Obama's Tortured Logic

[ Posted Thursday, May 14th, 2009 – 16:29 UTC ]

President Obama recently reversed his position on an appellate court ruling which orders the release of hundreds of torture photos, and is now saying he will fight the decision. Since the court in this case is already a federal appellate court, this would seem to mean that the Obama administration will file an appeal with the Supreme Court. The practical effect of this filing will be to delay any action until October, when the court's next session begins. And since the court does not rule immediately in most instances, it will likely delay it at least until the end of the year. This leads to the question of whether this delay is precisely the desired outcome for Obama -- six months of breathing room on the matter.

Others have deconstructed Obama's statement on why he was reversing course, including Dan Froomkin of who breaks Obama's words down to six indefensible positions. But I'd like to put aside much of the torture debate itself and concentrate on two facets of Obama's policy. The first is the political and military effects of kicking the can down the road for at least six months. The second is the stark inconsistency in the way Obama is treating two groups of people involved in the scandal -- the CIA and the military.

Let us begin with Obama's statement on the matter, which he squeezed in to the scheduled subject, Sri Lanka. From the White House transcript, here is what Obama had to say:

Now, let me also say a few words about an issue that I know you asked [Press Secretary] Robert Gibbs about quite a bit today, and that's my decision to argue against the release of additional detainee photos. Understand, these photos are associated with closed investigations of the alleged abuse of detainees in our ongoing war effort.

And I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib, but they do represent conduct that did not conform with the Army Manual. That's precisely why they were investigated -- and, I might add, investigated long before I took office -- and, where appropriate, sanctions have been applied.

In other words, this is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action. Rather, it has gone through the appropriate and regular processes. And the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken.

It's therefore my belief that the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.

Moreover, I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse. And obviously the thing that is most important in my mind is making sure that we are abiding by the Army Manual and that we are swiftly investigating any instances in which individuals have not acted appropriately, and that they are appropriately sanctioned. That's my aim and I do not believe that the release of these photos at this time would further that goal.

Now, let me be clear: I am concerned about how the release of these photos would be -- would impact on the safety of our troops. I have made it very clear to all who are within the chain of command, however, of the United States Armed Forces that the abuse of detainees in our custody is prohibited and will not be tolerated. I have repeated that since I've been in office, Secretary Gates understands that, Admiral Mullen understands that, and that has been communicated across the chain of command.

Any abuse of detainees is unacceptable. It is against our values. It endangers our security. It will not be tolerated.

Simply put, this statement cannot be squared with President Obama's policy of blanket immunity for CIA interrogators. The two positions contradict each other, and are completely inconsistent.

Obama seems to be falling back on what is now known as "the few bad apples" argument. In Obama's own words, there are (or were, it is not precisely clear) "closed investigations of the alleged abuse of detainees." I assume this means military prosecutions of armed services personnel for prisoner abuse. The photos in question "represent conduct that did not conform with the Army Manual," meaning (presumably) they are illegal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. These were investigated "long before I took office" (meaning the Pentagon under his predecessor), "and, where appropriate, sanctions have been applied." Indeed, prison sentences were handed out to soldiers in the Abu Graib scandal. But only, as far as I know, to that particular group of soldiers.

Then we get to Obama's central argument: "It's therefore my belief that the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger." More on this in a moment.

Obama goes on to state his goal: "we are swiftly investigating any instances in which individuals have not acted appropriately, and that they are appropriately sanctioned." He repeats this point, to drive it home: "I have made it very clear to all who are within the chain of command, however, of the United States Armed Forces that the abuse of detainees in our custody is prohibited and will not be tolerated." He closes on a similar ethical-high-road note: "Any abuse of detainees is unacceptable. It is against our values. It endangers our security. It will not be tolerated."

Taking the president's words at face value, it all sounds eminently logical and reasonable. Until you wonder: "but what about the CIA immunity?" Because, taken together, Obama's actions on CIA interrogators and his goals in this statement just cannot be reconciled, at least not without a bunch of asterisks leading to the same footnote: " *Except, of course, for the CIA."

The entire moral and practical debate on torture itself doesn't even matter, and can be put aside. Because whether you defend torture or are crying loudly for war criminals to be prosecuted, you simply cannot reconcile Obama's two positions. Because the "bad apples" theory just isn't true. Here is what the Senate Armed Services Committee reported after looking into the matter: "The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own....The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."

The "bad apples" at Abu Graib were prosecuted. Requests from the defendants for subpoenas for Donald Rumsfeld and other higher-ups in the military chain of command were routinely denied by the courts. The people facing prison sentences were denied their only defense -- that they had been ordered to do what they did, that such orders came from the very top of the chain of command, and that they were assured that what they were being ordered to do was legal.

These are the same reasons Obama gave for granting blanket immunity for CIA interrogators, it should be pointed out. Obama said it wouldn't be a good idea to prosecute the CIA interrogators, because they were ordered to do what they did, such orders came from the very top, and they were assured by the top of the Justice Department that what they were doing was legal.

You simply cannot have this both ways. Either Obama's right when he is excusing the CIA, or he is right when he says that such things "will not be tolerated," and that the people doing it will suffer consequences for their actions. He can be right in one case or the other, but not in both.

Because the military guards and the CIA interrogators were in the same place, at the same time, doing the same things to the same prisoners, following the same orders, and assured that everything they were doing was legal by higher authorities. So why does one group get a free pass and a pat on the back for their patriotic service, and the other group get a jail cell?

As for the question of the photo release itself, one has to wonder the role political strategy and military strategy played in Obama's decision. Militarily, releasing the photos right now versus releasing them in the winter can easily be seen a bigger risk. Right now, American troops are set to meet their first deadline in the withdrawal timeline from Iraq -- pulling back combat troops from the cities. In half a year or nine months, this process will be well advanced, and American troops should be shrinking in Iraq in a steady drawdown. Meaning if the situation there explodes, right now it would force tougher choices on Obama than later. Afghanistan will likely explode no matter when these photos are released, but in Afghanistan (due to the mountainous border with Pakistan) the winter usually means a fairly quiet period in the fighting (as opposed to each year's "spring offensive").

Politically, Obama gains a few things by kicking the can down the road. In the first place, if the Supreme Court rules he has to release the photos, then he can do so "reluctantly" which (together with his announcement he was going to fight the release) gains him support from Republicans and the right. Obama is seen as "standing up to the left wing of his party," which the right begrudgingly has to admire (and there are precious few things the right admires about Obama). Obama will not only kick the can down the road a few months (to mix metaphors here a bit), he also has the luxury of punting the whole decision itself back to the courts -- whom he can blame for "forcing" him to release the photos, if that's the way they rule. In other words: "Don't blame me, the court made me do it!"

Politically, also, President Obama doesn't want the photos to come out right before he addresses the Muslim world in Cairo -- which would take place a week or so after the date the appellate court set for the photos' release.

But I predict that Obama's statement is going to come back to haunt him. Because, by relying on the "few bad apples" theory (which has already been debunked and discredited by the Senate), Obama risks looking foolish (if not outright lying) when it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that these things were ordered by the highest levels in the military, that it was not confined to Abu Graib, that America beat prisoners to death, and that we resorted to medieval torture techniques as a standard military policy.

If Obama was consistent, he would stick to his "we're not doing it any more, let's move on as a country" logic which he used to explain his granting immunity to CIA personnel. He would pardon the people who have served (and are serving) prison terms for the first release of photos from Abu Graib. I might not agree with Obama for doing so, but I could at least give him points for consistency in his policy.

But saying that some people get prosecuted and some get immunity for doing the same thing isn't just inconsistent. It certainly isn't "justice" by any definition of the word. It is nothing but tortured logic.


-- Chris Weigant


25 Comments on “Obama's Tortured Logic”

  1. [1] 
    LewDan wrote:

    I have to disagree Chris. I think you're mixing apples and oranges.

    Closed cases, unless pardons have been requested aren't Obama's purview. Are appeals exhausted or pending? Are DOJ reviews planned, in progress, completed or not contemplated? With depoliticizing and renewing DOJ independence and integrity why would you expect Obama to inject himself into closed cases? Closed cases are the Judiciary's not the Executive Branch's.

    Reassuring CIA there'll be no witch hunts or scapegoating falls under both the heading of Executive Administration, and National Security, clearly Presidential responsibilities. He hasn't blocked any investigations, quashed any subpoenas, asserted executive privilege or declared State secrets. He's simply assured CIA there'll be no prosecutions, and he's the pardon power to enforce that edict. All right and tight, nice and legal and all above-board.

    There've been no credible DOJ, IG, Special Prosecutor, or Congressional investigations into the Bush/Cheney Enhanced Interrogations programs. Any determinations by Obama on closed cases, for or against would seem awful arbitrary and politically motivated. Exactly what we don't need. But with all the effort of Bush/Cheney to deceive everyone and insulate their scheme in quasi-legality there's enough publicly available information to reasonably conclude CIA acted in good faith and within the law. (Other than, perhaps, the Director.)

    I'd this discussion with Michale here awhile ago you'll recall. Citizens, including CIA, are required to defer to DOJ and Presidential determinations on what's legal. If DOJ and the President deceive them CIAs actions are legal even if they break the law. The same as when, absent a court injunction, you're required to follow the law, and doing so is legal even if a court later determines the law was invalid. Absent that court decision, we are required to presume the DOJ or States Attorney determination that the law's legal is accurate and to act accordingly. We can't be prosecuted later for doing so.

    So I don't see your contradiction. Obama's just doing his job; and not doing what isn't his job. Maybe someone can make something out of it later, spin it somehow, but I just don't see it. And I don't see why not doing what isn't his job is endorsing the "few bad apples" theory. Its not taking ANY position. Why should he? Based on what?

    Everyone seems to want Obama to take the lead, make a stand, push for investigations, go after Cheney... NOT HIS JOB. And he'd be a fool to do it, to even want it. Investigations will likely shut-down government (or the Repubs will die trying) just like the Clinton impeachment. Not what he needs. But he's not trying to STOP them.

    And if the cases are closed I just don't see the public interest in disclosure if there's ANY potential national security downside. The defense can have them if they'll help, but that doesn't require public disclosure.

    Lets be honest, this is a fishing expedition. The ACLU wants to expose Bush Admin policies not closed cases. Obama says he'll voluntarily review, declassify and throw sunshine where he can. But the ACLU's invested months, they don't want to trust Obama, defer to Obama, wait even longer, or worse, be disappointed and have to start over to compel disclosure. Perfectly understandable.

    But these pics, themselves, aren't really important, to anyone, (with the exception of news orgs looking to attract eyeballs of course,) certainly not worth anyone potentially dieing over. If courts disagree there's danger and overrule Obama, so be it. But for all the hand-wringing and ink spilled at this point I just don't get it.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Here's a stupid we know for certain that CIA interrogators engaged in torture or were these interrogations conducted by contractors?

  3. [3] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    Elizabeth, those interrogations were in fact done by contractors... Actually, by complete amateurs. It's heckuva-job-Brownie all over again. A fact which reminds us that with the Bushies, "the truth is outsourced."

    Chris, no matter what his reasoning, Obama "kicking the can down the road" is in fact a disastrous thing for Republicans. They want the torture story to just die a quiet death by neglect. Instead, they're being consumed by the story. No doubt the Bush 'legacy project' would like Cheney to just shut the hell up, too -- the story has BECOME the legacy.

    I have to agree with LewDan's analysis. Obama's hands-off approach seems to strike a good balance, IMHO. After all, these are pictures we're talking about, not documents, and I have a strong feeling that the latter will continue to emerge with damning new revelations. At this point, we need the facts -- we don't necessarily need the photos.

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Thanks for the info.

    I had suspected that these interrogations involving the use of torture were not conducted by seasoned CIA professionals. That leaves me wondering why President Obama always seems to imply the opposite in his remarks on this subject. In very subtle ways over the course of the last few months, the President's inexperience has been showing. However, all is well because the Vice President remains close by his side.


    I still think we should be focusing on the hearings being held by the Judiciary and Intelligence committees. My sense about all of the hearings on torture is that all of this needs to be aired and debated in public in the hopes that, in the end, there will be no confusion to anyone that torture should NEVER be justified or condoned by the United States of America.

    Hopefully, these hearings will not enter anywhere near the realm of partisan politics because this issue transcents all of that. We are talking about whether or not the US can regain its credibility in the world and reclaim its rightful global leadership role, after all is said and done.

    But, there is the very real concern that the vast majority of the media (because they are incompetent and inept) and a handful of political "leaders" (because this is nothing more than a power game to them) will do whatever it takes to make this national dialogue and debate on torture as divisive and acrimonious as they possibly can. And, that is why I believe Obama/Biden are treading very prudently and deliberately insofar as accountability for the actions taken by the previous administration are concerned.

    Having said that, I am left wondering what accountability may be appropriate here. Is it enough just to know that the previous administration will be saddled with an abhorrent legacy of condoning and justifying torture and will that be enough to restore US credibility and to prevent any future administration from engaging in similar behavior in this age of terror? I don't know.

    One thing is certain...we are very fortunate to have Matthew Alexander and Ali Soufan and countless others involved in the national security apparatus, along with many of our political leaders, who will fight to help ensure that torture is never again justified and that the America, and the promise of America, that so much of the world looks to for leadership is never again so threatened by the actions of officials at the highest levels of government.

    As for the release of those pictures - at this time...I'm guessing that Obama/BIDEN are thinking ONLY of the troops, especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan, who will bear the brunt of such a move. On that basis alone, the pictures should not be publically released.

    Earlier this week, a Senate Judiciary SubCommittee on ‘harsh interrogation techniques’ was held and here is the link for the full video...

  5. [5] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:


    "That leaves me wondering why President Obama always seems to imply the opposite in his remarks on this subject."

    Obama hasn't "implied" this to be the case. Instead, we keep hearing him reassure the rank-and-file CIA that there won't be purges over this. That's not inexperience, it's prudence. Who wants the CIA in bureaucratic panic-mode?

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    My point is simply that by saying there will be no purges etc, the President is implying that there is something to purge, no? Why, for instance, does the President not say anything about the role of contractors in all of thia?

    I think the CIA will be just fine, by the way.

  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:


    But these pics, themselves, aren't really important, to anyone, (with the exception of news orgs looking to attract eyeballs of course,) certainly not worth anyone potentially dieing over.

    I would disagree with you here, LD..

    Those pics are VITALLY important to the organizations who's sole existence is based on and depends on embarrassing the Bush Administration, regardless of how bad that would be for this country and how many lives it would cost. These organization's credibility (such as it is) is on the line here and they are becoming more and more desperate as the see Obama being a patriotic American instead of the tool that they hoped he would be.

    Make no mistake, those pics are critically important to the groups that make their money from embarrassing this country. The needs of groups like Code Pink, Move On, Al Qaeda, Iran, the Taliban, etc etc etc are all in sync and are riding on the release of these pics.


    the story has BECOME the legacy.

    Hmmmmm A legacy of keeping this country safe in the face of monstrous odds...

    Not a bad legacy to have.

    As for your claim that torture never works, this has already been refuted. It's an established fact that torture DOES work. If I didn't have my own experience to rely on, all I would have to do is read the words of President Obama's own National Intelligence Director...

    Torture CAN be effective. Torture CAN save lives. And torture prevented numerous attacks on this country.

    "These are the facts of the case. And they are undisputed."
    -Captain Jack Ross, A FEW GOOD MEN


  8. [8] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, going to address several comments at once here.

    LewDan -

    The power of the pardon is absolute. It is enshrined in the Constitution, and all other details are minor. "Applying" for a pardon, and "being contrite" and all the rest of it is merely convention -- not actual law. The president can pardon ANYone for ANY reason, at ANY time, whether the formalities have been followed or not. Clinton had this power (and caused an outcry for using it at the end of his term), and Bush had this power (although he refused to use it to its full extent over the Scooter Libby issue, perhaps setting up Dick Cheney's current media tour). Obama has not only the constitutional right, but the constitutional duty to inject himself into the debate. It is the one king-like power given to the president, and the Executive Branch can execute it and interpret it at will, no matter what the other branches have to say about it.

    I would have actually welcomed Obama giving a blanket pardon to the CIA interrogators, because it is more in keeping with the Constitution than what he said.

    I have to say that's a beautiful oxymoron there: "CIAs actions are legal even if they break the law."

    You say they can't be prosecuted after-the-fact, but what about giving them ex-post-facto "get out of jail free card" for doing so long afterwards? Is either of these legal?

    I agree with both your points about Obama not being the one who should be out front on the issue, because it is not in his purview, as long as he does not, indeed, stand in the way of any such investigations. It's either up to the DOJ (who is, shockingly enough after the Bush years) supposed to be independent, or up to Congress -- you're right.

    But I don't agree about an ACLU "fishing expedition" since I see it more the way the federal judges have seen it so far -- the law, in this case, is the Freedom Of Information Act. These pictures are supposed to be available to citizens who want to see them. The feds have had their chance to make their case in court why this should not be so, and all the way up to the appellate level, they have been denied. That's the law.

    Something I didn't mention in this article, because I wasn't aware of it when I wrote it (didn't do my homework) is that Obama (and Bush) have/had the option to issue an Executive Order which classifies these photos beyond the reach of the FOIA. Neither Bush nor Obama has done so (although Obama may, as a last-ditch solution). I'm not sure exactly what it all means, but I thought it was worth mentioning here.

    LizM -

    Osborne Ink answered what I would have. There's an excellent documentary about this very subject which I recently watched, but cannot remember the name of. Something like "Iraq War for Sale" about Blackwater, and the contractors who actually did a lot of the interrogations -- totally untrained individuals who were being paid five to ten times what the Army guys or CIA guys were, to do amateur work. It's a disgrace. I can look up the name of the film, if you're interested.

    Osborne Ink -

    The weird thing is, by prolonging the Pelosi story (see my Monday column), Republicans are actually making the case FOR the truth commission. Odd....

    Although it may be a massive misdirection from the fact which emerged last week: the Bush crew tortured people to prove their mistaken hyposthesis that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were in bed with each other. When no evidence emerged from this non-existent link, they pressed for more torture. This is a fairly damning fact, but it's so much easier to focus on Pelosi, right?

    LizM -

    I have been keeping an eye on the hearings, and I think you're right -- the revelations which are to come will likely come from this direction.

    As for releasing the photos, there are a few things here I'd like to say about that.

    * I'm not an absolutist about releasing the photos. Just to clear that up. I have been commenting about the political damage to Obama from (1) flip-flopping on the issue, in the space of a few weeks, and (2) looking like Cheney and/or Gates rolled him. But that aside, the photos are indeed important.

    * There have been several arguments from Republican enablers throughout the whole recent history of American torture. One is "it's not really torture." Another is (which Obama fed into, sadly) "it was a few bad apples, not an actual US policy."

    * There are reportedly on the order of two thousand photos we are talking about here.

    * The photos show, according to all, that US forces did this sort of thing not only at Abu Graib but also at Bahgram AFB in Afghanistan, but also possibly in other locations (such as Guantanamo). This has never been documented in such a way before.

    * The photos show waterboarding in all its medieval glory. This, again, has not been presented to the American public before.

    * The photos show -- it is rumored -- torture by American military personnel against children of prisoners. I did not know this when I wrote what has become my seminal column on the subject ("So Is Torturing A Daughter OK?"), I must admit. But don't you think this would change the tenor of the debate a bit?

    * None other than the reporter who broke the story on the My Lai massacre in Vietnam (by US forces) has been reported as saying he's seen a video where a young boy is raped in front of his parent, by the US military, in an effort to get the parent to talk.

    Still feel the same way about releasing the photos? Still feel that there's no point in their release?

    What would you have argued at the end of World War II? Should the photos of what happened at the concentration camps been repressed on "national security" grounds? They were gruesome photos, there's no denying that. America, and the world, would have been more "secure" if those photos had not been released. Or what about the photos from Japan showing what happened when a nuclear bomb exploded? Those photos were pretty gruesome as well. But they documented a historical truth -- these things happened. A picture is worth a thousand words.

    The best suggestion I've heard yet was to suppress these photos until our troops are out of Iraq and Afghanistan -- then release them. This seems like a reasonable compromise. It'll take a while for that to happen, but in the end we'll be able to see what was done in our names.

    Falling asleep... I'll answer more commnts tomorrow, promise...


  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    The best suggestion I've heard yet was to suppress these photos until our troops are out of Iraq and Afghanistan — then release them. This seems like a reasonable compromise. It'll take a while for that to happen, but in the end we'll be able to see what was done in our names.

    What about the thousands of Americans who are in the Middle East and will (most likely) be in the Middle East, even after our troops are gone?

    The point is, everyone knows what has occurred. The photos are not necessary.

    The ONLY thing that those photos will accomplish is to inflame hatred against Americans.

    That is the ONLY purpose releasing those photos will serve..

    I have to wonder if it bothers the people who are pushing for those photos to be released that they are of the same mind of the likes of Al Qaeda and the Taliban et al.

    I mean, think about it. If Al Qaeda and the Taliban et al are fervently hoping that those photos get released, shouldn't that give one pause to think that maybe, JUST MAYBE, it's NOT a good idea to release the photos?


  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Thanks for - I've put it in my favourites for future reference!

    Yes, I think releasing these photos - now - will most definitely change the tenor of the debate...just not for the better, in my opinion. I hope I have never said, or even left the slightest impression, that the release of the photos would be pointless. It has always been a matter of timing and concern about what the incompetent and inept press would do with them. I hope that when the highest court finally does order their release that they impose safeguard restrictions on how and when they are released.

    Just to be clear, I would NOT have argued, at the end of WWII, against the release of photos of what happened in the Nazi concentration camps or in Hiroshima and Nagasaki - not on the grounds of national security, nor on any other grounds!

    What we need here are really TWO debates - one on whether or not the use of torture by US officials should ever be engaged in, condoned, or justified, under any circumstances. Let's get that clarified, settled and further codified, if necessary, first.

    Then, there is the debate about accountability for actions related to the use and justification of torture by the highest officials in the previous administration. It seems to me that we can afford to take our time on this one and get it right without exposing the troops to anymore unnecessary harm. After all, there is no statute of limitations on the use of state-sanctioned torture and other crimes against the constitution, are there?

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    What we need here are really TWO debates - one on whether or not the use of torture by US officials should ever be engaged in, condoned, or justified, under any circumstances. Let's get that clarified, settled and further codified, if necessary, first.


    But, consider this as part of the debate..

    Many of the same arguments that can be made against torture can also be made against Capital Punishment. The same with Animal Testing.

    And, many of the same arguments that support torture against terrorists also support Capital Punishment and Animal Testing. Mainly that it has been PROVEN to save innocent lives.

    So, the only CONSISTENT position is that, if one does not support torture against terrorists for the purposes of saving innocent lives, then one must also not support Capital Punishment and Animal testing.. Anything is is.... illogical.

    I still love you, Liz! :D


  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    How do I break this to you gently...Oh, heck, I’ll just come right out with it!

    I am against the death penalty. When we have a perfect justice system, I may be for it, but probably not...unless it could be proven to be more cost effective than permanent housing behind bars, especially given the inevitable legal appeals involved in a capital case.

    I don't have a problem with animal testing in the realm of important and ethical scientific research, unless there is unnecessary abuse which case, it would no longer be ethical.

    I also continue to believe that the use of torture in the interrogation of detainees is the least, by far, effective and reliable means of obtaining credible information of the sort that will save innocent life.

    Call me illogical, if you must...but I will still love you, too!


  13. [13] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, you two, get a room...

    Heh heh.

    Seriously, though, this is never as black-and-white as it sounds. There are two classic "moral test" examples of this.

    (1) The US military regularly, especially in times of peace, shoots animals (to wound, not kill) in order to train doctors in battlefield medicine. Mostly goats, from what I understand, but that's a side issue. Anyway, I support this, even though it is cruel to the animal, and I am usually a friend of animals, because it would seem to me to fall under "necessary abuse" (from Liz' comment above). If a few animals suffer, it trains doctors so that human soldiers won't suffer as much, and human lives may be saved as a result. If they didn't have this training, they would not be as effective in battlefield situations (soldiers may needlessly die as a result, in other words). Would you ban such testing, knowing that?

    (2) This one is a lot tougher. Divers know about pressure, the bends, and all the other complications with pressurized diving and depressurization. However, some of the basic research on this subject came from a gruesome place. Nazis (think: Mengele) actually took Jews up in airplanes and watched them die as a result of sudden pressure changes. Being German, they were quite systematic about these "experiments" and wrote everything down and followed the scientific method [Full Disclosure: I am seven-eighths Germanic ancestry, and we are admittedly an anal retentive bunch...]. So, do you rely on data collected by torture "experiments" to save divers' lives, or do you morally burn all their data?

    Nothing's ever black and white. Just to throw a log on the fire of the debate, as it were.


  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:


    I just LOVE it when you allow me to bring Star Trek into the discussion.. More on that later. :D


    I am against the death penalty.

    That's kewl. I respect that..

    I agree that, it would be nicer if we could be completely and absolutely positive that the person being put to death actually deserves it.

    But the fact that we cannot ever be 1000% abso-tivly posi-loutly sure should not negate the entire process.

    But that is an argument for perfecting the process. NOT for doing away with it.

    I don't have a problem with animal testing in the realm of important and ethical scientific research, unless there is unnecessary abuse involved…in which case, it would no longer be ethical.

    On this we are in complete agreement.

    Because, what IS the ultimate goal?

    To save the lives of innocent human beings.

    And that is why the comparison to torture is so apt.

    Because that is the same goal when it comes to torturing terrorists. To save the lives of innocent human beings.

    Let me put it another way. Postulate a scenario whereas severe pain is inflicted on an animal (let's say a bear). By inflicting severe and excruciating pain, the bear releases an enzyme that, when properly processed, is the cure for all forms of cancer. This enzyme cannot be synthesized or created. It MUST be harvested in this manner and this manner only.

    If I understand your position correctly, you would not have a problem with such "torture", am I right?

    So, can you see my position? For people who think of terrorists as nothing but animals (like your's truly) then torturing these animals to produce actionable intel that will save lives is no different than the afore bear scenario...



    That's the point. My "Bear" scenario to Liz is the same type of scenario. Towhit, what is more important? The comfort and convenience of a terrorist (which, in my book, is nothing more than an animal) or the safety and security of innocent men, women and children???

    It's a no-brainer...


    Once upon a time, you turned me on to a great episode of LAW AND ORDER. Now I can return the favor..

    The episode is available for download if you (or anyone else) want to watch it. It's a GREAT moralistic episode that pits Captain Janeway against B'Lanna Torres.. And it is right up the alley of the question you pose.

    "Is it morally acceptable to use grossly immoral research to serve the greater good?"

    It's questions like these that make a tingle go up my leg... :D


  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    OK, are a real card and you ought to be dealt with.
    Heh heh.

    Seriously, I see the use of torture as an issue that is about as close as you can get to a black and white issue. In my view, the use of torture should never be condoned or justified, under any circumstances. Waterboarding is torture. And, former Vice President Cheney is, officially, off his rocker!

    By the way, I would hazard a guess that President Obama’s speech today at the National Archives is destined to become one of the most critical and important of his presidency...a defining moment, if you will.

    (1) I would also support this kind of testing.

    (2) I would save the data and morally lock up their asses ...excuse my french...until their bitter end.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Your bear scenario proves, once again, that you are the undisputed King of the Analogy and that Bill Maher has nothing on you!

    I'm afraid, though, that we will have to agree to disagree, as they say - until, that is, I change your mind - on the subject of torture.

    My position is that the use of torture should NEVER be condoned or justified, under ANY circumstances. I also believe that torture is the absolute least effective means to cultivate actionable intelligence that would save innocent life. In fact, we can all be grateful that when the previous administration authorized the waterboarding of detainees - not once or twice, but hundreds of times, EACH!!! - that we weren't under threat of a damned ticking time bomb! Geesh!

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    I get it, Liz.. I really do..

    It's an emotional subject and a horrible way to do things..

    But, it's really no more horrible than what big city cops or soldiers on the battlefield face every day..

    Imagine being a US sniper and having to take out a 7yr old girl because she is acting as a lookout for the enemy.

    Imagine being a beat cop and having to watch powerless as a psychotic druggie plunges a knife into a 6 month old baby because you couldn't get a clear shot.

    Compared to these actions and issues, torture is nothing.

    Your argument is an emotional argument and I understand it perfectly. But emotional arguments are completely and 100% irrelevant and only the cold hard facts tell the real story..

    And that real story is that torturing scumbag terrorists have saved lives.

    Again, I completely understand where you are coming from. In a perfect world, your argument would be valid.

    Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. In this world, rough men must stand ready to do evil things in pursuit of the greater good.

    Nietzsche wrote, "When fighting monsters, one must take care not to become the monster."

    What separates us from the monsters is the intent.


  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I don't think you've heard an emotional argument from me yet...on ANY subject. But, I'll be sure to let you know if and when I make one - don't hold your breath! Seriously!

    And, I'm afraid I just don't buy your analogies of moral relativism used to mitigate the evil that is torture.

    The subject of torture is not an emotional subject for any way, shape or form. Rather, my arguments are based in cold reality and steeped with a certain reliance ne sais quois...oh, yeah...the hard facts.

    The hard and cold fact of the matter is that torture does not save lives; torture is not the most reliable, effective or efficient method of coercing reliable information or actionable intelligence out of any detainee; and, 'intent' has no bearing, whatsoever, on the nature of torture and is a poor measure of what separates us from the monsters.

    So, if you want to see me get emotional, then accuse me of making an emotional argument!

    Sorry, Michale... that was both barrels but, I just had to get all of that off my chest.

    Your friend,
    Liz :)

  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:

    Sorry, you are wrong my friend.

    Even Obama's own National Security Director has stated that torturing a couple AQ scumbags made this country safer. It's a bona fide fact that this is the case.

    You are right on one point.. Torture is NOT the most effective way of obtaining intel. But in certain specific circumstances, it is the ONLY option possible if innocent lives are going to be saved.

    Are you telling me that, if you knew for an absolutely fact that torturing a known and proven terrorist is all you needed to do to save a million innocent men, women and children, that you would not avail yourself of that option?

    I am sorry (really I am) but there is no logical or rational argument NOT to torture a scumbag terrorist, if the very specific circumstances warrant it.

    Because it is a bona fide, proven and documented fact that torture CAN save lives, HAS saved lives, CAN produce actionable intel and HAS produced actionable intel..


  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    The arguments for the use of torture are based on less than credible evidence and premises. For instance, I have little doubt that the so-called torture memos that former Vice President Dick Cheney undoubtedly commissioned, and is now clamoring to have released, will make the claims that form the basis for your arguments that torture can save lives. If President Obama’s own National Security advisor believes that torturing detainees has led to actionable intelligence that has saved innocent life, then I would say that he is relying on similarly less than credible sources.

    When you can point me to a professional CIA or military interrogator who would testify, in no uncertain terms, that the use of torture has saved lives, then I will defer to their informed judgement. I would still maintain, however, that the use of torture to save innocent life does NOT mean that it should be condoned or justified or called anything but the evil it is and that anyone who was responsible for conducting it should be prosecuted. However, the PENALTY for such action could be mitigated in a court of law, given the circumstances in which innocent life was saved (something, by the way, that may be very difficult to prove) - but, the use of torture, even in those circumstances, would remain a criminal act.

    So, to answer your question...if I knew that torturing a known and proven terrorist was the ONLY option to save a million innocent lives, I would still prosecute the torturer and allow the penalty for the crime to be mitigated by the circumstances involved.

    In other words, I believe that nothing...NOTHING...can ever JUSTIFY the use of torture...plain and simple, cut and dry, black and white. And, this is coming from a person who sees the world as being, essentially, various shades of grey...more often than not!

  21. [21] 
    Michale wrote:

    . If President Obama’s own National Security advisor believes that torturing detainees has led to actionable intelligence that has saved innocent life, then I would say that he is relying on similarly less than credible sources

    So, you are ignoring ALL the statements from people in the know and basing your opinion on your own belief, without any supporting facts.

    This is not logical...

    My position is based on knowledge and statements from people who know and from personal experience in the field..

    When you can point me to a professional CIA or military interrogator who would testify, in no uncertain terms, that the use of torture has saved lives, then I will defer to their informed judgement.

    "A former CIA agent who participated in interrogations of terror suspects said Tuesday that the controversial interrogation technique of "waterboarding" has saved lives, but he considers the method torture and now opposes its use."

    Shall I count you deferred?? :D

    In other words, I believe that nothing…NOTHING…can ever JUSTIFY the use of torture…plain and simple, cut and dry, black and white. And, this is coming from a person who sees the world as being, essentially, various shades of grey…more often than not!

    Fortunately for us, the people tasked with this country's (and your country's) safety and security feel differently..


  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    The former CIA agent you cite was not present when the detainee in question was tortured. He also failed to divulge that the information gleaned from this detainee actually came BEFORE he was waterboarded.

    I am waiting for you to present me with an interrogator who actually engaged in torture and who will now say that, as a result of torture, information was gleaned that was used to save innocent life. That's the kind of credibility that I am prepared to defer to.

    However, that would not change my fundamental belief that torture should never be condoned or justified and, if an interrogator does feel the need to resort to the use of torture and makes a conscientious decision to do so, believing it to be the only way to save innocent life - and let's assume innocent life was actually saved - then that act of torture should still be prosecuted but the penalty for it could be mitigated in a court of law as a result of the circumstances in which torture was used, taking into great account the fact that lives were saved.

    Next time you quote me, I would hope that you put it in context so as not to obliterate its meaning.

    And, if you believe that President Obama means what he says, then he is in complete agreement with your quote of what I said, in or out of context!

  23. [23] 
    Michale wrote:

    I quoted a CIA interrogator who was in a position to know that torture had, unequivocally, saved American lives and made this country safer.

    Reading between the lines, you can bet that he WAS present and DID interrogate the scumbag using torture. Of course, he is not going to admit it because there are people out there who would want to prosecute him for doing his job and saving lives.

    No one is saying torture is preferable, pleasant, good and just or "right".. Just as having to shoot a 7yr old girl in the head is not preferable, pleasant, good and just or "right".

    But they both can be necessary..

    And it simply violates American Values to prosecute people who do what is necessary (and by the bi lawful, according to the MCA) to keep this country safe.

    That's all I am saying....


  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Here is another take on all of this from one of the authors of 'The Ballad of Abu Ghraib', Philip Gourevitch, from a piece in the New York Times today, The Abu Ghraib We Cannot See...

    He argues that the release of more photos is a "sideshow" but that President Obama does not seem to make the connection between the torture memos he released and the photos that he will not release - namely, that the acts of torture were not carried out by a bunch of bad apples at the bottom of the barrel, as it were, but that these actions occurred as a result of leadership all the way up the chain of command.

    "This is what we need to come to terms with", says Gourevitch.

    I still believe that the Obama/Biden administration does fundamentally understand this and that we will see an appropriate measure of accountability for the actions of the previous administration. In any event, it is too soon to criticize President Obama for not acting quickly enough.

  25. [25] 
    Michale wrote:


    I agree with your reasoning, but not your conclusion.

    I don't think we'll see any more "accountability tirades" coming from the Obama Administration. Obama gave the hysterical Left a small victory in releasing the few torture memos he did. He can point to that and say, "There! Now sit down and shut up."

    For him to fully give in to the hysterical Left will decimate the Democratic Party much more so than the Republican Party..


    Simple. People expect those kinds of actions from the GOP.. But, if full disclosure was made, then people would realize that the Dems were right up there with the GOP pushing for this and saying things like, "Are you sure you are doing enough!??"

    It's to the Dems own benefit that they let sleeping dogs lie(pun intended :D) for a long LONG time.

    After we are out of Iraq and Afghanistan, I don't have a problem with full disclosure of ALL actions taken. As long as it is FULL and COMPLETE disclosure and not the politically motivated disclosure that Obama did with these few memos..


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