Friday, December 12, 2014

Thoughts On Torture

"If hooking up one rag-head terrorist prisoner's testicles to a car battery to get the truth out of the lying little camel shagger will save just one Canadian life, then I have only three things to say: Red is positive, black is negative, and make sure his nuts are wet.” – Don Cherry, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation commentator and retired head coach of the Boston Bruins

Given the appearance of the Feinstein-led Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee report just this week, it occurred to me that a few words about torture, in both its historical and contemporary guises, might be appropriate.

The various “enhanced interrogation techniques” employed by the CIA and condemned by the Feinstein report skate an uneven surface, historically. They were certainly meant to cause fear and suffering. They were certainly not meant to permanently injure nor kill the victim. In that regard, they were a far cry from torture as practiced by other cultures and times. But then, our culture is a far cry from those others: it concedes certain matters of principle as being beyond rational dispute.

The point of torture isn’t always interrogation. Sometimes the point is to demonstrate to the honoree’s comrades what could happen to them: i.e., pour encourager les autres. And sometimes – especially in the case of many historical instances of torture – the point is merely to enjoy another person’s suffering and degradation.

The American agents who employed those techniques appear to have been interested solely in information extraction. However, were the techniques deemed licit for continued use, the resulting dynamic would attract genuine sadists to such positions: persons who care only about the pain and terror they can cause. Thus, it was probably for the best that, once the immediate crisis was comfortably behind us, such techniques were ruled to be beyond the pale.

However, the striking contrast between the context of the CIA’s coercive interrogations and the historical use of those (and much worse) techniques should remind us of something:

Quite a lot of persons were eager to do the same and worse to every last American.

“Savages have no rights.” – Ayn Rand

Savages torture. Indeed, they maim, mutilate, and kill without moral scruple. Their ignorance and / or dismissal of individuals’ rights is the defining characteristic that sets them apart from civilized men.

They who have chosen to make war against us – against all of us, not merely our government or our military – are savages by that definition. As they grant us no rights, they cannot claim any rights. That frees me of any conscience qualms about what our forces might find it productive or expedient to do to “Islamic fighters” who’ve strained with all their might and cunning to kill us.

Sometimes it’s a good thing for Americans to be reminded of just how high a civilization we’ve built and inhabit. But such a reminder is nearly always by contrast with another, less advanced culture. In the Islamic movement of today, we confront a culture that’s willfully adopted norms 1400 years behind those of the First World, in obedience to the most vicious totalitarian creed ever circulated among men.

Yes, I meant that last sentence exactly as it sounds. Not even the Nazis or the Communists can equal the barbarism and bloodthirstiness of Islam. Those other totalitarianisms were at least animated by a positive-seeming goal. Islam’s goal is exactly and only the reduction of Mankind to uniform seventh-century squalor in submission to an imaginary god opposed to all freedom and temporal happiness.

Islam meets the definition of savagery in all particulars, without qualification.

It is often the case that a fictional character will say what a real man would never dare to express, no matter how ardently he might believe it:

    Souhi watched, ashen, as the crew was laid out on the deck. Many of them were dead and others were screaming in madness, trussed up with duct tape.
    “So,” the man who appeared to be the leader said, walking over to him, “I have a few questions.”
    “Go fuck a goat,” Souhi said, spitting at him. “What are you going to do? Send me to Guantanamo? I sleep, I eat, I wait for your Amnesty International and ACLU to free me so I can kill you like the goat dick sucker you are.”
    “No, I’m not going to send you to Guantanamo. Those poor boys and girls have enough dickheads to deal with including, yes, the ICRC, AI, and ACLU. Are you the diver or the assistant driver?” he asked, turning to Kahf.
    “You are a man who licks the cocks of camels,” Kahf said.
    “Oh, wrong answer,” the man said, drawing his sidearm and putting a bullet through the diver’s brain. “Oleg, got your first customer.”
    A winch was lowered down and Kahf’s feet secured to the winch. Then the diver was lifted up and lowered over the side.
    As that was happening, the dead crew were being lifted up, their feet secured to ropes, and then dropped over the side to rest in the water. A spotlight was turned on and two large men lifted Souhi up so he was forced to look at the water.
    “The sharks around here are notorious,” the man said, smiling. “Let’s see how long it takes one to turn up.”
    “Wanna talk?” he asked mildly. “Let me tell you something, you Islamic fuck. A woman I dearly loved was killed by your kind about two months ago. I can’t really be said to be over that. Now, I dearly want to add you to the frenzy, just push you over the fucking side and be done with it. But, as I said, I won’t kill you. If you tell me the coordinates. If you tell me now, you can leave this ship with all your limbs intact. But when I tell them to lift you up, you are going into the water. So you want to tell me? Come on, it’s just a few numbers. I know you know them. You’ve got them memorized. You punch them in and erase the track after you’ve done the pickup.”
    “No,” the driver said, whimpering.
    “God, you people are sooo stupid.” He straightened up and gestured.
    “Please!” the driver said as he was lifted into the air. “You cannot do this to me!”
    “Did I listen to any of the rest of them?” Mike asked as the driver was lowered over the side. “Do you listen to the pleas of your victims? To the men whose throats you cut? To the little girls that get raped for the sins of their brothers? Do you care for those you’re starving to death in the Sudan? Did you listen to the pleas of the pilots you dragged through the streets of Mogadishu? Did you jump for joy when the Towers fell? Did you, YOU CAMEL-SUCKING FUCK?”

That’s as good a statement of the rationale for torturing terrorists as I’ve encountered anywhere.

Note that “Souhi” was beyond any rational dispute a terrorist. He had just been captured while attempting to deliver a weapon of mass destruction – nerve gas – to the U.S. mainland, where it would be used by other Muslim terrorists to perpetrate a mass slaughter. He had no claim to any right a civilized man might invoke, having forfeited all his rights when he elected to participate in such a heinous program.

With the lives of unimaginable numbers of innocents at stake, would you hesitate to torture such a man for the information in his head?

Islam and its adherents aren’t the only such monsters in the world today. There are others, driven by other ideologies, that would deal death to innocent Americans with equal ruthlessness:

    "Your certainty is impressive," Ryan said. "It allows you to justify your faith in mass murder."
"It's not murder," she said, "when the violence is justified by the revolution. The bourgeois regime being attacked is criminal and inhuman and all who are obedient to it are complicit in its interminable violence. In acts of revolutionary violence against the enemy anyone complicit with the enemy who is killed is guilty of the crime of the enemy. It is not murder."
    "So riding a subway train to work," Ryan said, "is a criminal act punishable by death?"
    "When seen in its true historical context, it certainly is," she said confidently.
    "Everyone on the subway is equally guilty," Ryan suggested.
    "No, not if you go person by person, a maid or janitor is not carrying the same level of guilt as a stockbroker or corporate executive, but revolutionary violence sweeps with an inclusive broom. The statement it makes is bold and absolute and is a warning to all...."
    "And what do you believe in, soldier boy? Gawd?"
    "In the individual and his liberty," Ryan said, rising to the bait."
    "Oh dear, an American. You people are so charming, so quaint," she said, "always the perpetual football players running onto the field to the roar of the crowd and the bouncing breasts of the cheerleaders."
    "You're an American, aren't you, Ms. Garvin?" he asked.
    "Ah, no," she said. "I stopped thinking of myself as that, as an American when I was a teenager. That's what we call 'the normal maturation process' these days, soldier boy. Sorry you missed it."
    "So you're not an American," Ryan said. "What are you?"
    "I'm a citizen of the world," she said.
    "That's a big concept," Ryan said.
    "It's basic," she said. "You must have missed it while you were attending your ROTC meetings."
    "I guess I did," Ryan said. "That would explain why I'm still just an American with a silly belief in freedom."
    Garvin laughed.
    "Freedom? You think this America is free? You've got ninety percent of the people glued to their couches gazing like zombies into their televisions and eating non-stop. And then they jump off their couches for five minutes of history when a couple of tall buildings are knocked down in New York. That's the America I see. That's the America the revolution sees. This freedom thing you believe in, soldier boy, is a fairy tale, just like Gawd. History is unfolding right before your eyes and you're running in the opposite direction after the fairies of freedom and the goblins of terrorism. You should run in the direction of revolutionary violence, all of you should, get out in front of it, get off this America thing, because it is dead, a thing of the past. America no longer exists. You just haven't realized it. None of you have....
    "What you people refuse to understand," Garvin said, jumping into the silence that had fallen over the room, "is that this freedom of yours is no more than pitiful self-indulgence at the expense of others. What the revolution does is take the anger and frustration of those who hunger for justice in the world and shape that into purposeful violence. You try to deny that by calling it 'senseless violence' and "mass murder,' but I'm looking at your faces now and I can see those old defenses and the lies that support them draining out of you. You all look like children who have just been told that there is no Santa Claus, and you had really known that all along. You just needed an adult to make it official for you. Well, here I am, kids, giving it to you straight, what you already knew."

[From Martin McPhillips’s extraordinary thriller Corpse In Armor.]

Other ideologies have, of course, demoted persons opposed to them to subhuman, rightless status. In every such case, the inevitable consequence is open, bloody warfare. The rules of war as civilized nations have codified them in the Geneva Conventions are of no interest to such ideologies. In their worldview, much like that of Islam, there are no rights and no noncombatants.

Were you to capture an Allison Garvin, knowing that she was a participant in a plot to detonate a nuclear weapon in a major American city, would you hesitate to torture her for whatever strategic or tactical information she might possess?

The efficacy of torture is questionable. There have been documented cases of men confessing to crimes they had never committed simply to get the torture to cease...and torturers aware of that possibility who resolved to continue on to the point of death. But that goes to the utility of torture rather than whether it’s ever morally justified.

When you know...
...that the person you hold is beyond doubt a terrorist...
...that he’s complicit in an ongoing plot to commit mass murder...
...that he would do whatever he pleased to you were your statuses reversed...
...and that he would derive both enjoyment and satisfaction from watching you suffer and plead...

...would you hesitate to torture him for whatever shreds of useful information he might possess?

I wouldn’t.

Think about it.


Unknownsailor said...

The first exchange is from Into the Blue by John Ringo. It's the 5th book in the Paladin series, IIRC.
You didn't elude to the source, Fran, and I figured people might want to know...

Francis W. Porretto said...

Yes, it's from Ringo's "A Deeper Blue." (I did link to the novel, Unknown.)

Anonymous said...

There is one more reason to apply "enhanced interrogation" techniques, that you forgot to mention. And - it is actually a very "fruitful" approach.

Many opponents of moderate commitment/resilience feel committed to resisting interrogation, and not "giving up" sensitive information, under "garden variety" questioning. They know that they are supposed to "man up" and endure a bit of discomfort, in defense of the cause.

But - these same opponents realize that under "no bullshit" harsh interrogation, they are unlikely to be able to withstand the punishment, and will "give up the goods".

So - you don't need to cripple someone, or seriously injure a detainee, you just need to put enough pressure on him to allow him to tick off the checklist box in his head that he "took it for as long as he could, and fought the good fight" - but was - after all - not a hard-core fearless professional killer - he was just an apprentice. So - you give him enough discomfort to allow him to retain his "street cred", and he will then respond to questioning.

And - once he starts talking - there is typically no longer a need for him to go through another "enhanced" session - one validation of his resistance was all he needed.

0007 said...

Oh no, John Ringo!!!!!!
Sorry, somebody HAD to say it, heh, heh, heh.

Unknownsailor said...


I knew someone would bring that up.


Must have missed that link, my apologies. I'm a huge Ringo nut; I have everything he's written.

Capitalist Eric said...

Be careful the tools you place in .gov hands, as they WILL be used against innocents here at home, sooner or later.

Why else would they have 80+ categories of normal American people listed as "potential terrorists?"

The hypothetical situations sound great, but we live in the real world, where lots of non-players get caught up in the net.

Anonymous said...

"why Johnny Ringo... you look like somebody just.... walked over your grave". Thank you, brother Fran, for restoring my faith. Sometimes, evil cannot be destroyed by good, it must be met with a different kind of evil; islam must be met by a crusade, jihadi met by crusader. It isn't ok to torture and butcher Christian children. So, this old warrior Grandpa says to them..."hey wife of a goat, come out of where you hide and meet us as if you were a man on the honorable battlefield. We will feed your balls to you, in bowls made out of your kneecaps." stormfriend

Backwoods Engineer said...

While I agree in principle, Fran, "Capitalist Eric" has a point: whatever an empire does to its enemies abroad always comes home, is always eventually used to control or destroy the regime's enemies at home.

Anonymous said...

Here is an idea - If we quit calling these people "terrorists" and instead call them "fetuses" or "unborn children" the progressives on the
left will drop this controversy over torture immediately.

You know it is true..... how SICK and INSANE is that ???
These people who are trashing America need to go now ....

We no longer interrogate prisoners to learn about
terrorist plans, because Obama is above that. He just kills them, and
often their families, outright, without even checking their ID to make sure that he is KILLING the right people, therefore avoiding this messy intelligence business.

Don't get me wrong I think we should have let Gen. Patton take over after WWII and avoided all of the problems over the last 50 years.... Just pointing out that Liberal/Progressives are CLUELESS ....

daniel_day said...

Speaking of Patton --

Weetabix said...

I would hate the necessit, so I would hesitate. But then I'd do it.