Author Topic: Cool Hand Barack  (Read 6471 times)

michaelintp

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #15 on: May 13, 2011, 07:09:58 am »
So, bottom line, you're okay with torture.  The ends justify the means to you.  The phrase "intense interrogations" is bullsh*t to me.  Look, I like watching 24 as much as the next man. But it's not a joke.  Anyone who has been waterboarded says it's torture.  Don't play word games.

No, it is not a joke. Thousands of innocent lives were saved.  Lives which, apparently, count for nothing in your mind. I wonder whether you even care about all those innocent Americans who are living today who would otherwise be dead. They could have been members of your own family.

Though I suspect you will, from an ideological perspective, deny that lives were saved, notwithstanding the facts set forth in the articles I cited above. Notwithstanding that terrorist attacks were prevented. Notwithstanding that Bin Laden was eventually located and killed. When it comes to issues like this, for the Left, ideology must trump reality.

I gave you an honest, nuanced, response, addressing a moral question that is complex. I did not give you some simplistic black and white answer. Because I believe the morally correct answer is not simplistic, nor black and white.

I am not playing "word games" ... you are the one obsessed with a word. I described a spectrum, not a simplistic absolutist concept. As I understand it, with waterboarding, the target of the interrogation was subjected to simulated drowning, and led to believe through various psychological techniques that other things were going on. As a result of the application of this technique, which produces extreme discomfort but no harm, cooperation was induced and extraordinarily valuable information was obtained ... that did save lives. Nor was the practice of waterboarding widespread, nor was it done without monitoring and pre-approval in special circumstances, as described in the article, above.

Bottom line is, for you, it appears that ideology trumps the saving of innocent American lives. Somehow, I don't see your position as being morally superior.

Finally, let us apply your lofty principles to another situation. Osama bin Laden was, apparently, unarmed at the time he was killed. Or, at least, that is what some reports indicate. Reginald, as a man who does see things in such "clear" terms, how do you justify American soldiers popping a cap into the head of an unarmed man who was, for all intents and purposes, already captured? If you dispute these facts, are you advocating an investigation? If not, why not? Do you have a moral issue with President Obama's "kill order" as opposed to a "capture, but kill to prevent escape" order. Or do you just have moral qualms about waterboarding, which causes no real harm, but no qualms about blowing the brains out of an old sick unarmed man surrounded by weapons-wielding U.S. soldiers? Because, applying your standard, all of the men who were waterboarded should have just been shot in the head at the moment of their apprehension. While we would have lost the opportunity to obtain lots of intelligence information, at least we would not be committing the sin of "torture." Because a bullet in the brain is clearly not "torture" ... right?  Doesn't hurt a bit.  ::)

C'mon Reginald. Your facade of moral superiority is wearing a bit thin.

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2011, 10:22:24 pm »
Sorry for the delay.  I've been travelling.

I know you feel you are being "nuanced" on torture, which seems to come down to if it doesn't end up as permanent physical disfigurement, it's not torture.

I feel about torture like I feel about the death penalty.  I have no problem killing bad people.  I'll pull the switch myself.  But I do worry about it being official state policy, because I have problems with government process.  I can't accept the number of innocent men put to death because the police have a long history of arresting black men for crimes they didn't commit.  I also have a problem with a likely much larger percentage of people rounded up as suspects being tortured and imprisoned with zero due process. 

I also don't get how we can condemn dictators for torturing people then we do the same thing.  Are we better than that or not? 

michaelintp

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2011, 08:25:21 am »
I understand your concern, but I believe it to be unwarranted by the facts, under the circumstances involving enemy combatants. The government was interrogating enemy combatants. Do you fear that while the government is only interrogating limited numbers of enemy combatants today (under limited circumstances of case-by-case approval and strict supervision), the floodgates will be opened for the roundups of Americans for torture tomorrow? If so, by the same token, I don't understand why you don't generalize the fear that the targeted assassination of enemy combatants will lead to the targeted assassination of Americans by the U.S. Government.

Honestly, your position is still unclear to me. Is this a fair summary?:

1. Targeted assassination of an enemy combatant is fine.
2. Targeted apprehension and killing of an enemy combatant by U.S. troops pursuant to a "kill order" is fine (for example, where the enemy combatant is unarmed and surrounded by those troops, essentially in U.S. custody, as was apparently the case with Bin Laden).
3. Waterboarding of an enemy combatant to gather intelligence information is not fine (for example, as was the case with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who only disclosed intelligence information after intense interrogation, whereas before his response was essentially "kiss my ass").

If this is accurate, how do you reconcile 2 and 3?

Also, as a side point, from what I understand, waterboarding caused no harm, period. Just extreme discomfort during the process itself. We not talking about some period of time for wounds to heal, or anything of that sort. It was combined with other psychological techniques to elicit cooperation.

Do you believe that with the now more gentlemanly questioning techniques, as much useful intelligence information will be obtained as was obtained in, say, the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? Or do you acknowledge that because of the now more restrained practices, together with the detailed disclosure of past techniques to our enemies, more innocent Americans now bear the risk of being mutilated or killed by undetected terrorists on U.S. soil? If so, I gather you feel that this is a price worth paying in order to remain "better than they."  

But putting a bullet in the brain of a person who is apprehended does not make us no better than they? Your position confuses me.

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2011, 08:36:28 am »
I worry about innocent people whether they are American citizens or not.

Some suspects actually have involvement in terrorist activities.  Some are just in the wrong place, wrong time.  For example, the guy who happens to be crossing the Pakistan border wearing a Casio watch.  Hey, they use Casio watches in bombs...he gets arrested.  Since these bounty hunters are paid per arrest, the focus is on quantity, not quality of suspect.  This is a real case I am citing. 

As for waterboarding, every person I've ever seen who doubted it was torture who actually had the nerve to try it themselves quickly changed their tune...in about 5 seconds after it was applied.

michaelintp

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2011, 11:43:33 am »
I too share the concern regarding innocent people. Which is why I would not support waterboarding of everyone and anyone captured, willy nilly (... and certainly not to silence political opposition, etc, as is done by dictators who inflict torture). See the article I posted above, by Michael B. Mukasey, regarding the limitations that existed on that now-abandoned interrogation program. I do hope you read that article, which was quite informative.

My feelings on the death penalty in criminal cases are not all that different from yours. Once the death penalty is imposed, it is irrevocable. 

Which brings me to an important question: Rather than our just replaying the old waterboarding debate that we had some years ago, are you willing to take a shot at answering my other questions? (From my immediately prior post). I believe I've explained my position fairly clearly, even if you disagree. It would be interesting to understand where you draw your lines, and why you draw your lines where you do.

(errr ... "take a shot" ... really, no pun intended).  ::)

Because ... you do seem to be carefully avoiding the whole issue of the morality of putting a bullet in the brain of an unarmed man who was for all intents and purposes already captured, in an area already secured, and the morality of a President's "kill order" that authorized such conduct (as opposed to a "capture, kill only to prevent escape" order). And how you reconcile your stance on these issues with your stance on the harsh interrogation of known terrorists that was similarly authorized by a President.

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #20 on: May 15, 2011, 11:48:25 am »
How do I accept having Rules in wartime?  Like the Geneva Convention?  Because they help protect Americans from barbaric behavior.  And they help us not conduct ourselves in a barbaric fashion. 

Whether bin Laden should have been put on trial or killed is a subject worthy of debate.  Was he eventually going to be put to death?  Unquestionably.  Would the equivalent of the Nuremburg Trials for terrorists been healthier for society?  I think so.  But I don't know if there were other factors that affected that decision.

michaelintp

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #21 on: May 15, 2011, 06:46:16 pm »
Thank you for the response. I gather from it that you would have preferred to see Bin Laden captured and tried, and do have some ethical reservations regarding the "kill" order (absent some knowledge that we are unaware of). You are, then, being consistent.

As to protecting Americans from harm ... that was exactly what the intense interrogations of known terrorists such as KSM were all about. I believe those American lives were worth protecting.

Your reference to the Rules of War [a bit of an oxymoron in my view, and in any event inapplicable to terrorist organizations], as protecting American prisoners in the hands of the enemy, would only have that protective effect where the enemy too is willing to comply with the same rules, which is clearly not the case here.

Even if one disagrees with the legal judgment call of the prior Administration, a call made under extremely challenging circumstances after the September 11th attacks, I see no justification for the present Administration to harass our intelligence officers who were carrying out American policy as it existed at the time. Such second-guessing seems, to me, to be petty and vindictive. Particularly on the part of an Administration that has reaped such benefits from those efforts.

Finally, Reginald, while we disagree on much of this, I appreciate your fully sharing your perspective, to understand where you are coming from.

michaelintp

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #22 on: May 16, 2011, 09:00:32 pm »
One final thought ... as to why this isn't a simple moral issue, in my mind. Torture (like war) is terrible. Terrible people do it for terrible reasons. I understand your strong feelings. Even as to the most transitory sort.

But what do you do when you are confronted by terrible people who want to do horrible things to your people, things that you feel you must prevent?

I sincerely believe that under the present circumstances, your path will lead to far more innocent deaths than mine.

We may disagree, but I hope you understand my pure motivations.

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #23 on: May 16, 2011, 09:29:44 pm »
You are right, these are complicated moral questions.  I think when it comes to Middle Eastern terrorists, you find it easier to take an extreme response to them, as compared to a middle American terrorist who bombs buildings, for example. 

I'm not saying I know all the answers.  These are big boy questions.

michaelintp

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #24 on: May 16, 2011, 10:40:00 pm »
Reginald, it does become more complex when dealing with American citizens on U.S. soil, because of the Constitutional issues. But were we dealing with, say, some European (or you name it) highly-funded global terrorist movement, I can assure you my analysis would be the same, in favor of extracting the information needed to save (probably many) innocent lives.

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #25 on: May 16, 2011, 11:41:13 pm »
Reginald, it does become more complex when dealing with American citizens on U.S. soil, because of the Constitutional issues. But were we dealing with, say, some European (or you name it) highly-funded global terrorist movement, I can assure you my analysis would be the same, in favor of extracting the information needed to save (probably many) innocent lives.

The core problem with your position, looking at your posts throughout this conversation, is that you keep wanting to give credit to the Bush administration for their efforts. We will never know the complete chain of events that led to the killing on bin Laden, but all in all the Bush record is abysmal. 

First of all, the 9/11 attacks happened on his watch, even with a memo warning that they were coming.  Then we invaded the wrong country on trumped up evidence, causing deaths on all sides and wasting 3 trillion dollars.  Then they blow bin Laden's possible capture at Tora Bora.  Then we find out he's been chillin' in Pakistan all this time?  The Bush administration bungled the job and Obama nailed it.  Plain and simple.  And after he did it, he didn't put on a flight suit and put up a banner saying "mission accomplished".

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #26 on: May 17, 2011, 01:30:53 am »
Regarding trials of war criminals:

May 16, 2011
Demjanjuk in Munich
By DEBORAH E. LIPSTADT
Atlanta

LAST week a German court in Munich found John Demjanjuk guilty of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder, one for each of the Jews exterminated during the six months that he worked as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Poland. The Demjanjuk trial will probably be the last Holocaust war crimes trial to grab the world’s attention.

For many, especially those in younger generations, the trial against Mr. Demjanjuk, a 91-year-old former Ohio autoworker now confined to a wheelchair, may seem the awkward fulfillment of the notion that history plays itself out first as tragedy, then as farce. Coincidentally, this year is the 50th anniversary of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a case that, in its significance, appears to dwarf the Demjanjuk proceedings.

But while Eichmann did play a larger role in the Holocaust than Mr. Demjanjuk, we must resist the conclusion that one is more significant than the other. Indeed, the Demjanjuk trial, as much as the Eichmann case, has volumes to teach us about the complex relationship between genocide and justice.

The Demjanjuk case matters, above all, because there was never much doubt that he had been a vicious prison guard under the Nazis. After living for more than 30 years in the United States, he was deported to Israel in 1986, where he was tried and sentenced to death. Unfortunately, prosecutors had misidentified him as a guard at the Treblinka camp known as Ivan the Terrible, and Mr. Demjanjuk was released in 1993.

What followed was 16 years of legal wrangling as Mr. Demjanjuk, now back in the United States, fought efforts to retry or deport him. Finally, Germany succeeded in extraditing him in 2009. Last week’s decision, then, was proof that the rule of law works, however slowly.

Of course, it’s that slow pace that had many asking why Germany was bothering to try Mr. Demjanjuk in the first place. Wasn’t there something comic, even shameful, about dragging a dying man across the Atlantic to stand trial for a crime he committed over a half century ago? Shouldn’t there be a statute of limitations on even the most heinous crimes?

No, and the trial reaffirms that society rejects that idea. Those who participate in genocide, in whatever capacity, should never rest easy. Nor should they assume that if they delay justice enough, their case will be abandoned. This lesson may matter more today than ever: after all, the hunt for Holocaust killers may be over, but the hunt for those who practiced genocide in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and far too many other places must continue.

The Demjanjuk trial also underlines the lessons learned from Eichmann. Like Mr. Demjanjuk, Eichmann claimed he was only a small cog in the wheel. Both men argued that they did not have the choice to say no; it was kill or be killed.

However, as Hannah Arendt argued in “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” every machine part is of crucial importance. Removing a small cog has the same impact as removing a large one: the machine stops working. Both men could have said no with few consequences; no defense lawyer or historian has found evidence of someone being killed for refusing to participate in the Holocaust. But these men chose not to refuse.

True, the outcomes for the two men will be different: Eichmann was the only person in Israel’s history to be executed; Mr. Demjanjuk will probably die in his bed as his lawyers appeal his sentence.

But what happened at both of these trials is more important than the ultimate fates of the guilty. Now as then, the victims were given a chance to tell their story, not in a book, interview or speech, but in a court of law. At the Eichmann trial close to 100 witnesses testified about their suffering. At the Demjanjuk trial we heard from the victims’ children. They joined the prosecutor in pointing their fingers at the man who facilitated their parents’ murders. In other words, the Demjanjuk trial proves that while Eichmann himself may be history, the robust process that made Holocaust trials into something more than mere court proceedings is still effective.

And finally, the Demjanjuk case, by its very complexity, is a fitting coda to the Eichmann trial because it reminds us that adjudicating genocide is, like the act itself, rarely straightforward. These cases raise difficult questions about how to punish different types of participation in a genocide; does a guard who carried it out deserve more or less punishment than a bureaucrat who planned it?

These trials do not ever truly offer closure, even decades after the crime. Indeed, cases like Mr. Demjanjuk’s are in some sense only the beginning of a process of reckoning and understanding, a process whose burden now falls not on the courts, but on the rest of us.

Deborah E. Lipstadt is a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University and the author of “The Eichmann Trial.”




Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #27 on: May 17, 2011, 06:41:56 am »
Your reference to the Rules of War [a bit of an oxymoron in my view, and in any event inapplicable to terrorist organizations], as protecting American prisoners in the hands of the enemy, would only have that protective effect where the enemy too is willing to comply with the same rules, which is clearly not the case here.
That may be true but the Rules of War go beyond simple pragmatism in my view. It is a question of honor which is one way that we sustain ourselves in morally difficult terrain. Also, asymmetric warfare is as much a PR battle as it is an actual battle. Stooping to the means of our most barbaric enemies plays into their hands by validating their propaganda in the eyes of the audience they are addressing and so continuing the cycle.

I do agree that these are complicated issues.

Even if one disagrees with the legal judgment call of the prior Administration, a call made under extremely challenging circumstances after the September 11th attacks, I see no justification for the present Administration to harass our intelligence officers who were carrying out American policy as it existed at the time. Such second-guessing seems, to me, to be petty and vindictive. Particularly on the part of an Administration that has reaped such benefits from those efforts.
I agree with your assertion that intelligence officers should be held accountable to the rules that were in effect at the time.
But how do we know that the targets of investigation did not violate that standard? If they did but got results, then what? Complicated.
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
"Be hard on systems, but soft on people."

michaelintp

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #28 on: May 17, 2011, 07:18:08 am »
Reginald, it does become more complex when dealing with American citizens on U.S. soil, because of the Constitutional issues. But were we dealing with, say, some European (or you name it) highly-funded global terrorist movement, I can assure you my analysis would be the same, in favor of extracting the information needed to save (probably many) innocent lives.
The core problem with your position, looking at your posts throughout this conversation, is that you keep wanting to give credit to the Bush administration for their efforts. We will never know the complete chain of events that led to the killing on bin Laden, but all in all the Bush record is abysmal. 
First of all, the 9/11 attacks happened on his watch, even with a memo warning that they were coming.  Then we invaded the wrong country on trumped up evidence, causing deaths on all sides and wasting 3 trillion dollars.  Then they blow bin Laden's possible capture at Tora Bora.  Then we find out he's been chillin' in Pakistan all this time?  The Bush administration bungled the job and Obama nailed it.  Plain and simple.  And after he did it, he didn't put on a flight suit and put up a banner saying "mission accomplished".

Oh gawwwd, Reginald, I thought we ended on a reasonable note, and now this? Try, for a moment, not to twist every fact to support your partisan bias. I am not giving all credit to Bush, and that is not the core problem of my position. Curtis asked for an elaboration of my concerns regarding Eric Holder's investigations of our intelligence officers, the ones who played a role in getting the information that ultimately led to the death of Bin Laden. I am being wholly nonpartisan here, giving credit to the intelligence officers and soldiers, and to both Presidents to the extent they authorized the interrogations, investigations, following of leads, and ultimately the raid that led to the killing of Bin Laden. Unlike you (I think ... you've never been wholly clear on this for some reason), I don't have a moral problem with President Obama's a "kill order" given in the context of war against the enemy leader (even assuming he could have been readily taken alive, which seems likely based on what has been disclosed), other than the concern that we may have lost a wonderful opportunity to extract every single bit of intelligence data out of Bin Laden's ugly twisted brain. But then, I am consistent, in that I also support vigorous interrogation where necessary, in order to save innocent lives.

... and no, President Obama didn't say, "Mission accomplished." He just said, "Me me me, I I I" continuously in his speech, as if nothing was done prior to his taking the oath of office. See the speech comparisons that I posted above. If for partisan reasons you wish to train with the same vocal coach, fine. ::)

Finally, I really am puzzled. You stated a tactical reason why it might have been better to capture Bin Laden alive (to have a war crimes trial, a P.R. event), but you never really did, yourself, address the issue of whether it is morally proper to put a bullet in the brain of an unarmed man who is, for all intents and purposes, already captured in a building secured by U.S. soldiers. DO YOU HAVE A MORAL PROBLEM WITH THE "KILL ORDER" OR NOT? (As opposed to a "capture, but kill if necessary to prevent escape" order). Because I think this does have some bearing on our other discussions, above.

If your rationale is that it is OK to put a bullet in the brain of the unarmed man because were a war crimes trial to take place he would be executed anyway, then you are supporting the existence of capital punishment. Before trial.  ;)  If we lived in a nation in which capital punishment were banned (for the reasons you stated, above, fear of error or prejudice), then what? Then the bullet in the brain is wrong? But not so long as we have capital punishment in the U.S.? Your moral position seems very unclear to me. (Of course if Bin Laden had been in the process of trying to escape, that would be another matter, a simple question, not worth asking; but assume he was just standing in the room, with no escape possible, when our soldiers blew his brains out. That scenario, and the order that gave rise to his killing in those circumstances, presents the interesting question).


michaelintp

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Re: Cool Hand Barack
« Reply #29 on: May 17, 2011, 07:31:09 am »
Your reference to the Rules of War [a bit of an oxymoron in my view, and in any event inapplicable to terrorist organizations], as protecting American prisoners in the hands of the enemy, would only have that protective effect where the enemy too is willing to comply with the same rules, which is clearly not the case here.
That may be true but the Rules of War go beyond simple pragmatism in my view. It is a question of honor which is one way that we sustain ourselves in morally difficult terrain. Also, asymmetric warfare is as much a PR battle as it is an actual battle. Stooping to the means of our most barbaric enemies plays into their hands by validating their propaganda in the eyes of the audience they are addressing and so continuing the cycle.

I do agree that these are complicated issues.


I agree with your observations, which demonstrate that all of this is complex. I believe it is clear that the extraction of concrete terrorist plans and other terrorist operatives and cells and couriers did as a factual matter save innocent lives. Your point may be true, or may not be true, as the effect you describe is more attenuated. The counter argument is that "strength" is what is most respected, particularly in the Middle East (worked for decades, though we do see recent revolts, so it is complex). I don't know. What I do know is that if we can get information to foil terrorist attacks before they happen, we should do so. In my opinion.

Even if one disagrees with the legal judgment call of the prior Administration, a call made under extremely challenging circumstances after the September 11th attacks, I see no justification for the present Administration to harass our intelligence officers who were carrying out American policy as it existed at the time. Such second-guessing seems, to me, to be petty and vindictive. Particularly on the part of an Administration that has reaped such benefits from those efforts.
I agree with your assertion that intelligence officers should be held accountable to the rules that were in effect at the time.
But how do we know that the targets of investigation did not violate that standard? If they did but got results, then what? Complicated.

Given the circumstances that existed after 9/11, however, I would most certainly err on the side of giving a great deal of slack to the intelligence officers who shouldered the burden of extracting information from the terrorists. And once investigated and cleared, I would not (as a new Administration) re-open the investigations. Very bad for morale.