineffective or counterproductive, (b) it’s degrading to us as well as the prisoners, and (c) it’s offensive to others who hear about it. What I have *not* yet seen is anybody specifically calling those acts “torture”. The closest we’ve got so far is your third link, which alleges that some anonymous military people think some “recently released FBI memos” call some “methods that exploit religion” torture. But doesn’t say who wrote the memos or exactly *which* methods that exploit religion are being called torture in the memos. And the relevant paragraph is poorly written enough to make me suspect it’s just an editing mistake and really what we’re talking about is the same thing as the other two links, a reference to a document that describes desecration/abuse *and* torture, in separate incidents. (I googled a bit and could neither confirm nor deny my interpretation, Though I admit I haven’t gone through all of these yet.)

    So we still don’t have a specific name to go with the claim. Yours don’t work. esr suggests Andrew Sullivan has done this; my google-fu hasn’t yet found him doing it (though it did find him criticizing torture and our odd habit of calling things torture when other countries do it that we don’t call torture when we do it.

    The point of “name two” is to make the accusation more concrete. It’s a poor tactic if there actually *are* people who hold the view being criticized, but not if there aren’t.

    What I think is *actually* happening is that strange charges like sexual humiliation and Koran-desecration are salacious – they were briefly attention-grabbing or newsworthy in a way that beatings weren’t. So the ACLU and other organizations wrote press releases and articles mentioning these wacky/sexy/strange new charges in order to draw renewed attention to the old/predictable/depressing old charges everybody was bored over – the fact that we were still torturing people regularly. And then partisan hacks who weren’t reading closely or weren’t writing well managed to blur the distinction in news reports on the press releases.

    If nobody holds this view for real – even if a couple AP stories have implied they might – it’s unlikely that said view is or was influencing policy.

  173. You know, there is something very old school about Eric’s blog.

    Like, we are all sitting in a big air conditioned computer room, typing these messages in on monochromatic dumb terminals (either amber or green) on a mainframe, circa 1979 on something like a DEC VAX system, with Eric being the sysop.

    The only thing that could complete it is you had some old school games on here like Spacewar.

    God, where do I come up with this stuff?

  174. Oh yeah…to all you “torture doesn’t work” bullshit artists….5 minutes and a toilet plunger….that’s all it would take to break you.

    If I *knew anything*, asking politely would find that out at least as quickly. The real question is how long would it take to “break me” into admitting guilt and complicity in lots of strange plans if I *don’t* know anything.

    Jim Henley said some of this better in histicking bombast essay.

  175. Glen,

    I dunno, I think my links are examples of what Eric is complaining about. They deliberately blur the line between prisoner abuse (which is bad) and torture (which is worse). But both are supposed to be illegal, right? I would argue that Koran desecration and “sexual humiliation” when used in an interrogation are neither prisoner abuse nor torture and neither should be illegal. (With Eric’s stated limitation on what “sexual humiliation” is, of course.) And if they are simply used to browbeat prisoners, then they are prisoner abuse.

    It is not pleasant to be interrogated. Normal police interrogations, which use none of these methods, also produce false confessions. Regularly. See How Police Interrogation Works It’s a pretty cool read. Does this mean that normal police interrogations are torture? Are they prisoner abuse? I don’t think so. Do you? Here are some questions the author of the piece asked:

    > The real question is probably a much larger one: Can police interrogation ever be a fair process? How can a system designed to manipulate a suspect into confessing be non-coercive? The debate about the fairness and morality of police interrogation techniques is an ongoing one, with several issues at the forefront.

    BTW, I think what I’m doing here is what Eric wants out of a discussion of interrogation methods. It’s not what he gets. See above.

    Yours,
    Tom

  176. Oh yeah…to all you “torture doesn’t work” bullshit artists….5 minutes and a toilet plunger….that’s all it would take to break you.

    I will not be spoken to in that tone of voice; I say that you have just excused yourself from the civil, rational discussion taking place here.

  177. > I will not be spoken to in that tone of voice; I say that you have just excused yourself from the civil, rational discussion taking place here.

    Hear, hear!

  178. Eric seems to be saying that if we don’t devise some sort of generally acceptable method of obtaining actionable intel, then the only way to wage an existential war against our enemies is by scorched earth and wholesale destruction.

    i wasn’t quite certain that this was what he was saying. but personally, i’ve never understood why “scorched earth and wholesale destruction” isn’t the valid, even preferred, approach. we’ve got the world’s best-trained, best-equipped, most powerful military — take it off the leash, fer chrissake, and teach someone a lesson. fucking around just wastes time and money, and it leads to the perception that the U.S. is unwilling or unable to simply act.

    (yes, i realize this is off-topic from the torture debate. please continue.)

  179. Many people who object to torture often use the line that it is bad because it produces false confessions.

    No doubt this is true, but not all the time. Sometimes it produces real confessions and intelligence.

    I suspect this is true about all interrogation techniques; they sometimes produce false positives.

    My point is that this is a fig leaf; they do not object because of this, the real reason they object is because they feel it is immoral.

    I have sympathy with this argument, I just don’t think waterboarding is really torture.

    Christopher Hitchens volunteered and underwent waterboarding, as do Navy Seals.

    But no one would volunteer to undergo, say, having your fingernails pulled out with pliers, or being burned with a blowtorch.

  180. I will not be spoken to in that tone of voice; I say that you have just excused yourself from the civil, rational discussion taking place here.

    Oh dear. Preen, preen, preen. Delicate little princess.

  181. Look, the techniques we are discussing isn’t about “admitting guilt or complicity.” The people they’ve been used on aren’t suspects, they are publicly declared enemies of State. To be intellectually honest about this, we have to at least admit that, no matter what side one falls on.

    Frankly, the people who will be subjected to these interrogation methods will fall into an overlapping Venn of hardened veteran jihadis and prissy, privileged, rebellious youths like Abdulmutallab. Frankly, there’s a lot of overlap there. Most of the jihadi command structure consists of privileged Che Gueverra styled rebels. It will take more to break some of these people then others, but it’s almost certain that the most useful information will come from men who grew up with a silver spoon in their mouths, lived their entire lives with servants and had ample physical and psychological comforts even in the context of their paramilitary service. Frankly, the declassified info so far seems to support the idea that waterboarding KSM “worked” in terms of uncovering active cells and ongoing plots, including two big ones here in NYC.

    These guys don’t really crave death for themselves; only for their subordinates, who they see as chattel. I do not think they can endure discomfort, even at the level of an average first world citizen, because most of the ringleaders grew up swaddled in a sort of wealth and privilege that I have trouble imagining. Let’s not hamstring ourselves on methods that actually work on a case by case basis. Considering the cult of murder that some of these men have sworn themselves to, there is no reason they should drawing breath at all. They could have easily been shot on sight, or blown up with a drone. The sole reason to capture them is for intel.

  182. What I think is *actually* happening is that strange charges like sexual humiliation and Koran-desecration are salacious – they were briefly attention-grabbing or newsworthy in a way that beatings weren’t. So the ACLU and other organizations wrote press releases and articles mentioning these wacky/sexy/strange new charges in order to draw renewed attention to the old/predictable/depressing old charges everybody was bored over – the fact that we were still torturing people regularly. And then partisan hacks who weren’t reading closely or weren’t writing well managed to blur the distinction in news reports on the press releases.

    And when the ACLU, etc. wrote those press releases and articles, what they accomplished was not “draw[ing] new attention to the old…charges” but discrediting all the charges they ever made, including the old ones. And that is what Eric is trying to tell you. He’s repeated it over and over. Why is it so hard?

    When you mix faux charges with real ones, you do not re-emphasize the real ones, you trivialize them. If desecrating a Koran is just as bad as pulling out fingernails, then pulling out fingernails is no worse than desecrating a Koran. The relations are always reflexive and commutative.

    Regards,
    Ric

  183. Likewise, if we don’t draw up a few rules on coercive techniques, then there will be *no* rules.

    But there are rules, which our country signed into law in 1929: the Third Geneva Convention.

    Bear in mind that under our system of government, all signed treaties are law and they have a legal status that even the Constitution doesn’t override.

  184. But the Geneva convention does not apply to terrorists, morgan.

    It applies to regular soldiers wearing the uniform of their country.

  185. But there are rules, which our country signed into law in 1929: the Third Geneva Convention.

    ….and when we’re dealing with people that abide by such a convention, then those rules will apply.

    If ever there was something antiquated and outmoded, it’s the GC – we should dump it.

  186. But the Geneva convention does not apply to terrorists, morgan.

    Um, yes, they do. See the commentary for the 4th Geneva Convention which states:

    [e]very person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, or again, a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law. We feel that this is a satisfactory solution – not only satisfying to the mind, but also, and above all, satisfactory from the humanitarian point of view

    This was quoted in the 1998 Celebici judgement. Parroting Rush Limbaugh and George “my daddy paid off Yale or I would’ve flunked” W. Bush makes you look stupid.

  187. ….and when we’re dealing with people that abide by such a convention, then those rules will apply.

    If ever there was something antiquated and outmoded, it’s the GC – we should dump it.

    Now that’s a more reasonable argument. However, there is no provision for repealing laws created by the signing of treaties. Treaty law is higher than even Constitution. The only way we’re going to get rid of the Geneva Conventions is if we sign a new treaty with all of Geneva Convention’s member countries that repeals its provisions. Good luck with that.

  188. morgan, no bullshit treaty overrides the constitution, first of all.

    And you parroting Keith Olbermann ‘america is always to blame’ makes you sound like a tampon wearing cunt.

  189. > But the Geneva convention does not apply to terrorists, morgan.

    Yes, precisely so. These rules were intended to apply to regular infantry, not transnational irregulars, operating outside any established law. The language about “civilians” and “medical personnel” should be a clues that they are referring to support personnel and non-combatants swept up in the conflict. It’s outrageous to consider the IED bomber or transnational jihadi in these terms. It simply doesn’t conform to reality, Morgan.

  190. However, there is no provision for repealing laws created by the signing of treaties.

    Signing a treaty means nothing until the Senate ratifies it by law.

    It can unratify it.

  191. This notion that treaties override the Constitution is ludicrous.

    To think that the Founders would craft a system of protections for our rights, only to allow them to be ripped away by foreign powers? Absurd. Of course, they probably never considered the possibility that DC would become a hive of traitors.

  192. Treaty does not override the Constitution, Morgan. A treaty can be found to be unconstitutional, since international agreements can run astride of our established rights. Moreover, protections of the Constitution do not apply to non-citizens. This is by purely reasonable design. If an individual is not a party to the agreement, then they cannot claim benefit of it.

    There are gray areas, of course. But when it comes to jihadis, we are talking about individuals who aren’t only “not party to the agreement,” but are actively engaged in conflict with it. Also, they do so not because of any thrust of history (“I was just following orders”), but rather in personal allegiance to stateless credo. Honestly, there is no clear reason why they shouldn’t be shot on sight when identified. The only reason to capture them is if the information gap can be closed. This is not a rational foe, nor is it one that can be pacified by treaty. Geneva only addresses rational foes, because it cannot work otherwise.

  193. What Dan said.

    No treaty will ever, ever be allowed to trump our founding documents.

    How little you understand we Americans.

  194. > And Eric is complaining about things that aren’t torture being called torture because, among other things, it makes it hard to fight real torture.
    Eric is right about that, grendelkhan. It does make it hard to fight real torture.

    And other people are complaining about things that are torture called interrogation because, among other things, it makes it easier to torture.

    As a side note, I’m somewhat surprised Darrencardinal’s vulgarities are tolerated.

  195. > I do not believe the U.S. will ever again be at war against a civilized nation — that is, as opposed to a thugocracy that uses
    > torture as a matter of course. Accordingly, the argument that we need to have set a good example in the previous war loses its
    > force.

    Can you be sure of that….are you willing to put the future men and women of our military in peril just because we *might* get some good intel from torture? Ask someone who has done interrogation, professionally, if torture works. They will all tell it doesn’t, because the quality of the intel sucks. In your security theatre scenario of the nuke being on a countdown timer, and you have the bomber who knows how to deactivate it in your hands, and you feel that torture will deliver that information to you, that is a fools bet. Torture the person, and he/she is as likely to give you the right way to do it as they are to give you the wrong way to quickly end their suffering. Besides, most torture is not about information, it is about retribution against an enemy.

  196. Farrell, the people that we are going up against are going to torture our people if they capture them, no matter what we do or don’t do.

    These people come from a medieval 10th century theocratic world that modern people like us can barely relate to. But the 10th century with bombs and machine guns.

    They are not looking to us for examples for their behaviour. They are going to torture our people. You don’t want to admit this but it is true.

    The lives of our military are in peril if they our captured. We must be serious about this problem.

  197. >And when the ACLU, etc. wrote those press releases and articles, what they accomplished was not “draw[ing] new attention to the old…charges” but discrediting all the charges they ever made, including the old ones. And that is what Eric is trying to tell you.

    Correct. By trivializing torture in this way, the ACLU has actually increased the chances that it will be institutionalized. This is gentry-liberal fecklessness in its most virulent form, and circles right back to my original point.

  198. The problem with the original piece is that esr lumps “torture” in with other limousine liberal causes, without defining what he feels qualifies as torture and what doesn’t and apparently ignoring the excesses that have been committed by the US. He then tries to backtrack a bit in the comments, while still equivocating on what precisely qualifies as torture. A lot of what is being done in Gitmo is fairly close to torture: if it weren’t, they wouldn’t be doing it. I understand why it generally doesn’t work, though obviously some here take one or two isolated cases and extrapolate that it’s more worthwhile than it is. The argument that the only alternatives are to give prisoners up to the Pakistanis or kill them are pure nonsense, not to mention those creating imaginary doomsday scenarios of torture or death by ticking bomb, alarmism frankly similar to the global warmists. It is interesting that the tack taken by the pro-torture crowd is similar to Obama on health-care reform, we know better than you, despite all evidence to the contrary.

    As for the subject esr would like to change it back to, I think such liberal ignorance is because of the specialization that Adam Smith warned about long ago. Although the liberals are right about the torture issue, they generally have no real understanding of economic issues because they tend to specialize in narrow disciplines, shielded from the market because they’re generally coddled by large organizations that use their specialized skills, like newspapers or large multinationals or academia. Well, the internet is driving a shift where such large organizations and existing information businesses are becoming dinosaurs, as we first saw with music and newspapers but that will spread widely to technology and TV and every other market. This will force newly independent information workers to personally deal with the market and economic issues much more than they had to before, which should relieve them of their ignorance.

  199. Torture the person, and he/she is as likely to give you the right way to do it as they are to give you the wrong way to quickly end their suffering…

    These people come from a medieval 10th century theocratic world that modern people like us can barely relate to.

    Both of these assessments strike me as wrong. The average foot soldier of the Asia Minor native has been programmed “10th century”, but not the upper-class, Western-educated tactician or suicide bomber. The latter is the one who will have the best info, and is also more likely to fold under pressure. These are folks who’ve never struggled with the world of the Real, let alone been waterboarded. They are the ones who send fools on suicide missions, not the ones strapping themselves with bombs. If KSM was broken by some of these techniques (and there is much evidence he was) then they are good techniques. And before we started using them, they were beheading non-combatants on webcam, so there’s no quid pro quo at work here… these are enemies who exceed the limits of reason.

  200. >But no one would volunteer to undergo, say, having your fingernails pulled out with pliers, or being burned with a blowtorch.

    The people who volunteered to be waterboarded were able to stop the interrogation at any time. This is not the same thing as being waterboarded until your captors are ‘satisfied’ that you are telling the truth. What if you tell them you don’t know anything? They’re going to keep going until they believe you are telling the truth. This is not the same thing as a publicity stunt where it’s 100% voluntary and can be stopped at any time.

  201. The reason that the United States of America never tortures its prisoners is because it wants surrender to be an attractive option to enemy combatants.

    I see nothing in the current situation which abrogates that principle.

  202. >I have sympathy with this argument, I just don’t think waterboarding is really torture.

    If it was torture when our enemies did it to us, it’s torture when we do it to them. If you guys want a word that is restricted to “torture that causes permanent disfigurement and/or continuing pain”, you can say that phrase or you can invent a new word of your own, because the word “torture” already *has* a perfectly fine and well-established meaning.

    BTW, when I mentioned “threats” way way earlier in the discussion I think that might have been what confused Tom into thinking I was confounding torture with normal interrogation technique. By “threats” I meant the kind of threats that *do* constitute torture. Not “we’re going to keep you here until you talk” type threats. More like “The Egyptian authorities have your wife and son and are going to kill them” type threats. The FBI explicitly lists this in their analysis of what was and wasn’t torture and what was or wasn’t constitutional. Category 3, part 1: “Use of scenarios designed to convince detainee that death or severe pain is imminent for him or his family.” The FBI believes this technique “may violate 18 U.S.C s 2340 (Torture Statute). Oddly enough, the FBI memo I got this from didn’t mention sexual or religious silliness in their collection of “might-be-torture” tactics. (source)

    > Frankly, the declassified info so far seems to support the idea that waterboarding KSM “worked” in terms of uncovering active cells and ongoing plots, including two big ones here in NYC.

    Can you be more specific about that? Do you have a link? If you mean the claim about breaking up the Guraba Cell and foiling an attack in LA, here’s a takedown; the cell was broken up in 2002 but KSM wasn’t arrested until 2003 so the timeline doesn’t work. So if your allegations included that claim, they aren’t credible.

    “The people they’ve been used on aren’t suspects, they are publicly declared enemies of State.”

    They *are* suspects. If they had actually *done* anything or admitted to anything we wouldn’t have needed all this whining about how it was impossible to try them in a regular criminal court because the only evidence we had was what we got from torture. And if they were “publicly declared” why would we need to torture or otherwise coerce them before we got them to admit (and/or invent) ties to our enemies? Which we did in many cases.

    Besides, what does it really *mean* to be “publicly declared enemies of State”? Heck, I’m an anarchocapitalist so presumably the State is my enemy too. I might even have a copy of Our Enemy, the State lying around here somewhere. Does that mean you think I should be tortured too? What’s your criteria for deciding that somebody is in this new okay-to-torture category you’ve just invented? Do you just trust that if the military says they’re an enemy, they are? No trial needed, not even a “military tribunal”? No admission of guilt? If somebody ended up at Gitmo who claimed he was just a cab driver with no particular political leanings, is there anything he could do or say to convince you he *wasn’t* in this category? Maybe we could come up with a slogan they could say on TV, like “I love America! Death to all muslim oppressors!” and thereby redeem themselves… :-(

  203. Allow me to drop my hostile tone for a moment and ask an honest question.

    You guys are mostly libertarians of one sort or another, right? You don’t trust the state, you want it to be small, its powers rigorously constrained by law, the servant rather than the master of the people. Or so I assume.

    The question is, how do you square those beliefs with your fervent desire to grant the state powers of violence that all civilized societies have forsworn? The power to invade and violate the most intimate crevasses of the body and the mind? The power to create unimaginable levels of suffering? A torture state seems to me to be the antithesis of a libertarian state. Obviously you don’t see it that way. Perhaps you can explain to me how you square this circle, because I am truly curious.

    Maybe you imagine that governments that grow used to deploying this torture will only use it on foreign brown people. If so, I would maintain that this displays a naiveté about state power that libertarians ought to see through. We have already had US citizens (José Padilla) tortured into insanity without the benefit of a trial. Whether he was guilty or not is not the issue — the point is, libertarians generally should be uncomfortable with the government having unconstrained power to imprison and torture citizens. That’s why we have habeus corpus, the bill of rights, and other legal protections that constrain the natural tendency of states to become despotic.

    If in fact torture turns out to be a great instrument to use against jihadis, I imagine it will next be directed at drug cartels, who pose an even larger and more intractable security problem. And if you can use it on drug cartels, why not on the customers?

  204. Goddinpotty at 2.09 has an important point.

    In the UK, invasion-of-privacy laws enacted (allegedly) in order to fight terrorism are used by local councils to inspect the citizen’s proper waste recycling behavior.

  205. ESR, one more point – I sent it earlier into the comment thread, but I believe that it was overlooked; it seems relevant to me…

    You want to scare a jihadi shitless by the very thought of Gitmo. How do you want to achieve this in an average Arab country, or in Pakistan?

    The secret services of Arab countries or Pakistan are profoundly more unrestrained in their choice of methods and have much worse reputation than Gitmo ever realistically could. So, an Arab or Pakistani mujahid can never rank Gitmo high enough in his set of threats; he will always stand against more dangerous adversaries.

  206. > The people they’ve been used on aren’t suspects, they are publicly declared enemies of State.

    Either that, or they were random suckers in Afghanistan who were sold to the US Army by tribal enemies who wanted to collect the bounty on terrorists that Uncle Sam was handing out.

  207. Let me also point out that the clowns who tried to knock down the WTC towers with the truck bomb were tried and convicted in civilian courts, and they’re serving life sentences. What exactly is so dangerous about processing the later perps like the shoe bomber and the underpants bomber the same way? Hell, we tried, convicted and executed McVeigh and Kaczinski, too.

  208. > Correct. By trivializing torture in this way, the ACLU has actually increased the chances that it will be institutionalized. This is gentry-liberal fecklessness in its most virulent form, and circles right back to my original point.

    I read you as making the same error in your original post: You damned the gentry-liberals for forcing us to choose between evils – and implied that holding Barader under the gentry-liberal version of a no-torture policy was a greater evil than handing him over to Pakistan for torture. By trivializing torture in that way, you have actually increased the chances that it will be institutionalized.

  209. Shenpen: But that’s just the most primitive version of it. I’ve read many _intellectual_ Conservatives and neither even tried to say anything like that.

    ESR is separated from Republicans mainly by a bunch of lifestyle issues, but united with them by the perception that pretty much everything bad that’s happened since mumblety-whenever is the fault of quantum liberals.

    I think that’ll matter more when the chips are down.

  210. Is there any scientific evidence that torture actually works? Because there’s surely a cost to be paid for torturing information out of a captive. Whether it’s expressed as a moral weariness, or as a reduced surrender rate, or as a larger acceptance of torture, there’s a cost to be paid by the troops. Is it worth it?

  211. Russell, you are confusing two different concepts. Whether something works and whether it is worth it. In my opinion, the second thing should matter more, at least in civilized societies.

    We outlaw a lot of things that work, at least in short term, because we need stability in long term.

    If my boss makes me angry, killing him would definitely “work”, but it is undesirable to allow such account-settling (although in different cultures it could well be endorsed – think of the old Norse tribes).

  212. Some Guy: The rules of evidence in civilian court mean that the defendant must be given access to the evidence against him. When we’ve tried al Qaeda terrorists in civilian court, the hard-won knowledge has gone right back to al Qaeda command, and has made it significantly harder to catch or kill them and shut them down for good.

    Terrorists are making war on the US. We need to make war back on them, using all of the power and fury available to us. We need to convince terrorists that attacking Americans is a good way to get themselves messily dead and their cause wiped out. Collecting intelligence in any way we can is fundamentally necessary to that. If we’re stopped from doing it ourselves, we can always hand the terrorist over to someone who’s not so squeamish about getting results.

  213. Either that, or they were random suckers in Afghanistan who were sold to the US Army by tribal enemies who wanted to collect the bounty on terrorists that Uncle Sam was handing out.

    Well, this strikes as being rather like some of the “what if the sky isn’t blue” scenarios Glen Raphael uses above. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed isn’t some bus driver swept up in a dragnet. He’s a flesh-and-blood founding member of Al Qaeda who butchered Daniel Pearl on camera. Again, there is no rational reason to capture a KSM, an Abu Zubaydah a Hambali, a Bin al Shib or even a Bin Laden except to squeeze them for intel. Our armed forces have killed thousands of their jihadi soliders on the battlefield, and assassinated many of their commanders with drone attacks. The only reason to try to capture the top commanders alive is to extract whatever information from them we can. They don’t possess rights to a public civil trial that Eric Holder or Barrack Obama (or George Bush, fo that matter) dream up for them. Frankly it is beneath contempt to think that they could get a remotely fair one, considering:

    1) We’ve all seen and heard KSM declare war on the United States, and he has never denied his identity or motives. One would have to twist reality until it bent in half to believe that Khalid is some sort of fall-guy in some sort of Western Rube Goldberg conspiracy. If you believe this could even possibly be the case, then state-sanctioned torture is the least of your problems. If this is your null hypothesis, why believe we would follow any rule at all? It is much simpler to imagine the worst propaganda about the United States, move to Yemen and load your AK-47. Be forewarned: the jihadis themselves will be very confused by your version of reality, in which their professed leaders and spiritual champions are actually innocent cab drivers being forced to confess to imaginary crimes by shadowy American imperials.

    2) The President of the United States announced that “I don’t think it will be offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.” Talk about tainting a jury pool. Basically Obama admitted what we all already know: any civilian trial of KSM will be a kangaroo court and a show trial. That’s a perversion of our justice system for political gain, not a defense of it.

    Our enemies will call it a mockery of justice, and for once they’ll actually be right. Why load their rhetorical cannon for them?

  214. Is there any scientific evidence that torture actually works?

    What form of ‘science’ would you like? Ultimately it comes down to willpower – a treacherous area for ‘science’ at best – and a subjective calculus to decide when spilling the beans is the wisest thing to do.

    There are those that will break if you stare hard at them, or give them a slap. Others need drugs to loosen them up. Others may need more severe coercion. Some will never break. The skilled torturer will be able to figure out which kind of person he’s dealing with and adjust his methodology accordingly – which includes stopping the torture, logically.

    A reasonable ‘scientific’ approach could be to simply ask people if they can imagine divulging a deep secret under duress. I suspect most people would honestly answer “yes”. If science can be considered as a quest for truth, and people truthfully reflect upon what could break them and why, that is valuable scientific knowledge. Data points. True, there’s no formal model for it, but the scientific quest has to begin somewhere.

    Personally, I would like to see advanced research done into drugs and virtual reality. Make them think their family is standing in front of them. Virtually execute them, horrifically. Play on every nightmarish thought. Obviously that’s at the extreme end of the coercive scale. The advantage with drug-enhanced virtual torture is it can go on indefinitely. You can only physically punch a person so much, or cut off so many body parts.

    You might even be able to convince them they’re talking to their comrades, and trick them into divulging information that way. It doesn’t all have to be horror and brutality….although they deserve no better.

  215. Talk about tainting a jury pool. Basically Obama admitted what we all already know: any civilian trial of KSM will be a kangaroo court and a show trial.

    And this is what will be used as a primary defense of KSM. If his trial is thrown out, and KSM has to be freed, Obama is fucked.

  216. Re treaties…they’re certainly -equal- to the Consitution, or close to it.

    Article VI, section 2:

    This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

  217. any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding

    That’s the key right there. Unconstitutional treaties can be tossed like a dwarf.

  218. >That’s the key right there. Unconstitutional treaties can be tossed like a dwarf.

    You have the sense of “notwithstanding” backwards, Dan. That article says that treaties override state constitutions and laws. It does not say that they override the Federal constitution. I do not know whether the latter issue has been tested.

  219. #jrok:

    Yes, precisely so. These rules were intended to apply to regular infantry, not transnational irregulars, operating outside any established law. The language about “civilians” and “medical personnel” should be a clues that they are referring to support personnel and non-combatants swept up in the conflict. It’s outrageous to consider the IED bomber or transnational jihadi in these terms. It simply doesn’t conform to reality, Morgan.

    See my earlier comment, and read the quoted text, carefully. The authors of the GC already foresaw this problem and hence commented on it. This was used in the precedent-setting Celebici decision.

    #Joshua said:

    This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

    (empahsis mine)

    Thanks, Joshua, I see at least someone around here didn’t fail their high school civics class…

    The Geneva Conventions have never been ruled uconstitutional, nor are they likely to. They seek merely to protect the rights of enemy soldiers, civilians, military personnel, etc., and are actually nearly synoptic with Bill of Rights.

  220. #esr says:

    It does not say that they override the Federal constitution. I do not know whether the latter issue has been tested.

    Sure it does. It says that “all Treaties…shall be the supreme Law of the Land”.

  221. Oops. Mea culpa. English comprehension FAIL.

    However, as you state, it does not say that treaties override the US Constitution. It would seem that it leaves treaties on an equal footing to the US Constitution and US law. The question then becomes, how do you reconcile them?

    To answer that, I would reflect back on a previous comment of mine where I consider it absurd that the Founders would erect a system of protection for our rights, only to allow them to be vetoed from outside.

    Firstly, the President is sworn to uphold and defend our Constitution…therefore his signature on a treaty that directly contradicts the Constitution is prima facie evidence of a breach of his oath of office, and arguably grounds for impeachment. Similarly, our Senators are sworn to uphold the Constitution, therefore should face a similar fate should they ratify a treaty that violates the Constitution.

    Finally, all ratification of treaties constitutes an Act of our legislature. No such Act is immutable, and can be subsequently repealed.

    As I also mused – the Founders probably never considered the possibility that any President or Senate would willingly betray the Constitution and the People they serve. If they could meet our current breed of traitorous wretches I’m sure they would start investing in portable gallows ;)

  222. Sure it does. It says that “all Treaties…shall be the supreme Law of the Land”.

    No. It declares that all three – US Constitution, US law, and Treaties – shall be the supreme Law of the Land. There is no indication of precedence there….hence my subsequent argument for how such things should be resolved.

  223. >Sure it does. It says that “all Treaties…shall be the supreme Law of the Land”.

    Um…whiting out the Constitution, Morgan? I’d have expected better from you.

    What “shall be the law of the land” is a conjunction of the “Constitution” and of “Treaties made”. Article VI specifies both as sources of law, but does not explicitly specify what happens if treaty language conflicts with the (Federal) Constitution. It does specify that treaty language overrides state constitutions.

    Dan thinks Article VI also specifies U.S. laws as a third coequal source of authority, but he is incorrect. Their authority, as described, is derived from and subordinate to that of the Constitution. That’s what the “pursuant” connective means.

    On the other hand, Dan is correct that the President’s primary sworn duty is to the Constitution of the United States. This, and the fact that the Constitution is listed first, do suggest the intention that the Constitution overrides treaty language.

    I think that to understand this provision you need to bear in mind that the Founders envisioned a system with much stronger state governments and a much weaker Federal government than we ended up with. The intention was to make it possible for the weak Federal government to conduct foreign policy without giving state legislatures an effective veto over treaty provisions.

  224. As an aside, I find it more than faintly ironic that somebody like Morgan would defend the GC, considering its originators…how strange those bedfellows must be ;)

  225. Dan thinks Article VI also specifies U.S. laws as a third coequal source of authority, but he is incorrect. Their authority, as described, is derived from and subordinate to that of the Constitution. That’s what the “pursuant” connective means.

    No. I was literally interpreting the wording. They are declared coequal as “supreme laws of the land”, not coequal in terms of derivative authority. I am well aware that the law is subordinate to the Constitution.

  226. This, and the fact that the Constitution is listed first, do suggest the intention that the Constitution overrides treaty language.

    I always get itchy when people argue significance of positioning….it’s so….artistic and fickle.

  227. Torture might be a fine tool in the hands of an omnipotent state. If you have absolute certainty that a particular person in your custody knows a particular piece of information of value to you and that nobody else does, torture seems likely to increase the chance of getting that info from that person. Sure, there are cases where it would decrease it – make him less likely to talk or more likely to die first – but it seems reasonable to assume the short-term effect is to increase the chance of getting the info you want.

    But we don’t have an omnipotent state or anything close to it. Given that fact, torture only “works” reliably for the purpose it was designed – to extract confessions so you can reassure yourself that the people you caught are guilty. If you read the FBI memos, we applied torture – according to the common legal definition of the word – to just about everybody at Gitmo. Hundreds of people. Not just the three guys we got the most entertainingly medieval on. We don’t know that these people are all guilty. We tortured in order to extract the confession that they were all BFFs with Usama bin Laden. And some of them probably were. But the end result of torture in a scenario like that is that you know less than you started with. Suppose half of the guys there have met bin laden and none of them are talking. After you torture, you “know” that all of them have met bin laden – even the ones who haven’t. And you have the deepest suspicions of the people most likely to be innocent. Are they giving us just a tiny amount of mostly-inaccurate detail because they don’t know anything, or because they’re really good at resisting torture? Better torture them more, just to be safe!

    If the info you need *isn’t there to be had*, that is the most valuable info of all. But the info that a particular prisoner has nothing against us and would be happy to help in any way he could but doesn’t really know anything useful is impossible to extract via torture. In fact, it’s a little Heisenbergian – there are undoubtedly people we’ve captured who *weren’t* really our enemies until after we captured them and only now have a reasonable grievance against us.

    When the FBI thinks torture doesn’t “work”, that’s part of the calculation that goes into it. The claim “torture doesn’t work” means on balance a policy of torture makes us *less* likely to achieve our stated goals of getting *reliable* information. The reliable part matters more than the information part – it’s better to not know anything than to know five things that aren’t true.

    If torture were as effective as the torture-apologists think it is, the government would be able to give us *true* stories of intel that panned out as a result of it. And they would. The fact that they keep giving us *false* stories to that effect suggests to me that must not have been very effective.

    >>Is there any scientific evidence that torture actually works?
    >What form of ’science’ would you like? Ultimately it comes down to willpower

    I would say it ultimately comes down to math. People who believe in the omnipotent state should be willing to believe torture will work, because the state, being omnipotent, will know exactly who the guilty people are, whether they’re lying or telling the truth when they talk, and will know when there’s no point in torturing anymore because it will be counterproductive for any number of reasons.

    On the other hand, people who believe the state is fallible and corruptible should be deeply suspicious. When we include some uncertainty that the torturers know who is guilty and what the guilty people know and whether they are being lied to and some uncertainty that the torturers are themselves competent and well-intentioned and some uncertainty that the knowledge being sought after even exists, much less exists among the set of people being tortured, then the math doesn’t work.

  228. >Nobody wants to take a run at answering this question?

    You’ll have to ask a libertarian who advocates torture to do so. I qualify on the first prong, but not the second. Dan might be able to answer you.

  229. And this is what will be used as a primary defense of KSM. If his trial is thrown out, and KSM has to be freed, Obama is fucked.

    Yes, and this is why I predict a civilian trial will not happen. In what seems to be becoming the norm for this administration, Obama stacked his deck with ideologues whose unworkable policy preferences are butchering his governing authority on a daily basis. Holder is a classic example, but so is Becker – the NLRB pick Obama has been trying to ram through. These soi-disant dreamers weaken him horribly, and trying KSM & Co. in a kangaroo court – whether here in Manhattan, on the south side of Chicago or on the surface of the moon – will serve to destroy his credibility no matter what the outcome.

    Chances are, this trial balloon will be shot out of the sky at some point over the next couple of weeks. It has no upside, except for the sort of disconnected moral relativists on display here. That’s not worth much, either. As this chaste crowd regularly demonstrates, their affections are more fickle than the wind and harder to solidify than the surliest jihadi goon. They remind me of the signatories of the the Kellogg-Briand Pact, who had devised an ingenious method to end War by making it “illegal.” The same soapy and naive mentalities linger today, but alter reality not one inch. We have active engagements within national borders right now, but the actual enemy is transnational and perhaps post-national. There is no actual infrastructure to capture or capitals to occupy, and no treaty can be signed that ensures peace. Good intel (who, how, where and when) and is the only real weapon we can wield against an enemy with a transcendent ethos and no regard for their own lives.

  230. Dan writes:

    The skilled torturer will be able to figure out which kind of person he’s dealing with and adjust his methodology accordingly – which includes stopping the torture, logically.

    That phrase – “the skilled torturer” – bothers me. Specialists always think their specialty is the way to solve problems. Ask a surgeon for a suggestion to solve a problem, he’ll recommend surgery. Ask a torturer… I guess I’d rather we had skilled interrogators. Is somebody whose specialty is torture likely to be particularly good at the friendly approach? Or will he try stopping the torture, try to “build rapport” with the prisoner, not be very good at it, not get good results, and say “see, the only way to get info is to torture!” That might actually explain some of the logical disconnect between the FBI’s view and the military’s view: the skilled questioners and the skilled torturers have different maps of the problem space.

  231. #esr says:

    I think that to understand this provision you need to bear in mind that the Founders envisioned a system with much stronger state governments and a much weaker Federal government than we ended up with. The intention was to make it possible for the weak Federal government to conduct foreign policy without giving state legislatures an effective veto over treaty provisions.

    You’re right, of course. However, my understanding of how that particular provision reads comes from A) my college business law class and B) a friend of mine who happens to be a lawyer specializing in international law. I just spoke to my friend recently and he says that Treaty law doesn’t override the Constitution per se, but is to be taken on the same level. That still means that, effectively, every signed treaty is as almost as good as a Constitutional amendment. In some cases, I think that this does mean that treaty provisions can override aspects of the Constitution, but I guess it could come down to Supreme Court decision.

    In any case, it’s immaterial to the question at hand as the Geneva Conventions are not and have not been found to be unconstitutional.

  232. >That still means that, effectively, every signed treaty is as almost as good as a Constitutional amendment

    I’ve heard that position argued. It’s extremely dangerous to liberty. Here’s a scenario that is, alas, not entirely hypothetical:

    1. The usual gang of suspects at the U.N. drafts an arms-control treaty that requires signatories to ban civilian possession of small arms. As jrok points out, there’s no shortage of thugocracies sitting on the UNHRC that would love this outcome.

    2. A Democratic Congress ratifies the treaty and a Democratic president signs it.

    3. Second Amendment protections go poof.

    I say this isn’t entirely theoretical because I recall some trial balloons lofted among the gun-banners about actually trying this late in the second Clinton Administration, using a proposed treaty regulating the international arms trade as a wedge. The effort foundered; I’m not sure whether the treaty died a natural death in negotiations or whether Clinton (who later explained to Democrats that pushing for “gun control” had cost them the ’94 elections) strangled it.

    For those of you who don’t like guns, imagine a Moslem-backed U.N. treaty that requires signatories to criminalize defamation of religion and what that would do to the First Amendment.

    I’m pretty sure that if such a dispute ever went critical the Supremes would clear up Article VI in a hurry and give the Constitution unambiguous precedence over treaties. They’d have to, otherwise they’d be undermining their own authority.

  233. >Nobody wants to take a run at answering this question?

    You’ll have to ask a libertarian who advocates torture to do so. I qualify on the first prong, but not the second. Dan might be able to answer you.

    Sorry, I missed the question…to recap, it was:

    The question is, how do you square those beliefs with your fervent desire to grant the state powers of violence that all civilized societies have forsworn?

    I have never been too specific on exactly who does the torturing, all I really care about is that the quality and integrity of that entity is transparent. Given that we currently have a state mechanism for war and justice, there’s a reasonable relationship between the existing roles and the additional role of torture. If I had my druthers, it would be a job for highly specialized privateers, held to exacting legal standards – much the same way we have recruitment agencies, only with more screaming and gurgling.

    I see no more conflict between liberty and torture than I do between liberty and incarceration. If the liberty of another is to be stamped on, there had better be a very specific reason. If the defense of our civilizations liberty & security is at stake, and certain individuals are identified as key players, they had better get ready for their lives to take a distinct turn for the worse…unless they verifiably play ball.

  234. I guess I’d rather we had skilled interrogators

    Yes Glen, I agree. As I have said, torture is part of a toolkit. Specialized interrogators would be able to employ torture as and when they think prudent. Sharing a smoke and a beer might work also.

  235. Darrencardinal: But the Geneva convention does not apply to terrorists, morgan. It applies to regular soldiers wearing the uniform of their country.

    Is everyone just ignoring Hamdan v. Rumsfeld here for some reason I’m not privy to? And when did we suddenly become so keen on inventing a legal status for people which allows our government to disappear then with no trial, no process, just a secret star-chamber decision? Pitching enemies of the state down the memory hole doesn’t seem particularly libertarian, at first glance, but maybe there’s some subtlety I’m missing. It appears that “terrorism” is, after all, the root password to the libertarian mind.

    Jay Maynard: Some Guy: The rules of evidence in civilian court mean that the defendant must be given access to the evidence against him. When we’ve tried al Qaeda terrorists in civilian court, the hard-won knowledge has gone right back to al Qaeda command, and has made it significantly harder to catch or kill them and shut them down for good.

    It’s a bit saddening that you see the options as being either (a) open trial with classified evidence made public, and (b) secretly dropping them down the memory hole. There are systems such as the Classified Information Procedures Act for use in such instances; is there a specific instance you’re thinking of where, for example, CIPA has been used and yet some piece of classified information has been leaked? Can you cite one?

    jrok: The President of the United States announced that “I don’t think it will be offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.” Talk about tainting a jury pool. Basically Obama admitted what we all already know: any civilian trial of KSM will be a kangaroo court and a show trial. That’s a perversion of our justice system for political gain, not a defense of it.

    By your logic, Timothy McVeigh should have been disappeared and quietly executed somewhere, just like any famous criminal. And yet somehow famous people–infamous people, even–still retain their right to a fair trial.

  236. For those of you who don’t like guns, imagine a Moslem-backed U.N. treaty that requires signatories to criminalize defamation of religion and what that would do to the First Amendment.

    Didn’t they recently try this?

  237. Dan> Of course, they probably never considered the possibility that DC would become a hive of traitors.

    At least one did.

    “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.” — Thomas Jefferson

  238. @Don: That happens to be one of my very favorite Jefferson quotes. Jefferson is reminding us what the Second Amendment is really about.

  239. # grendelkahn says:

    Pitching enemies of the state down the memory hole doesn’t seem particularly libertarian, at first glance, but maybe there’s some subtlety I’m missing. It appears that “terrorism” is, after all, the root password to the libertarian mind.

    Thing is, grendelkahn, Darrencardinal isn’t a libertarian: he’s a right-wing conservative whose heroes include Rush Limbaugh and George W. Bush.

    By your logic, Timothy McVeigh should have been disappeared and quietly executed somewhere, just like any famous criminal. And yet somehow famous people–infamous people, even–still retain their right to a fair trial.

    While I agree with you 100%, do you really think that Timothy McVeigh got a fair trial? I don’t.

  240. I’ve heard that position argued. It’s extremely dangerous to liberty.

    It’s also conspiracy-theoretical nonsense. I’d heard this argument since I was fifteen years old and even then I knew, by referring to primary sources (i.e., the Constitution), that it wouldn’t wash. The treaty language in the Constitution does not specify “all Treaties”, but “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States”. According to any meaningful interpretation of constitutional law, the Authority of the United States ends at lines of demarcation established by the Constitution itself. Although, given enough Supreme Court justices appointed by a subscriber to the “just a G-D piece of paper” theory of Constitutional law, who knows how rigorously this principle will be followed in the future?

    Apparently the use of this language, and not the “in Pursuance thereof” language applied to federal laws, has to do with the continued effect of treaties entered into under the Articles of Confederation government.

  241. >>> Thing is, grendelkahn, Darrencardinal isn’t a libertarian: he’s a right-wing conservative whose heroes include Rush Limbaugh and George W. Bush.

    Damn straight, although W. could have done better than he did.

    This is one of the problems of the libertarian philosophy: it does not suggest anything in particular for the conduct of foreign policy. Or the handling of terrorists. Most of what I hear from libertarians on this front is of a nonserious nature.

    That is why, although I have sympathy for the libertarian idea, I am not a libertarian.

  242. >Most of what I hear from libertarians on this front is of a nonserious nature.

    Do you consider me an exception? I’m not fishing for a compliment here, I’m collecting data on whether I’m the outlier.

  243. Yes, Eric you are an exception.

    Despite your….. idiosyncrasies… you seem to have a realistic view of the problem, and how to deal with it.

  244. By your logic, Timothy McVeigh should have been disappeared and quietly executed somewhere, just like any famous criminal.

    McVeigh was a citizen. KSM is a foreign combatant, who the President has basically guaranteed will be convicted and executed following an expensive show trial. The open-court evidence against McVeigh did not compromise agents on foriegn soil, nor reveal State secrets. The comparison between the two fails on too many levels to bother pursuing. About the only thing they have in common is that they plotted to blow people up, and were successful in doing so.

  245. >>>> McVeigh was a citizen. KSM is a foreign combatant, who the President has basically guaranteed will be convicted and executed following an expensive show trial. The open-court evidence against McVeigh did not compromise agents on foriegn soil, no reveal State secrets. The comparison between the two fails on too many levels to bother pursuing. About the only thing they have in common is that they plotted to blow people up, and were successful in doing so.

    Good point, also there was no concern that McVeigh was part of a larger terror network that he might have had knowledge of.

  246. >Good point, also there was no concern that McVeigh was part of a larger terror network that he might have had knowledge of.

    Given the recent terrorist attack in Austin, maybe there should have been concern.

  247. >McVeigh was a citizen. KSM is a foreign combatant,

    This is an important distinction for which I can and will argue within the premises of statism. I don’t think the U.S. government has any obligation to give non-citizens the same rights as citizens. I grant one exception: non-citizen members of the U.S. armed forces, because they have sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

  248. >I don’t think the U.S. government has any obligation to give non-citizens the same rights as citizens.

    The US govt doesn’t have the obligation to “give” rights to anyone. What it does have is an obligation not to violate rights they already have. Why should this obligation not apply to citizens of other countries?

  249. >Why should this obligation not apply to citizens of other countries?

    Because they don’t pay the freight. That’s why I make an exception for noncitizen servicepersons.

    As a general rule, I think it is better for the U.S. to defend the individual rights of all human beings. But in a conflict between the proper interest of U.S. citizens in their national security and the putative rights of noncitizens, U.S. national security should come first. Otherwise the U.S. would be failing its job as a nation-state even within the premises of the nation-state system itself.

    My answer would not change if the government being discussed were a non-U.S. one.

  250. Because they don’t pay the freight. That’s why I make an exception for noncitizen servicepersons.

    As a general rule, I think it is better for the U.S. to defend the individual rights of all human beings.

    You’re confusing the government’s positive obligation to defend its citizens’ rights with the negative obligation to refrain from violating people’s rights.

  251. This is one of the problems of the libertarian philosophy: it does not suggest anything in particular for the conduct of foreign policy.

    Well, since foreign policy can only be conducted by governments and they’d like government to largely go away, one can see how some of them might have developed a blind spot. Some of them probably also believe that old line about war being the health of the state, for which there are a few scraps of evidence lying around.

  252. > You’re confusing the government’s positive obligation to defend its citizens’ rights with the negative obligation to refrain from violating people’s rights.

    This pretty much fails on practical grounds. The U.S. government could easily defend/refrain from violating people’s rights abroad just like it does here. We just need a few changes. First everyone has to adopt our culture. Then they adopt our Constitution and our laws. Then they adopt our institutuins, including our prisons and our FBI and police, then….

    Like I said, it fails on practical grounds.

    This problem is not trivial.

    It’s not close to trivial.

    Idealists of all stripes, including my own handsome stripes (please ignore the hair loss and the excessive gray) tend to hand wave these away.

    And then we get upset.

    This never works, but it appears to be part ot the human condition.

    In my own example, I always remember Orwell’s comment:

    “Men sleep peacefully in their beds at night
    because rough men stand ready
    to do violence on their behalf.”

    My stripes are really sympathetic to those rough men and their ready violence.

    So, in my own idealism and moral vanity I get all upset when I percieve people like pete and Glen getting ready to throw a bunch of rough men in jail.

    I need to cool my jets and get off my high horse.

    Those with different stripes (probably just as handsome, only with more hair and less gray) may have different problems.

    Yours,
    Tom

  253. >> You’re confusing the government’s positive obligation to defend its citizens’ rights with the negative obligation to refrain from violating people’s rights.

    >This pretty much fails on practical grounds. The U.S. government could easily defend/refrain from violating people’s rights abroad just like it does here.

    You’re making the same error.

    It would be very difficult for esr, even with all his guns, to defend me from a mugging from half a hemisphere away.
    On the other hand it is very very easy for him not to shoot me.

  254. You’re confusing the government’s positive obligation to defend its citizens’ rights with the negative obligation to refrain from violating people’s rights.

    Not “people.” “The People.” There is a distinction, and its not subtle. In war, our armed forces are not “obligated to refrain from violating” an enemy soldier’s natural rights. Quite the opposite. They are conferred the power (by us) to revoke those rights in the ultimate way: by shooting them to death. This applies to irregular as well as uniformed foes. In fact, one might say it applies even more so to irregulars, since they stand as an existential counterpoint to Geneva. They are by all measures and illegal combatants, breaking the laws of the very Convention that some of the dimmer bulbs here insist are supercedent to our own. The hypocrisy would be hysterically funny, if we weren’t talking about life or death issues. As it stands, it’s just more chattering from the usual suspects.

  255. We aren’t making any logical errors, pete, as jrok points out.

    I’m thinking we have some communication errors. Maybe our CRCs were wrong.

    Conducting warfare (rough men / ready violence) is always a violation of people’s rights.

    Give us the ability to hunt Bin Laden down under our culture and our laws, using the FBI, etc., etc. and we can keep everybody’s rights as well as we do hear.

    Kind of violates all their other rights for their own culture, laws, etc.

    Not practical.

    Yours,
    Tom

  256. On the topic of trials for al-Qaeda leaders: The logic fails on many levels. al-Qaeda is a large, armed, international organization that is, by its own words, at war with the US; our foreign policy relating to it is much more analogous to that relating to another nation with which we are at war than to that relating to a domestic criminal organization, for starters in that we have a ‘foreign policy’ relating to it at all. A fair civilian trial for KSM would have to return ‘not guilty’, by default, because KSM is really not analogous to a domestic crime boss at all; the proper analogy is more relating to the Nuremberg trials, which were military tribunals. It is no more appropriate for KSM to be tried in domestic civilian court than it would be for the high-ranking Nazis whose brainchild the ‘Final Solution’ was. A civilian court would have no jurisdiction; evidence obtained by torture or coercive interrogation would have a bearing; et cetera. Thus, the only appropriate verdict for a civilian court to return would be ‘not guilty’, which is obviously not an option given public opinion, its effect on al-Qaeda’s morale, and too many other reasons to count; to return an acceptable verdict would require making KSM’s ostensibly civilian trial a show trial by a kangaroo court, which is really damaging to the rule of law. Short version of the above: We really don’t want the sorts of behaviors that are necessary and appropriate in KSM’s case to become associated with domestic civilian courts. That’s a major step towards tyranny right there–because if we set the precedent for civilian courts to do that at all, then they will start doing it to citizens, mafia bosses or drug smugglers maybe, and it will undergo the same delta of acceptable use cases that almost every other ‘crack down on terrorism’ initiative has had. (Mostly not in the US, luckily–but check out Britain’s cryptography-use laws, NDET, etc.)

  257. Yes Tom. The rules of War are and always have been different from those of Civil Society, in any worthwhile civilization. Wars is not conducted lawyers who march into valleys and demand to be shot at so they can legally return fire. If they are, the war is lost. The goal of war is to identify the enemy and pacify them by force. If they are not clearly marked with war banners and uniforms, the prosecution of the war becomes more difficult, but the fundamental principle of warfare does not change. Wars can be waged for moral or amoral or immoral reasons, but they all involved killing whichever opponents refuse to surrender.

    It is not surprising that certain minds on the Left can no longer grasp this, since they have been hypnotized into believing that all actions that equivalent in form are by definition morally equivalent. This is obviously not true, but I think the mindset itself is a direct result of the way the how being conflated with the why. It’s also why I think nihilism naturally follows. If someone cannot parse any moral difference between the death cult of Wahhabism and the United States military, there is not much hope that they will can retain any useful moral framework.

  258. @Tom Dickson-Hunt

    Yes, that is what I have been saying exactly. The show trial of KSM *damages* the Rule of Law and our moral authority, for the precise reasons you say, because only an utter perversion of due process would not set KSM and Co. free. It is fascinating how some fail to grasp the obviousness of this. A civilian court must let him go, but only after divulging a plethora of methods and exposing active agents in the discovery process. It is sheer lunacy that does not even serve the ends of justice it pretends to. It in fact, twists and defiles them.

    Unquestionably, though, the decision would be cheered by many in the “international community.” But that is only because said community is rampant with tyrants, gangsters and Rule of Man societies that highly prize show trails and marsupial courts. Indeed we would prove the lie that they’ve been screaming for so long: That we are “no better” than them.

  259. >It’s also why I think nihilism naturally follows. If someone cannot parse any moral difference between the death cult of Wahhabism and the United States military, there is not much hope that they will can retain any useful moral framework.

    Why, you naive optimist you. “Not being able to parse any moral difference” would be an improvement on the judgment of most lefties. In fact they believe, or act as though they believe, like the U.S. military is worse.

  260. >Why, you naive optimist you. “Not being able to parse any moral difference” would be an improvement on the judgment of most lefties. In fact they believe, or act as though they believe, like the U.S. military is worse.

    Yes, this is true. But I have a feeling most of the bluster about ICC trials we hear isn’t the result of dogged intellectual query. Some of the guys here are just indulging their political fantasies. It’s quite a bit less than serious, for example, to call for Cheney to be dragged into the well of the Hague, and make no mention of sitting Speaker Pelosi and others on the National Intelligence Committee who signed off on the waterboarding technique. Hauling Pelosi into the Hague doesn’t fit the fantasy.

    I don’t have fantasies about either scenario. But, although I might revile Pelosi’s politics, I am smart enough to know that it would not serve my interests or the cause of liberty to have her pecked clean by U.N. vultures on international TV screens. Nor would it serve Obama to sit back and allow it, while authorizing a spike in Afghan drone attacks (likely to be the next cause du jour of Leftist faux-dilettantes). Then again, Reality is the mortal enemy of the Left, so the miscalculation is entirely possible.

  261. @Jay Maynard

    Your argument easily justifies the actions of, say, Cheka:

    > Imperialists are making war on the USSR. We need to make war back on them, using all of the power and fury available to us. We need to convince imperialists that attacking Soviet Union is a good way to get themselves messily dead and their cause wiped out. Collecting intelligence in any way we can is fundamentally necessary to that. If we’re stopped from doing it ourselves, we can always hand the counter-revolutionaries over to someone who’s not so squeamish about getting results.

    @esr

    > “Not being able to parse any moral difference” would be an improvement on the judgment of most lefties. In fact they believe, or act as though they believe, like the U.S. military is worse.

    I’m sure you have supportive evidence that _most_ “lefties” act as if they believe the US military is worse than Wahhabis.

    I’m still puzzled by this. What’s the point of such polarizing comments? Is it so much fun preaching to the choir?

  262. > This is an important distinction for which I can and will argue within the premises of statism. I don’t think the U.S. government has any obligation to give non-citizens the same rights as citizens.

    Really, who cares what you think? You are wrong. As on torture, the law is quite clear and your opinions are irrelevant. Ask James Madison:

    Again, it is said, that aliens not being parties to the Constitution, the rights and privileges which it secures cannot be at all claimed by them.

    To this reasoning, also, it might be answered, that although aliens are not parties to the Constitution, it does not follow that the Constitution has vested in Congress an absolute power over them. The parties to the Constitution may have granted, or retained, or modified the power over aliens, without regard to that particular consideration.

    But a more direct reply is, that it does not follow, because aliens are not parties to the Constitution, as citizens are parties to it, that whilst they actually conform to it, they have no right to its protection. Aliens are not more parties to the laws, than they are parties to the Constitution; yet, it will not be disputed, that as they owe, on one hand, a temporary obedience, they are entitled in return to their protection and advantage.

    If aliens had no rights under the Constitution, they might not only be banished, but even capitally punished, without a jury or the other incidents to a fair trial. But so far has a contrary principle been carried, in every part of the United States, that except on charges of treason, an alien has, besides all the common privileges, the special one of being tried by a jury, of which one-half may be also aliens.

    Madison’s take has been reaffirmed by numerous court cases since then.

    If you want to write that you believe that the US government shouldn’t have any obligation to honor the rights of non-citizens, well, feel free. But please don’t make demonstrably false statements about what the actual obligations are.

  263. >What’s the point of such polarizing comments?

    Bleak humor, mostly, in this case. You couldn’t tell?

    Hm…are you perhaps not a native English speaker?

  264. The US govt doesn’t have the obligation to “give” rights to anyone. What it does have is an obligation not to violate rights they already have. Why should this obligation not apply to citizens of other countries?

    KISS ME PETE!!!

    FINALLY! After God-knows how long….you utter something I can agree with

    REJOICE

  265. You’re an insufferable fool. Madison is talking about resident aliens, not enemy combatants captured on foreign battlefields.

    You even ignore the text of your own selected quote.

    But so far has a contrary principle been carried, in every part of the United States, that except on charges of treason, an alien has, besides all the common privileges, the special one of being tried by a jury, of which one-half may be also aliens.

    Use your brain to think upon which context Madison would place Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. In even your bewildered, misguided reading of this text, a civil trial is not required for a declared enemy of State. But you’ve gotten it wrong, in any case. KSM is not a French carpenter, plying his trade in 19th century Virginia and accused of petty theft. KSM is a redcoat.

  266. >Madison’s take has been reaffirmed by numerous court cases since then.

    Your quote doesn’t properly address my previous. It’s about the juridical treatment of resident aliens. Look at this line: “Aliens are not more parties to the laws, than they are parties to the Constitution; yet, it will not be disputed, that as they owe, on one hand, a temporary obedience, they are entitled in return to their protection and advantage.” Madison’s theory reads like this: By residing legally in the U.S., an alien owes a “temporary obedience” to U.S. law, and is entitled to the “protection and advantage” of the law.

    This is sound reasoning, very similar to the grounds on which non-citizen servicemen who have sworn to protect and defend the Constitution constructively acquire most of the rights of U.S. citizens other than the franchise. It says nothing about the legal status of non-citizens outside U.S. jurisdiction who have taken no such oath.

  267. Really, who cares what you think? You are wrong. As on torture, the law is quite clear and your opinions are irrelevant

    Spoken like a well-petted court jester.

    Let me be quite clear.

    Your notion of ‘law’ exists only as far as I am willing to allow it to exist.

    If you think otherwise, step forward and enforce it.

    Embrace the consequences.

  268. >KSM is a redcoat.

    Oh, no, no. That would put KSM within the protection of the customary law of war, already pretty well developed in 1776. A better period analogy would be a pirate caught committing an atrocity — no state allegiance, no uniform, and no judicial rights whatsoever.

  269. I’m convinced Folks like goddinpotty don’t even consider for the slightest instant the words that emerge from their mouths/fingers. This is what I mean by the lack of seriousness. goddinpotty posted a quote from Madison that he deeply and obviously misunderstood, with the text itself specifically refuting him. Yet… he did so with a rhetorical flourish that not even those who are winning arguments will indulge. “Really, who cares what you think?”

    Since it’s so wrong, I can only assume he is spreading a meme for whatever purpose, not truly engaging the material or the questions at hand. How can anyone with a reasonable grasp of the English language read what Madison wrote and think he meant to apply it to Barbary pirates? No, goddinpotty. It in fact is evidence against your proposed standard. What you’ve written is such a massive failure that it almost laps itself and becomes success. Almost.

  270. > Oh, no, no. That would put KSM within the protection of the customary law of war, already pretty well developed in 1776.

    Heh, funny you say that. I realized my error a moment after I wrote it. Indeed, Madison was not thinking of Barbary pirates when he considered aliens living in “temporary obedience” to the Constitution. Nor would our French carpenter continue to be in obedience to the Constitution upon his return to France, or therefore entitled to it’s protection and advantage.

  271. … but, to be fair, Madison wasn’t thinking of “redcoats” either. He was thinking of foreign laborers, tradesmen, visiting dignitaries, etc. Certainly not paramilitary commanders planning asymmetrical military strikes from the caves of Afghanistan. Madison would have hung KSM many years ago.

  272. I was responding to the text of esr that I quoted, which is obviously already out of the context of foreign combatants since it discusses the rights of non-citizens serving in the US military.

    As for the rights of foreign combatants, including Barbary pirates, the law is less settled to be sure, but a string of recent Supreme Court rulings (Boumediene v Bush, Hamdan v Rumsfeld) have affirmed that there are limits to what can be done with so-called illegal combatants. Rulings by international courts have affirmed the common-sense notion that nobody is outside of the law, and if someone is not a legal combatant (and thus protected by Geneva Convention rights) then they are to be treated as a criminal and afforded the usual rights given to those charged with a crime.

    Again, I am mystified why supposed libertarians should be so eager for governments to have unlimited power over any class of individuals. We know that KSM and Barbary pirates are bad guys. But do you trust the government to only apply its unlimited powers to evildoers, without even the possibility of judicial review or any other sort of check? I have never seen self-proclaimed anarchists and libertarians who are so eager to cede the powers of life, death, and torment to an all-powerful state.

  273. Frequenting this site has made me less certain that I’m a libertarian. It seems that many others who so identify trust the government a great deal more than Jefferson or Madison would have, and certainly more than I do. So I guess I’m someone else. Someone who has heard and ignored enough moral vanity of all stripes to be immune to the vituperative brainlock it seems to cause in many libertarians.

    Oh, I know what you’re going to say. I’m ignoring reality. Well, I am discounting several dominant narratives, but that’s really a pragmatic move. Morality, apart from simple comfortable habit, is always about what other people should do. Security is a process, a dynamic balance, never a state of being. No one is going to buy your lunch. By ignoring those kinds of statements and considering self-interest, we’re less surprised by actions, by words, and by the gulf between the two. That’s true no matter the dangerous topic at hand: climate, drugs, terrorism, economics, crime, art, religion, whatever. We should always disappoint those who seek to influence us through fear. Typically, this is done by ignoring the calls for more laws, more controls, more action. When there is actually something to fear, well, you’re packing aren’t you?

    But this brings us to the statists’ greatest innovation, nationalism. How can we defend ourselves now? We need a national defense, because there are powerful nations whose interests oppose ours, and we must settle our differences on the battlefield… oh wait, that’s not really true anymore. OK… how about some scraggly alienated theology students? Surely our nation must fear these? They’ve killed people!

    More people have choked to death on hot dogs. Seriously, Nancy, get a fucking grip. As much as our modern convenient lifestyles might obscure the fact, life is uncertainty. There is no right you can revoke, no innovative interrogation technique you can inflict, no tribe you can massacre that will change that fact. You might not die in bed at the age of 85 surrounded by adoring great-grandchildren. In fact you probably won’t. Anyone who promises otherwise is out to rob you. It’s a fair bet that he has been robbing you for years. I say we don’t need to pay people to scare us, we don’t need to apotheosize the trace atmospheric gases, and we don’t need to worry about the backward customs of the teeming illiterate masses of Central Asia. Let’s get on with life.

  274. Rulings by international courts….

    Stop right there. First of all, Geneva does not absolve KSM, nor any other enemy, from a military tribunal. This is simply not so, and even if it were it would not constitute an argument in itself. Or rather, it would be a “just so” argument. “It is just and appropriate because X says it is just and appropriate.” Considering who “X” might include in a U.N besieged by tyrants, it travels from an undefended proposition to one that is battered and mauled by reality.

    Given the option of ceding the legal obligations of war to the United States or to the U.N. in it’s current form, I would have no option but the cede it to the former. That latter has proven intolerably corrupt and incapable of policing even the worst of its members.

  275. Jess says:

    >>> Surely our nation must fear these? They’ve killed people!

    More people have choked to death on hot dogs.

    You know Jess I can’t just blow this off as easily as you. We can’t just blow off planes being flown into buildings in such a horrible way, and equate it to someone choking on a hot dog.

    This reminds me of Michael Moore saying that 3000 dead is not that big a deal, since we lose more than that every year in car accidents.

    But surely anyone can recognize that morally there is a big difference between an accident…. and an act of mass murder.
    It really becomes scary when you consider than Iran may be very close to having nukes…..

  276. >Rulings by international courts have affirmed the common-sense notion that nobody is outside of the law, and if someone is not a legal combatant (and thus protected by Geneva Convention rights) then they are to be treated as a criminal and afforded the usual rights given to those charged with a crime.

    Rulings by international courts have no effect on U.S. law other than by their explicit incorporation into U.S. law. Supposing they did, no “international ruling” has abolished the status of illegal combatant described in the Geneva Conventions, which is what KSM is.

  277. >Given the option of ceding the legal obligations of war to the United States or to the U.N. in it’s current form, I would have no option but the cede it to the former. That latter has proven intolerably corrupt and incapable of policing even the worst of its members.

    Indeed. The U.N. allows thugocracies to sit on its “Human Rights Commission”, directly funds terrorist activities, has taken a leading role in enabling the AGW fraud, and fields peacekeeping forces whose most characteristic skill seems to be the sexual abuse of minors. Anyone who looks to this organization for legal or moral guidance is revealing their own moral bankruptcy.

  278. It has often occurred to me and my wife that a large mass of folks who do not live in New York City think of terrorism in starkly utilitarian terms. It’s a stubborn fact that jihadis aren’t going to target Tusla OK, or Baton Rouge LA, or Kethikan AK. We are the prime targets and will remain so, because we are a useful symbol of American empire. It is logical that I should want the U.S. military to destroy the elements plotting to destroy us. But frankly, it is more logical that I should want to empower the C.I.A. to extend it’s hands into the world, create useful chaos, spread fear and uncertainty among them, assassinate their tactical and spiritual leaders, incite rebellions and generally fuck them sideways. I am uncertain how useful direct military engagement will be, but the sole usefulness of the C.I.A. seems to dovetail with the asymmetrical nature of the war.

    Perhaps, for someone living in Tulsa, this does not sound like a reasonable proposition. It’s different when you are an actual target. If we were just “scared”, I’d move away. But I prefer to keep my liberty and my security. If a spook double-tapping a religious murderer on the tarmac in Islamabad contributes positively to that result, I am amenable. NSA is another matter, but I think the C.I.A can be a useful supranational weapon of defense in a world where all my bloodthirsty enemies are but a plane ticket away from my front door.

  279. I wonder if those IRS workers in Texas expected somebody to fly a plane into their building……..

    Is it terrorism, or a preliminary volley of civil war?

  280. It’s neither Dan. The guy’s manifesto reads like a standard nutjob. Interestingly enough, it was almost impossible to identify an obvious political bent. Best as I could tell, he was a mutant child of Bill Ayers, Lyndon LaRouche and G.Gordon Liddy, with a dash of Unibomber mystique.

    Most importantly, he was pissed off with the IRS. Which, you know, who isn’t?

  281. >> You know Jess I can’t just blow this off as easily as you. We can’t just blow off planes being flown into buildings in such a horrible way, and equate it to someone choking on a hot dog.

    I’m not blowing anything off. I was very sad when this happened. When I think about it now, I’m sad. When I think about how we’ve reacted in the years since, I get angry. I write in a blunt fashion on this site, which has been advertised as being frequented by libertarians, because I’m trying to get someone, anyone angry along with me. [crickets] Anyway, don’t you think the hot dog dude had a mother who loved him and was sad when he died? We can’t act rationally unless we think rationally, and we can’t do that without keeping a sense of perspective.

    >> But surely anyone can recognize that morally there is a big difference between an accident…. and an act of mass murder.

    Let me be more clear: “morality” is ALWAYS either 1) a comfortable old prejudice, a habit really, or 2) a scam. Of course hijacking planes and killing people are bad acts, and those who did these were bad men. We can say that out of the “comfortable habit” end of our moral senses. It was shocking, it highlighted some bad advice we’d gotten from “experts” for decades (i.e., always obey a hijacker’s every demand), it was time to install some armored cockpit doors. Everything after that — invading multiple countries, killing hundreds of thousands, tapping everyone’s phones, counterproductive bureaucratic rejiggering, GIVING MUCH MORE MONEY to people who claimed they would keep us safe — that’s the scam I know is coming whenever I hear the word “morality”.

    If you’re not committed to viewing the world through the “national security” lens, and I’m not, nearly everything we’ve done in reaction to 9/11 is a non sequitur. Foreigners are plotting against us, so we curtail citizens’ rights. Somebody was renting a house in Afghanistan, so we invade Iraq. We succeed in killing Hussein, so we occupy Iraq for another decade. Idiots fail to ignite substances secreted in various personal products, so we outlaw those personal products. Our intelligence agencies have no useful intelligence, so we kidnap a few thousand goat herders for them to annoy. They don’t like living overseas, so we let them practice their “craft” on the beach in the Caribbean. There has been a constant, however, if you pay attention to the bottom line. The military-industrial complex have manufactured their next Red Menace, and they’re cashing in.

    >> It really becomes scary when you consider than Iran may be very close to having nukes…..

    Yeah sorry, more narrative I’m going to discount. Didn’t I mention my opinion of fear as a motivator? Oh, I’m sure they might get nukes at some point. Nuclear weapons aren’t exactly a cutting edge technology. In these modern times, if a nation of 75M wants nukes, it’s going to get them. We’d be just as successful keeping sewing machines out of the country. The world didn’t end when North Korea got whatever it has. We’re going to learn to survive in a world with a nuclear Iran, just as we did with nuclear Russia, China, Pakistan, etc.

  282. The military-industrial complex have manufactured their next Red Menace, and they’re cashing in.

    Wait… did they “manufacture” the first one?

  283. >> >> Is it terrorism, or a preliminary volley of civil war?

    >> It’s neither Dan.

    Was Nidal Malik Hasan not a terrorist either? Just a crazy nut, move along, nothing to see here? We didn’t let the pwogs get away with that one, and you’re not getting away with this one. Flying a plane into a building emblematic of one’s bête noire is the clearest sign in modern terrorist semiotics. It’s on like page two of their handbook.

    That said, I’m sure we’ll respond in a reasonable way to this act of domestically-sourced terrorism. Oh sure, professional hyperventilators like Mark Ames will make the rounds of the talk shows with their “angry white guy” shtick, but the rest of us will await the results of a careful official investigation, calmly discuss relevant general aviation policy, agree that taxes are too damn high, and then conclude that there isn’t a damn thing we can do to prevent shit from happening.

    All of which raises the question, what prevents us from taking that same attitude about internationally-sourced terrorism? It isn’t racism, is it?

  284. Jess says:

    >>> Let me be more clear: “morality” is ALWAYS either 1) a comfortable old prejudice, a habit really, or 2) a scam.

    If you think morality is always a scam or prejudice, then you are a damn fool. This may clue you in on why nobody wants to join your crusade.
    Tell me, is “Thall shalt not kill” a scam or just an old prejudice?

    >>> I’m not blowing anything off. I was very sad when this happened. When I think about it now, I’m sad. When I think about how we’ve reacted in the years since, I get angry.

    Your emotional states here are very telling. I was not sad when it happened, I was shocked and pissed off and demanded that we go after these bastards. Sitting around moping was not going to help a thing.

    I am sad and angry now to see people like you who refuse to be serious about a real problem.

    And Iran has a track record of backing terror groups that those other nuclear nations you mention lack.

    Sentiments like this are what give libertarians a bad name.

  285. >>> That said, I’m sure we’ll respond in a reasonable way to this act of domestically-sourced terrorism.

    And what if turned this guy was part of some larger terror cell, Jess.

    Should we go after them, or just hope everything turns out for the best?

  286. >> Should we go after them, or just hope everything turns out for the best?

    Dude, it depends. If going after them entails effective missions with defined goals that our people can achieve, definitely. If going after them means occupying Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico with a gigantic army we don’t have, while making secret deals with Mexico to bury people next to anthills, then no.

  287. >>>> If going after them means occupying Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico with a gigantic army we don’t have, while making secret deals with Mexico to bury people next to anthills, then no.

    Well thank God for that. Because, you know, that is probably what we were going to do.

    We were going to invade Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico with a giant army we don’t have, so as to ferret out a terror cell.

    Way to set up a ridiculous straw man.

    I admire your views, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  288. I’m with jess on this one. I wasn’t living in NYC in 2001 but I am now – I live very close to Ground Zero – and still, I just don’t see these muslim nitwits as half the threat to my health, wealth and livelihood as our own misguided efforts to punish them have been. The point of terrorism is to terrorize; we’ve done far more economic and social damage to ourselves by overreacting than they ever did in primary damage; along the way we’ve lost our privacy, much of our freedom to travel, and we are slowly laying the groundwork for the loss of many other rights formerly taken for granted. We need to take a step back and take a chill pill and just *not* be terrorized any more. 9/11 was a fluke; one lucky attack does not constitute a *trend* and we didn’t need to seen it as evidence of failure or the need to radically change what we were doing, security-wise.

    We could as easily have handled this with a few traditional libertarian solutions. “Free trade with all nations, entangling alliances with none” makes the world less pissed at us. So bring all the troops home from everywhere and stop propping up other countries with “aid”. Getting rid of all the centralized airline security apparatus and merely *letting airlines compete on security* would encourage cheap creative solutions there and remove single points of failure. Ending the War on Drugs would remove drug money as a price support for foreign corruption. And so on. Invading other countries wasn’t necessary or prudent.

    I blame the conservative ninnies more than the liberal ones for our current ridiculous state of affairs where we see boogiemen around every corner and feel the need to bomb or torture wherever we find them, creating more boogiemen as we go. We’ve already created a staggering death toll, killing far more of “them” than they ever did of us. How many more do we need to kill or torture before we declare our bloodlust satisfied, our bravery proven, our manhood intact?

    So why are we still* deathly afraid of these guys nine years later? You want to talk about nervous nellies? The idea that these guys couldn’t be held by a normal prison, or that merely living in NYC makes one more of a “target” in any meaningful statistical sense than living in Tulsa – I just don’t get. NYC has a population of 8 million people. So even being in NYC in 2001 meant a less than 1-in-2000 risk of death – on the same order of risk as the accident risk *every year* for somebody who rides a motorcycle. Only we’re talking about an event that happened exactly once, in the entire country. And could have had a similar impact in Seattle or San Francisco or Chicago. So divide the risk over 9 years and multiple cities and you’ve got a risk that’s basically not worth worrying about. Even if you live in NYC. Perhaps, *especially* if you live there because it’s *already been* attacked successfully.

  289. Has anyone here read Kilcullen’s book “The Accidental Guerilla”? That guy is a well of knowledge re asymmetrical conflict.

    His main worry regarding the current US war on terror was its astronomical cost. If you’re in war and you spend 100000-1000000 dollars per each dollar spent by your opponent, you get bankrupt sooner or later; there is no economy that can bear this cost indefinitely.

  290. How can we defend ourselves now? We need a national defense, because there are powerful nations whose interests oppose ours, and we must settle our differences on the battlefield… oh wait, that’s not really true anymore.

    even if you choose to discount iran and north korea, china doesn’t qualify? how about russia?

  291. >I am sad and angry now to see people like you who refuse to be serious about a real problem.

    It is entertaining to me that many of the same people who are quick to the alarmism of climate science cannot apply the same rational principles to their own pet causes. Terrorism is a problem that should be managed on a cost/benefit basis. Terrorist networks have profited, if anything, from American overreaction. When it comes down to it, it’s all hurt egos and paranoia.

  292. His main worry regarding the current US war on terror was its astronomical cost. If you’re in war and you spend 100000-1000000 dollars per each dollar spent by your opponent, you get bankrupt sooner or later; there is no economy that can bear this cost indefinitely.

    Exactly. The above blithering and bluster about “terrorism” and what it constitutes is far from the point. Who cares if Stack man or Nidal were “terrorists?” Did their actions have any real political or military significance? Nah. The adults in the room are talking about realistic threat assessment and asymmetrical conflict. The war as currently (and previously) prosecuted isn’t only unwinnable, it’s unsustainable. This is an intelligence war that requires the subversion of the enemy’s supply chain and moral authority more than simply chopping the heads off the hydra. I mean, there is nothing wrong with chopping off those heads, but it doesn’t disarm them of their greatest weapon, the kamikaze.

  293. > Don’t look at me, jrok. I’m just going by what Ike said.

    Eisenhower founded the Soviet Union? I didn’t know that, thanks.

  294. So why are we still* deathly afraid of these guys nine years later? You want to talk about nervous nellies? The idea that these guys couldn’t be held by a normal prison, or that merely living in NYC makes one more of a “target” in any meaningful statistical sense than living in Tulsa – I just don’t get.

    I don’t knoew where you get “deathly afraid” from anything I said. Like I said, if we were scared, we would simply leave. But you could say that about crime as well. Sure, I’m worried (especially in this economy , with a shrinking enforcement budget) about crooks robbing or killing my wife and I. Robbers are a threat among many, including Islamic terrorist. Including, for instance the cell that tried to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge (which I’d still like to sell many of the folks on the Phil Jones thread), or the cell that planned the subway bombings. There is always small group of hardcore radicals planning “something” in NYC. That we’ve been able to successfully stop them so far is credit to the efforts of our intelligence and law enforcement agents, not evidence that the threat is imaginary. Only witless moron would think that, or people who were purposely burying their heads up their orifices. Because I’m less likely to die in a fire then I am to die in a mugging, does that mean we disband the fire department?

    Anyway, it is obviously in the interest of New Yorkers to have the foreign masterminds unceremoniously shot and dumped by the river banks. Whether it is in the interest of “everyone else” depends on how seriously you take the threat of Islamic radicals being used as proxy armies by nation-states to exert their will and influence over the Earth’s global power resources. If you are the sort who says “pish-posh military industrial blah blah blah” then it is likely “no action” is superior to any given action. If you are more seriously engaged in history and strategy, and can see the client relationship between Hezbollah and Iran, or between Pakistan and the Taliban, or between Malaysia and Jemaah Islamiah, then some action might be preferred.

  295. Rulings by international courts have affirmed the common-sense notion that nobody is outside of the law, and if someone is not a legal combatant (and thus protected by Geneva Convention rights) then they are to be treated as a criminal and afforded the usual rights given to those charged with a crime.

    Uhm, you’re referring to the law of war. Therefore, the people you describe are war criminals. I’ve got no problems with trying KSM and his buddies as war criminals in a court similar to the Nuremberg tribunals. Before you cheer this as a capitulation, though, you should read the several entries in the Power Line blog on the subject: the Nuremberg tribunals differed from many ways from American civilian courts, and their judgment was final and non-appealable.

    Treating KSM et al as mere criminals trivializes their actions, gives them priceless intelligence, and grants them a forum to spew their vitriol. They are not just criminals. They’re on the same moral level as the war criminals tried and convicted at Nuremberg. They should be treated as such.

  296. jrok, you’re so close.

    You seem to accept that our response to terrorism shouldn’t be emotional, but reasoned. That our objectives should include something besides punishment of someone, anyone. You point out that there are murky connections among our enemies and allies in the GWOT. You acknowledge that we’re not fighting conventional wars anymore. You favor effective black ops over publicized but pointless national invasions. Who knows, you may have read Eisenhower’s farewell address. (And I recall when on a recent thread you were one of the few who expressed some skepticism of the grandiose claims of evolutionary psychology.)

    Take the next step! If these goons are willing to kill hundreds of thousands of people just to give their new armament programs a spin, do you think they care about the rights of American citizens? Having concealed the decrepitude of the USSR’s final decades so effectively, are they telling the truth now about the hajjis? After they’ve built a society-spanning panopticon to accompany their thousands of regulations, do you think they’ll be discreet about that low-flow showerhead you replaced? When they can so freely spend our money blowing up armies they spent years spending our money building, how are they different from their counterparts in Pakistan or Iran? [To forestall any possible misunderstanding: I ain't talking about soldiers here. I am talking about generals, and the cabal of analysts, bureaucrats, legislators, lobbyists, industrialists, LEOs etc. who share in their groupthink.]

    We can’t control what other people think, or how they choose to die. We can control our response, and I think it’s high time we did that.

    You’re making too much of the distinction between coastal urbanites and everyone else. (I note also that relatively few of your neighbors share your particular risk assessment.) To a first approximation, all Americans will die from the secondary effects of lifestyle choices and genetics. Terrorism is a rounding error, and pretending otherwise is an unconsidered emotional response, divergent from reality.

    Maybe this is what ESR was trying to get at with this post, albeit via a circuitous path. He called out the pwogwessives on the incoherence of their professed concerns; perhaps he was trying to subtly goad the conservatarians into taking a similar mental inventory?

    [Incidentally, while re-reading Eisenhower, I note that he also warned of the dangers, both to science and to society, of institutionalized government support of scientific research. Ike was a pretty sharp dude.]

  297. Darren you’re a self-parody. Massive military occupation is a straw man? What have we been talking about?

  298. Take the next step!

    No!

    If these goons are willing to kill hundreds of thousands of people just to give their new armament programs a spin, do you think they care about the rights of American citizens?

    I think that’s an outrageous and naive intepretation of reality. “These goons” is just a bit of puerile rhetoric, as comfortably vague an sprawling as Ickes reptile bogeymen. You say “they, they, them” with a startling denial that any of these military and subversionary goals can be rationally defended by those who seek liberty. This smacks of political fantasy, and the religious urge to foist a Manichean narrative on a political universe that strongly repels one. People who invest in strictly malevolent conspiracies seem ignorant of both realpolitik and the obvious overlap of good and useful goals with error cascade, strategic alignment and unintended consequences. Frankly, even bad goals and bad actors encounter with these obstacles to pure determinism.

    Most importantly, the world is not run from a small boardroom of godlike Bildenbergers (as comforting as this notion might be to some.) Reality is actually more complex and terrifying, a spiderweb of interests and shifting alliances that is too chaotic to plot. The best we can do is try to imagine the best outcomes and support the strategies best-supported by history to achieve these ends.

    As complex as reality is, history has a macro layer that we can study to help us influence our fates. We can, in fact, do this to a greater degree than most of the present or past human civilizations, because while there are many switchboards between the individual person and the “levers of power,” individual democratic polities are still vastly more influential than the cogs and grist of a totalitarian state. I am not insipid enough to believe that a Boeing contractor is a greater threat to my liberty than a Venezuelan strongman or a military dictatorship in possession of nuclear weapons. It is a fun game for certain people to play, I realize (just hit Union Square in the summertime, and you will be swarmed by childlike N.W.O. protesters who repeat similar cruft), but it is still an outlier mode that has no teeth whatsoever. There are many who pay lip service to this model of reality, but not many who, I think, take it much more seriously than they would a sporting event or a favored TV show.

    In other words, I won’t join your revolution because it isn’t a real revolution. At best it’s a child’s pronoun game (“we, they, us, them) and an exercise in psychological scapegoating.

  299. Morgan, you referred to the ICRC comment above as proof that everyone is protected by the geneva conventions. Comments may be a guide to interpretation, but as near as I can tell the treaties as written do not in fact cover all people except insofar as requiring a “competent tribunal” (which is not definied in the treaties) if there is some doubt as to whether any given individual is protected or not. The third convention defines who has POW protections, which terrorists do not qualify for. The fourth convention details protections for civilians… which terrorists are not. Protocol 1 does provide protections for armed individuals who don’t normally meet the requirements originally set… and reagan declined to submit it to the senate for that reason and we have never ratified it.

    It’s been a few years since I sat down and read the third and fourth conventions. It started poking around back when the illegal combatant arguments were being heavily bandied about. Perhaps I misread the fourth convention.

  300. jrok,

    Yeah, Jess is all upset about our irrational fear of terrorism, for which he substitutes an irrational fear of our government. So let’s have a rational fear of both.

    In order to mitigate most sorts of government tyranny we have a republic. But a republic only mitigates tyranny, it doesn’t erradicate it. We have had governments, such as the Sioux tribal structure, which produced very little tyranny of their ‘citizens’. They produced too much tyranny for the neighboring tribes, and not enough protection from the stronger government hanging about the place. A republic can’t just be structured to protect us from itself. It also has to be strong enough to protect against outside tyrants. Which are real, though Jess appears to be minimizing their impact. So we can’t weaken our current government too much.

    What is the main mechanism we use to keep our republic from tyranny? The popular vote. It does work to limit government tyranny. But when over applied it leads to the tyranny of the majority.

    What is the main mechanism we use to keep our republic from the tyranny of the majority? The But when over applied it leads to the tyranny of the majority.rule of law and enforceable right. It does work to limit the tyranny of the minority.

    So we have a see saw between tyranny of the majority and tyranny of the minority.

    I will offer an OT example – the death penalty. (I’ll tie it back in.) If you are for maximum liberty of the individual, you may be against the death penalty. I am, but not as much as I used to be. Why? 1) If you kill someone, they can’t change, and I believe people have the right to change. 2) Innocent people are executed.

    However people like the death penalty. It’s popular. It deters crime. It seems just and fair. And it gives us a measure of revenge. People want justice. People want fairness. People want revenge. People want this deep down in their emotions. It’s built in at the DNA level.

    So what about the war on terror? Well, people want Bin Laden and the rest of al Quaeda killed. It’s popular. It deters terror. It seems just and fair. And it gives us a measure of revenge. People want this deep down in their emotions. It’s built in at the DNA level.

    What about our big military? Well, people want a big military, just like they want the toughest god, and the toughest king and the champion basketball team, and all for similar reasons. People want this deep down in their emotions. It’s built in at the DNA level.

    Now I could argue that’s just people being emotional, that rationally we don’t deter enough crime to make the death penalty worth the cost. People don’t want to hear that. And I could argue that’s just people being emotional, that rationally we don’t deter enough terrorism to make the war on terror worth the cost. People don’t want to hear that. And I could argue that’s just people being emotional, that rationally we don’t need a military that big to make it worth the cost. People don’t want to hear that, either.

    Here’s the key. All that emotion beavering away, built in at our DNA level, actually represents some very rational coping mechanisms which work rather well.

    So what the real irrational behavior? Expecting people en masse to ignore their emotions in favor of some radical libertarian philosophy. That’s about as irrational as you can get. It’s the new Soviet man, only on the other side.

    Yours,
    Tom, a conservative with some libertarian notions

  301. Just an aside re: Occupation of Texas.

    We already have the largest US military presence in the States. Between San Antonio and Ft. Hood, the size of the US Military presence here is immense. An there’s dozens of other bases scattered through out Texas.

    And that says nothing of the Texas National Guard, which as a standing army is like number 10 or 12 in the world.

    We don’t need an occupation because were pretty much home to much of the military already.

    And of course that doesn’t include all the rednecks who have a small armory in their homes. Like I told somebody the other day, one of the great things about Texas is that the guns out number the people by a large margin :^).

    The really bad thing about this moron in Austin is that it’ll probably lead to a death spiral for private aviation. I used to live 1/4 mile from the Georgetown airport, and the idiots that built houses at the end of the runways were constantly try to get it shut down. I’m sure that at the next council meeting, they will show up in force saying that it has be closed because it’s a base of operations for terrorists or some other ninny excuse. Now would be a good time to sell your stock in Piper and Cessna.

  302. OK, jrok, let me peel off my tinfoil for a moment. If you’re not receptive to my choice of pronouns, I’ll rephrase. It would have been more accurate for me consistently to have said “we” anyway. It’s not like anyone in Syria cares about the difference between libertarian and conservative Americans, and so far as they know we all voted for this.

    I’m not talking about a Boeing employee or even Boeing as a company. I’m talking about the complex. The intelligence, military, and law enforcement apparatus, together with the industries that have captured that apparatus and related media, academic, and political activities (that actually had done so by the time Eisenhower left office). Like many complex-yet-stable dynamic systems, it couldn’t have been designed by the Bilderbergs or anyone else. They’re just fish in the same pond, acting on the basis of personal material interest. I’m not complaining about those actions specifically. It is human to so act. Like many living systems, this complex has a tendency to grow until it is limited by external constraints, ignoring most purposes except that of its growth. Occasionally it benefits society by mitigating threats to civil order. It also makes marketing claims that exaggerate these benefits. Mostly it feeds itself, by destabilizing our own nation and others, by keeping drugs illegal, by exaggerating threats, by encouraging fear.

    Now then, to recent history. Much was said at the end of the Cold War about the “peace dividend”. Now that we would be spending only five times as much as any other country on our military (not to even mention law enforcement) rather than ten times, we could finally afford to end poverty and take care of our honored senior citizens. [Out of the frying pan, into the fire: the federal entitlements system is a monstrosity every bit as implacably voracious as the MIC, but that's off-topic.] Although suicidal Muslim terrorists had been with us for decades, only the truly forward-thinking realized the role they were soon to play. [I'm not a truther! The MIC did not plan 9/11, and the philosophical preparations it made for that event are not shocking (we gotta keep our options open), but I did read the Huntington essay, and in particular I observed the hype that piece garnered in academe.] Then events unfolded that reaffirmed the status quo of inexorable militarization. Now we’re spending more than ever on our military, we’re engaged in multiple “wars” without articulable objectives, we’ve initiated frightening and destabilizing domestic programs, and (most worryingly for the long-term prospects of our coming to our collective senses) we seem to have mastered the trick of spending all this cash without spending commensurate numbers of our troops’ lives. Also, we’re now quite open about torturing people.

    As I said, such systems tend to grow, and in so doing they ignore other priorities. Like the national fisc. Like the rule of law. Like actual safety or security. Like their employers’ interests. Like liberty. We who have other priorities must support them while we can. Latin American dictators and nuclear juntas are threats to our liberty? That is deeply silly. Someone who would undermine the concept of liberty with a faux-Maslow’s “you gotta be alive to be free” is no libertarian. Try dumping that crap on Patrick Henry. You have conflated liberty and safety, while grossly misunderstanding threats to both. Now I could put on my magical-thinking evo-psych hat and say that conflation is just built into my interlocutor’s DNA, but I prefer to address him as a fellow heir to the Enlightenment, who would take no pride in being led around by the limbic system. It’s true that we’ve been conditioned to trust, and naturally such conditioning functions within the context of native human psychology, but miseducation is not destiny. The apparatus’s powers of surveillance, detention, and consent are expanding right now. I’m just as optimistic about “the power of the internet” as the next nerd, but it is very possible that the next generation will start out in a deeper cognitive hole than we’re in. Please question the facts about national security that seem self-evident to you. Don’t concentrate on “the truth”, but focus on our actions, and the results of those actions. Then extrapolate these trends out a few decades.

    The ongoing brazen expansion of government control poses a far greater risk to both our liberty AND our security than the fevered dreams of a hemisphere’s worth of misogynist theological nihilist jerkoffs.

  303. Latin American dictators and nuclear juntas are threats to our liberty? That is deeply silly.

    So was Germany’s annexation of her near abroad. The idea that this would be a threat to our liberty was deeply silly. In 1937, it was deeply silly.

    Someone who would undermine the concept of liberty with a faux-Maslow’s “you gotta be alive to be free” is no libertarian. Try dumping that crap on Patrick Henry.

    What does Maslow have to do with national defense? Without group mechanisms to defend our interests from the world’s zero-sum players, we are simply at the mercy of the forces you claim to abhor. You cry “down with mighty Leviathan” when Leviathan is your best defense against Krakken, and more amenable to your influence. Taking a realistic account of the world in which you reside and planning accordingly is not the same as surrendering to authority. The reason Leviathan exists is to battle his more frightening rivals. Only by ensuring he is first victorious can you then work to defeat him.

    You have conflated liberty and safety, while grossly misunderstanding threats to both.

    Hogwash. I’ve done no such thing. You, on the other hand, have conflated “liberty” with “freedom,” and while you grossly misunderstand the social construct that maximizes the former, you also misunderstand your natural ability to achieve the latter (if that is what you truly want; from what you’ve said so far I have my doubts). Scamper into the wilderness with your bow and arrow and be free. Form alliances with like minded individuals to safeguard each others rights and join in the common defense of them, and you will be liberated.

  304. Don, as a pilot, aircraft owner (for now), and CFI, the idiot in Austin concerns me, as well. When we define a Piper Dakota or a Cessna 172 (remember the guy that flew into the White House?) as a terrorist weapon, we’re not very far at all from defining a Ford Taurus or Chevy Cobalt as one.

    I’m back to Robert Heinlein’s contention from Starship Troopers: “There are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people.”

    Anyone who moves in next to an airport deserves what they get.

  305. >”Robbers are a threat among many, including Islamic terrorist. Including, for instance the cell that tried to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge”

    There actually was no “cell that tried to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge”. What has been alleged is that there may have been a guy who investigated the possibility of using “gas cutters” to cut the support cables…and decided it wasn’t feasible. So no such plan was ever attempted. Infrastructure needs to have a certain amount of safety margin such that it might survive accidents, unusual weather conditions, hairbrained schemes of “evil terrorists” and for that matter, stoned college kids playing pranks. Fortunately most of ours does, so we’re okay. In short, no actual “plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge” was stopped by torturing KSM.

    You could call the guys who were arrested in response to KSM’s questioning a “terrorist cell” or you could call them “a few hooligans”. I’d be more inclined toward the latter. Trying any of these guys as anything *but* criminals gives them more dignity than they deserve and the claim that valuable intel would be revealed seems pretty silly to me. What seems much more plausible is that the authorities don’t want these cases tried in a real court because it would be embarrassing to admit how weak the cases are or to reveal how much torturing we did for how little useful information.

  306. There actually was no “cell that tried to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge”. What has been alleged is that there may have been a guy who investigated the possibility of using “gas cutters” to cut the support cables…

    Thanks for the nuance. I’m sure this information would have been comforting to those driving on the bridge at the time.

    Infrastructure needs to have a certain amount of safety margin such that it might survive accidents, unusual weather conditions, hairbrained schemes of “evil terrorists” and for that matter, stoned college kids playing pranks.

    Yes, a salient point. Hey, here is another hairbrained, madcap scheme conjured by KSM and his deluded band of pranksters: Send 19 young men onto U.S. domestic flights armed with – get this – boxcutters, have them commandeer the cockpits and convert the planes into cruise missiles by aiming them at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and – oh well, let’s say the Capitol Building. Or the White House. They can play that one by ear.

    Pretty absurd, right? What a goofy plan. Whatever were those knuckleheads thinking…

  307. Yes Jay, you can probably kill as many people with a vehicle as you can with a small plane…or with firearms.

    We all need to be shackled. It’s for our own good.

    Your tron-style craft looks suspiciously like a weapon….it must be banned.

    Ban everything.

  308. @Dan:
    Reminds me of something I saw on some site once, discussing gun-control laws:
    The proper response to electronic fraud is to limit you and other law-abiding citizens to computers that have no more than two of the following features: 66MHz or faster processor, 14.4 baud or faster modem, 8MB or more RAM, 500MB or larger hard drive.

  309. 500MB can store far too much child porn. Hard drives greater than 64MB must be banned.

    If you want a larger drive, it must be registered.

  310. Hey, here is another hairbrained, madcap scheme conjured by KSM and his deluded band of pranksters: Send 19 young men onto U.S. domestic flights armed with – get this – boxcutters, have them commandeer the cockpits and convert the planes into cruise missiles by aiming them at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and – oh well, let’s say the Capitol Building. Or the White House. They can play that one by ear.

    Pretty absurd, right? What a goofy plan. Whatever were those knuckleheads thinking…

    Dude. This is a serious subject we’re talking about. It is really annoying the way you keep taking half-assed urban-myth caliber data and try to make points with it. If you want to claim some piece of information supports your views, you might want to first check whether that piece of information is true. And having discovered that half the “facts” you are using are false, you might want to double-check the rest of them.

    In this case, the claim that the bad guys used boxcutters as their primary or sole weapon appears to be something self-interested authorities told us in order to make themselves look good. The truth is that we don’t know how the hijackers took those planes. Focusing on “boxcutters” misdirects from that uncomfortable fact in much the same way that focusing on “waterboarding” misdirects from the fact that our military is now proudly in the business of beating confessions out of people who’ve never been charged with crimes. Edward Jay Epstein runs down the evidence we have from the planes here. In summary, what little evidence we have mentions at various points a “chemical spray”, a gun, a bomb, knives, and boxcutters. The boxcutter mention comes from one passenger at the back of the plane that hit the pentagon – no other accounts mention it and even that account says nothing about the more important question of what was going on at the front of the plane.

    Whoever planned and funded it, the airline plan actually happened and its success does imply that it was a pretty good plan. You called the bridge scheme a “plot to blow up the bridge”, not even knowing that it was about cable-cutting, or that it wouldn’t have worked, or that it got called off. The fact that some other plan did work – albeit by killing all the people who carried it out – doesn’t much inform the question of whether this never-attempted “plan” by a different group of people was a serious threat.

    But yes, since you ask, I do think the people driving on the Brooklyn Bridge might derive some comfort/consolation from the fact that when some moron asked “Hey, I wonder if you could bring down this massive bridge by cutting the cables?” the immediate conclusion reached was “Nope, not practical. It’s too strong, too well-designed, too well protected.”

  311. Dan: 500MB can store far too much child porn. Hard drives greater than 64MB must be banned.

    If you want a larger drive, it must be registered.

    Dan, something similar already takes place (in Texas!!! DAMNIT!!!) It was noticed by the DPS that round-bottom flasks were used to process meth, so you now must register with the DPS before purchasing such equipment in Texas. Had friend (physicist) who wanted to play with sono-luminescence and he had to go down to the DPS office and register before ordering the flask.

    Freakin’ amazing!

  312. Yes Tom. The rules of War are and always have been different from those of Civil Society,

    …and they only apply when the congress has declared war. There’s a reason why the war power is given to the congress in the constitution: it’s not supposed to be possible to go to war, without the permission of the sovereign power (that is, the people), expressed through their representatives.

    The other power the congress has, that applies to stateless attackers like the Barbary pirates or Al-Queda, is the power to issue letters of marque. The congress has done neither, so any claim of a waiver from the constitution for the executive because we’re supposedly at war is wrong, as a matter of law.

  313. ESR: goddinpotty made a point which I would have made – aliens resident in the U.S. are subject to its laws and also protected by them. To this I would add aliens in the service of the United States while outside our boundaries.

    However, your intended point still stands. Legally, persons who are not citizens and not residents of the United States have no rights under U.S. laws, which do not apply to them.

    Guess who agrees with me… Barack Obama, who has ordered the killing of some dozens of foreigners as arbitrary acts of the U.S. government, without any judicial proceeding or due process. These killings have been described as acts of war, but there is no declared state of war. In the cases of Pakistan and Yemen, the U.S. can claim to be acting with the consent of the local government, which was fighting a civil war against the targets. In the case of Somalia there is no government which could give such consent.

    The first natural right is the right to life. If the U.S. government to kill, anything less can’t be prohibited either.

    For those who insist that “torture never works”: do you believe that covert operatives in risk of capture are ever provided with suicide methods? If “torture never works”, why would that ever be done? Do you believe that no one captured by the Gestapo was ever forced to disclose the identities of Resistance fighters or the locations of safe houses?

    ESR: the classic term is “limousine liberals”. To the classes you named I would add: the academics who are fanatically determined to maintain racial quotas at universities; they don’t care about the qualified applicants from unfavored groups who are denied admission, nor about the unqualified applicants from favored groups who are pushed in “over their heads” and fail. Another group I would add are judges whose expansive views of civil liberties include the right to harass bus and train passengers with begging requests for money; or the right to enter a public library in a state of such physical foulness that one’s stench is smellable for several yards. (I don’t know who handed down the first opinion, but I distinctly remember it; the second was handed down by District Judge H. Lee Sarokin.

  314. Dude. This is a serious subject we’re talking about.

    Yes it certainly is. Pehaps you should take it seriously “dude.”

    It is really annoying the way you keep taking half-assed urban-myth caliber data and try to make points with it…

    Funny, I was thinking the same thing about you. It’s rather clear that the entire thrust of your argument is that we should not take these people seriously. Frankly, you’d have made it very far in the 90’s in either the State Department or the Pentagon with this attitude. Sadly, your attempts to back away the pure “absurdity” of KSM’s 911 plot are self-defeating. You’ve entered the magical world of “I suspect the U.S. government is hiding the truth,” making claims as outrageous as any Truther alive. Frankly, all asymmetrical war operations seem “kooky” from a distance, because the notion of such a small force creating such a massive effect runs contrary to common sense. We’ve been underestimating these guys since before the Cole, since before the first attempt of the towers. And – thanks to entropy and the empty blatherings of know-nothings like you – we are starting to underestimate them again, and become lax. The underwear bomber proves this. Only by sheer luck did we avoid a tragedy. I wouldn’t lay odds on getting that lucky twice, even if the NSA and the CIA prefer to play russian roulette with people’s lives.

    Personally, I wouldn’t be concerned if it was just a cultural decay at the top of these agencies. The next successful attack will turn that culture around by force. A bit more concern are those – like you – who would pretend these guys are as dangerous as “stoned college kids playing pranks” and then have the temerity to ask others to be “serious?” There’s foolishness and then there’s suicidal incompetence. Like Napolitano, prove yourself the latter with every word you say.

  315. Here is another of Raphael’s “stoned pranksters”, foolishly capitulating to the U.S. propagandists by admitting his plans to detonate bombs throughout the NYC subway system; an attack he planned in Waziristan in 2008. But obviously, he is just another stooge, parroting whatever schemes the government the government has contrived in order to cover up their incompetence.

    I suppose it matters little, since the attacks were planned for New York City, instead of a place where “real people” live. We have ten million crash-test dummies living here, so no one will miss a few hundred, right?

  316. jrok,

    I thought the NY subways were actually a science fiction media sound stage! We never progressed beyond cable cars and trolleys here! Holy mackerel!

    Yours,
    Tom

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