The Torture Report

The news story of the day is, of course, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the torture of prisoners from 2001 to 2006. There are as many views of this report as there are individuals remarking on it.

Those who are defending the practice say it saved lives.

Those who condemn it say not only did it not save lives but it injured U. S. interests.

My view is that what was done was torture; torture is wrong, full stop; and even it it were effective and furthered national interests, there are no circumstances whatever under which intelligence officers should lie to the Senate.

I disagree with those who believe that the torturers should receive official pardons. The logic that defends that course of action is flatly wrong and contrary to human nature and I don’t honestly care if the Senate Intelligence Committee has partisan motives.

The forum in which whether the actions of those who did the torturing were legal or not should be a court of law rather than the Bush Justice Department. That goes for perjury before the Congress as well. The perjurors including Gen. Hayden and anyone else who clearly lied to the Senate under oath should be charged with perjury and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

15 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    Agreed with one caveat. I think the priority should be on prosecuting those who were in charge.


  • TastyBits Link

    I realize I am a horrible person, but I do not care. When you decide to make terrorism your career, there are obstacles to overcome on the way to the 72 virgins. If you want a safe job, you should have been a bus driver.

    President Clinton used rendition, and President Obama is using drones. President Obama is killing innocent women and children, but this is merely collateral damage. I guess as long as an elegant black man is doing the killing it is OK.

    Sen. Feinstein is shocked to learn that the things she OK’d were being done. If they were needed again tomorrow, she would again OK them. Once everybody is safe and sound, they begin trying to cover their asses.

    Many of the people who wanted President Obama to get out of the Middle East started calling for him to get back into the Middle East as soon as terrorists chopped off a few heads. When people perceive a threat, their principles get put in the closet.

    The firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo was designed to inflict as much damage to civilians as possible. They were intended to terrorize the population. Gen. Sherman was doing the same thing by burning down the South.

    In war, it is the most ruthless or tenacious who win. This is because they are willing to outdo or to outlast their opponents. The kinder gentler approach only works on the kinder and gentler types. The ruthless consider this weakness, and they respond accordingly.

    At some point, it becomes apparent to most people that the kinder gentler approach is not working, but by that time, the ruthless have become entrenched. It will now take a much more ruthless approach to exterminate them, and the kinder and gentler types will be crying for the most ruthlessness possible.

  • steve Link

    “In war, it is the most ruthless or tenacious who win.”

    Nope. You are decidedly unversed in military history. Military leaders from Washington, to Mao, to Sun Tzu, to Petraeus have rejected that kind of thinking. (The ruthless part that is.) Torture is almost always the tactic of the losing side. Make a list of all those who are well known for using torture and think about whether they were winners.

    So, the people tasked with winning wars have uniformly rejected torture. They understand that it provides unreliable information. They have studied its history and found that other methods work much better, and you avoid the blowback from using it.

    All of this ignores the moral issue. It is clearly immoral.


  • For an ethnically-based country like Israel or, to a large extent, China, the price of survival excuses many ills. Failing to live up to their ideals (if any) or their international agreements can be chalked up to the need to survive.

    The United States isn’t an ethnically-based country. We are, as Chesterton put it, a country founded on a creed. For us failing to live up to our creed shakes our very foundations as a country. Survival isn’t enough for us.

  • TastyBits Link


    Torture works, and it gives reliable information. You may have conducted interrogations where you just took the information and went on your merry way, but anybody who gets anything done does not.

    It is all a mind game, and you can break anybody. It just takes time. You start with a list of questions you know the answers. As the person answers incorrectly, you train them that they will receive negative consequences.

    If you are not in a rush, you do the same thing, but you do not have them put their d*ck on the table and ask them if they want you to smash it with a rubber mallet. The positives and negatives are different.

    In the American Revolution, the Americans did not abide by the generally recognized rules of war. They used sharpshooters and a lot of other unconventional tactics. As to Moa, you are kidding. Have you heard about the Cultural Revolution. You really need a better hero. The Sun Tzu, like Clausewitz, you are referencing is a military theorist. Military theory is nice, but it does not win wars. Petraeus did not get his hands dirty. Instead he hired the local thugs or mercenaries.

    Morality is what you choose to make it. When the American citizens were deemed a threat because they had a Japanese heritage, they were locked up, and few people found it immoral. Even today, most people will justify it. Firebombing Tokyo – “to bad, so sad”. Droning innocent people – “all’s fair in love and war”.

    If the Islamist terrorist started blowing up major US cities with nukes, things that are morally repugnant today would suddenly be just fine. The vast majority of people would have no problem with dropping a nuke on Mecca.

    In the end, the only thing that keeps you from agreeing with me is your safety. I just say the things that you will say once you feel scared. The difference is that I am not scared, and I do not care. I will even live in the world you build, but I expect you to live in it even when the sh*t hits the fan. Of course, you will not.

  • ... Link

    Just curious, should we try people like Chuck Yeager for war crimes?

  • steve Link

    “Torture works, and it gives reliable information. ”

    Nope, unless you get your information from 24. Go talk with professionals and you get a different story. It may work sometimes, but it is unreliable. There is a fair bit of research on the topic. It is very good at getting people to tell you what you want to hear. It is a useful terror tactic. As a method of gaining actionable intelligence it is not very good. The military, the folks doing the fighting, have known this for a long time. When people get scared they may resort to torture, it is certainly good for revenge, but when they look back they find it worked poorly. That was one of the reasons Israel stopped.

    Yes, the Americans used sharpshooters. They explicitly forbade the abuse of prisoners. You keep wanting to broaden the scope when we are talking directly about torture. We firebombed Tokyo. However, our single most effective interrogator of Japanese prisoners did not use torture (Moran). Mao killed tons of people, however, he routinely treated captured foreign military well and did not torture them. (Read Galula’s book.) Sun Tzu was probably more than a theorist, leading in battle (disputed by some), but has been studied and his tactics used up until the present. For that matter, take a peak at our own John Boyd. He emphasized the importance of winning the moral component of war.

    Yup, we interred the Japanese. Did we get useful intelligence out of that? Nope. Did it help our war effort? No. Is it something we should look back on like torture and realize it was not worth the costs we paid for it? Yes, for of course with your cartoonish views of war you never, ever consider the costs of your actions. In Iraq, the majority of foreign fighters we captured said they came because of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. It is believed that many of the suicide bombers in Iraq acted out of revenge for our mistreatment of their family members. Indeed, once we gave up torture, once the Iraqis could tell that we were a better option than AQI, who were still torturing, they came over to our side. (Read Bing West, not exactly a wussy or leftist.)


    I will make one concession. I think it might be possible to have torturers who could make it work. They would need to be well trained and have lots of experience. The goal is not to get people to talk, but to get useful info. We don’t have people with that kind of experience. We do have lots of successful interrogators using non-coercive techniques. So, in the case of the Iraq war, we had a big chunk of our interrogations being done by people with no prior experience with interrogation. Little knowledge of the culture and people. Create a professional torture group, rather than the amateurs we used, and it might work. Just figure out how much to pay them and their families to compensate for the inevitable high suicide rate.

  • From my point of view it makes no difference whether torture was effective in obtaining actionable information or not. The end does not justify the means. Based on that anything can be justified.

    Additionally, it requires knowledge, the possession of which obviates the necessity for torture. You must know that someone is in possession of certain knowledge. Otherwise you’re just casting around torturing people in the hope that one of those whom you torture will know something. That’s immoral by practically anybody’s standards.

  • steve Link

    Forgot to leave you this. This is from a Norwegian special forces guy and nicely written, but you find the same stuff from our intel guys. Also, I forgot to mention that in our Revolutionary War one side did abuse prisoners, the British. When news got out about how people were treated and died on the prison ships it helped galvanize opinion against the Brits. Costs. There are always costs and given the immorality of the action and the knowledge that it will burt our efforts in some way, you need convincing evidence, which does not exist, that the benefits will outweigh the costs.

  • TastyBits Link


    My list was in response to you quoting me: “In war, it is the most ruthless or tenacious who win.”

    This has nothing to do with torture, and my list had nothing to do with torture. War is won by breaking your enemies will to fight, and this is not done by playing tic-tac-toe.

    History tells a different story about torture, and I know how to get information. It works much better when you cultivate informants over time, but you can always get information. I realize that you dislike this reality, and you will latch onto anything to negate it.

    Gitmo and Abu Ghraib are luxury resorts compared to US prisons. Let me help you out. Criminals will tell the naive anything to get a laugh. They have nothing better to do than to f*ck with idiots asking dumb ass questions. I know this because I have been there, and it is rather amusing.

    It really does not matter. There is no way you will ever change you mind except to demonstrate it upon you, but you could perform an experiment. Go to your local Mexican gang running crystal meth and steal a few pounds of product from them. Then, tell them anything when they try to get the information. I will be waiting for your report.

    Using torture or not using torture is a different matter. The military does not use it because of retaliation and because it is rarely the only or best way to obtain information. For the military, it makes perfect sense to outlaw it.

    For ongoing intelligence work, you have more than likely just turned your source into a nutcase. Not only have you burned an asset, but you have also alerted anybody that something is up. There are better ways to lean on a person than shoving a hose up his ass, but I suspect you would throw me under the jail for some of those.

    As to the morality, whoop-de-do. It is not my problem is the guidance counselor forgot to mention that the terrorist career path may have a few downsides. The countries that they come from make anything in the report look like child’s play. I suspect that ISIS’s victims would trade places with anybody in the report. At least, the ones who still had a head.

    These countries do not give a sh*t about their people, and I do not have time to care either.

    I also find it rather curious that killing and maiming innocent people is fine and dandy as long as the president is from the correct political party.

  • TastyBits Link

    To be clear, I am not advocating torture or harsh treatment, but I do not have a problem with it either. I do not care.

    The terrorists are never going to blow up my neighborhood or my friend or family’s neighborhood. The people who have the most to worry about from the terrorists can invite them over for milk and cookies for all I care.

  • Just curious, should we try people like Chuck Yeager for war crimes?

    Is there anyone like Chuck Yeager?

  • steve Link

    TB- Then you are just talking about stuff not related to whether we should have govt sanctioned torture. If you steal from a gang and they know it, they are getting revenge. They are not trying to get actionable intelligence. If you stay on topic, and read, talk to, engage with people who do this stuff for a living, you find out that they don’t have much use for torture. Those who advocate for torture don’t have many successes to which they can point. You have this weird view of war not supported by experience. You assume that you could succeed in getting information when others could not. Just nonsense. I realize that I can send you a large amount of testimony from experienced interrogators and you won’t change your mind. I can cite the methods used by past interrogators who have real proven experience, not this fantasy stuff that you believe, but that won’t change your mind.

    Terrorist morals? Why would we care? I am concerned about our moral behavior. It is pretty clear that we tortured innocent people. It is well known that torture ruins the morale of those who are made to do it. It demoralizes our own troops, it energizes and promotes cohesion among our enemies and it creates new ones. It makes people not want to work with us. It has so many costs, so many down sides that, as I said, we should have overwhelming proof of its value if we are going to use it.


  • TastyBits Link


    I know how to get information from criminals. I am going to guess the number of times you have ever gotten information is zero. I am going to guess the number of rats you cultivated is zero.

    When you are dealing with weak people, they are easy to flip, and usually, they are all you need. These are the type of people who the kinder and gentler ways work. When you are dealing with somebody who is stronger, those methods not only do not work, but they also work against you.

    A strong person has no respect for somebody who is willing to treat him like a bitch. A man expects to be treated like a man. It takes more work than simply beating the crap out of him, and it usually is not worth the effort. You can work a bitch easier, and get what you need faster.

    Throughout human history war has been a brutal bloody business. You can deny this as much as you like, and as long as you refuse to study history, you can live in your fantasy world. I realize that it is difficult to believe that wars have not ended because the 21st century began.

  • ... Link

    Yeager is still alive, so I assume some of the other US fighter pilots from late WWII in Europe are still alive. According to Yeager’s autobiography he and other pilots believed the orders they were given constituted war crimes.

    Giving orders to shoot anything alive, including children, with .50 caliber machine guns isn’t exactly playing the moral high ground. Especially since (a) we were winning without it, (b) best I can tell the orders were given because higher ups thought to terrorize the German population into surrender, and (c) because they couldn’t think of anything better to do with the fighters with the German air force all but annihilated.

    While the US has generally had a better record on these matters than most, pretending that we simply sparkle save for this torture is ahistoric. Especially given that current policy is to blow up women & children just in case we can get the right man.

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