A Philosopher's Blog

Torture

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on December 12, 2014
English: John McCain official photo portrait.

English: John McCain official photo portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In December of 2014 the US Senate issued its report on torture. While there has been some criticism of the report, the majority of pundits and politicians have not come out in defense of torture. However, there have been attempts to justify the use of torture and this essay will address some of these arguments.

One criticism of the report is not a defense of torture as such. The talking point is a question, typically of the form “why bring this up now?” The argument lurking behind this point seems to be that since the torture covered in the report occurred years ago, it should not be discussed now. This is similar to another stock remark made to old wrongs, namely “get over it.”

This does raise a worthwhile concern, namely the expiration date of moral concern. Or, to use an analogy to law, the matter of the moral statute of limitations on misdeeds. On the face of it, it is reasonable to accept that the passage of time can render a wrong morally irrelevant to today. While an exact line can probably never be drawn, a good rule of thumb is that when the morally significant consequences of the event have attenuated to insignificance, then the moral concern can be justly laid aside. In the case of the torture employed in the war on terror, that seems to be “fresh” enough to still be unexpired.

Interestingly, many of the same folks who insist that torture should not be brought up now still bring up 9/11 to justify the current war on terror. On the face of it, if 9/11 is still morally relevant, then so is the torture it was used to justify. I agree that 9/11 is still morally relevant and also the torture.

One of the stock defenses of the use of torture is a semantic one: that the techniques used are not torture. One way to reply is to stick with the legal definitions, such as those in agreements the United States has signed and crimes it has prosecuted—especially the prosecution of German and Japanese soldiers after WWII. Many of the techniques used in the war on terror meet these definitions. As such, it seems clear that as a nation we accept that these acts are, in fact, torture. I will admit that there are gray areas—but we clearly crossed over into the darkness.

Perhaps the best moral defense of torture is a utilitarian one: while torture is harmful, if it produces good consequences that outweigh the harm, then it is morally acceptable. It has been claimed that the torture of prisoners produced critical information that could not have been acquired by other means.

However, the senate report includes considerable evidence that this is not true—including information from the CIA itself regarding the infectiveness of torture as a means of gathering reliable intelligence. As John McCain said, “I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering.”

As such, the utilitarian justification for torture fails on the grounds that it does not work. As such, it produces harms with no benefits, thus making it evil.

Another stock defense of torture is that the enemy is so bad that we can do anything to them.  No doubt the terrorists tell themselves the same thing when they murder innocent people. This justification is often combined with the utilitarian argument, otherwise it is just a defense of torture on the grounds of retaliation.

This notion is founded on a legitimate moral principle, namely that the actions of one’s enemy can justify actions against that enemy.  To use the easy and obvious example, if someone tries to unjustly kill me, I have a moral right to use lethal force in order to save my life.

However, the badness of one’s enemy is not sufficient to morally justify everything that might be done to that enemy. After all, while self-defense can be morally justified, there are still moral boundaries in regards to what one can do. This is especially important if we wish to claim that we are better than the terrorists. As McCain says, “”the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights.” He is right about this—if we claim that we are better, we must be better. If we claim that we are good, we must accept moral limits on what we will do. In short, we must not torture.

A final stock argument worth considering is the idea that America’s exceptionalism allows us to do anything, yet remain good. Or, as one pundit on Fox News put it, be “awesome.” The idea that such exceptionalism allows one to do terrible things while remaining righteous is a common one—terrorists typically also believe this about themselves.

This justification is, obviously enough, terrible. After all, being really good and exceptional means that one will not do awful things. That is what it is to be morally exceptional and awesome. The idea that one can be so good that one can be bad is obviously absurd.

I do agree that America is awesome. Part of what makes us awesome is that we (eventually) admit our sins and we take our moral struggles seriously. To the degree that we live up to our fine principles, we are awesome. As Churchill said, ”you can always count on Americans to do the right thing-after they’ve tried everything else.”

 

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on December 12, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Who gets to decide what counts as torture?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 12, 2014 at 10:57 am

      In terms of the purely legal question, that would be the legislative bodies and the courts. The United States persecuted the Nazis and Japanese for torture-so we clearly have a legal definition. We also signed agreements about torture.

      Morally it is trickier. After all, there is no moral court or congress that settles these matters. One way to define it is by example, using paradigm cases of torture and then using these to sketch out the boundaries (with some fuzzy areas). Another way is to work from the intuitive concept of torture and use that to craft a definition.

      In general, I would say that we know what torture is, though we can dispute the fuzzier cases. So, for example, I think we would agree that pulling out a person’s fingernails with red hot pliers would be torture. But, we might be less clear as to whether forcing short term sleep deprivation is actually torture.

      • T. J. Babson said, on December 12, 2014 at 12:07 pm

        John Yoo:

        As a Justice Department lawyer who worked on the legality of the interrogation methods in 2002, I believed that the federal law prohibiting torture allowed the CIA to use interrogation methods that did not cause injury — including, in extraordinary cases, waterboarding — because of the grave threat to the nation’s security in the months after the 9/11 attacks.

        http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/john-yoo-torture-report-dustbin-article-1.2039758

  2. T. J. Babson said, on December 12, 2014 at 9:44 am

    The sense of proportion is all wrong. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of innocents have been killed in drone strikes as collateral damage, and no one says a word. Use harsh interrogation techniques on a few members of Al Qaeda, and endless self flagellation.

    • WTP said, on December 12, 2014 at 10:35 am

      Even in being right your proportion is all wrong. Thousands on 9/11, hundreds in Mumbai, Bali, Madrid, scores in London, China. Many many more elsewhere, not to mention the hundreds/thousands in the Islamic countries such as Iraq and Pakistan. ALL killed intentionally. ALL intentionally targeted civilians.

      With the attitudes prevalent today, we’d still be bogged down in Germany, Italy, the Philippines, Burma, France, etc. Hundreds of thousands of innocents, even millions, many if not most who actually supported the Allies, were killed. The IJA routinely hid among the civilian population. Was it worth it to kill all those innocent civilians just to get at Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini and the few dozens of their henchmen? Some would say no. But good luck trying to find many amongst the survivors. And then we still let Hirohito live out his remaining decades, letting Tojo take the fall. Was it worth it?

      • ronster12012 said, on December 12, 2014 at 1:13 pm

        WTP

        War is hell any way we want to dress it up and the only real sin is to lose. Might is right, as might then determines what ‘right’ actually is. There is no one left to question the winner’s behaviour. In the case of WW2 it was decided that a show trial was needed to add moral legitimacy to the military victory.

        …………………………………………………….
        “Hundreds of thousands of innocents, even millions, many if not most who actually supported the Allies, were killed. ”
        ……………………………………………………..
        I wonder how many German civilians were supporting the allies as they were being bombed?Or Japanese civilians? They mostly supported their leaders and saw us as the aggressors.They had their reasons for their actions, in the case of Germany the attacks on ethnic Germans in Poland initially and then the perceived greater threat of the USSR along with Britain and France’s declaration of war over the invasion of Poland. In Japan’s case it was the strangulation by embargo on oil, rubber and iron as well as the freezing of Japanese financial assets in the US that tipped them over the edge into attack.

        ……………………………………………………….
        “And then we still let Hirohito live out his remaining decades, letting Tojo take the fall. Was it worth it?”
        ……………………………………………………….

        That was all about realizing that Uncle Joe Stalin was the real enemy all along. Churchill wanted to attack the USSR using a reconstituted Wehrmacht along with allied armies in ‘Operation Unthinkable'(canned by Truman), the US took thousands of German engineers and scientists, and the forerunner to the CIA, and the OSS, incorporated Reinhard Gehlin’s spy network in the East. Life goes on, only the enemies change lol.

        One thing is for sure and that is the real reasons for war are never ever revealed to the general population at the time, as they may be less than enthusiastic to fight and die for abstract geopolitical games.

        • WTP said, on December 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm

          Might is right, as might then determines what ‘right’ actually is. There is no one left to question the winner’s behaviour.
          Disagree here and have been arguing this point for 30+ years in regard to “might makes right”. It’s right that makes might. Now granted, right can get a big enough head in the process that it gets its fingers burned. Perhaps more accurately, more right makes more might, but not as nice of a catch phrase.

          I wonder how many German civilians were supporting the allies as they were being bombed?Or Japanese civilians? They mostly supported their leaders and saw us as the aggressors. I was thinking more of the French and Philippinos (f spell check always fails on that offering only wrong alternatives, I’m leaving as is) and possibly some of the Germans and Italians. Japan being much more isolated and homogeneous of a culture, agree more.

          One thing is for sure and that is the real reasons for war are never ever revealed
          Sometimes. Argue what you will about Japan and oil embargo, what have you. The embargo was in place due to the horrible oppression and genocide in Manchuria and elsewhere. I also don’t accept the argument that just because we don’t want to trade with you, you have a right to Pearl Harbor (and Darwin FWIW) us. Goes for opium as well as oil.

          • ronster12012 said, on December 13, 2014 at 9:49 am

            WTP

            Thanks for that reply.

            …………………………………………………….
            “Might is right, as might then determines what ‘right’ actually is. There is no one left to question the winner’s behaviour.
            Disagree here and have been arguing this point for 30+ years in regard to “might makes right”. It’s right that makes might. Now granted, right can get a big enough head in the process that it gets its fingers burned. Perhaps more accurately, more right makes more might, but not as nice of a catch phrase.”
            ……………………………………………………..

            Hmmm…..sort of ties in with a suggestion that I made to a lawyer friend awhile ago that the current legal system should be scrapped and replaced with the reintroduction of trial by combat. She was absolutely shocked and appalled, as how could a lawyer make money out of that. Luckily she has a sense of humour…lol

            Back to the issue at hand. One question….if right makes might or more right makes more might then how did Stalin and his USSR manage to win WW2? Sure the UK, US and other supporting allies helped out a bit especially in the case of supplies to the USSR and forcing the Germans to keep troops occupying western Europe , but the Russians were the ones that did the really heavy lifting.

            I still stand by the might makes right principle…..it is as plain as day and there have been countless examples.
            Countries A and B have a war for whatever reasons, say country B wins. They then kill/imprison/exile the leadership of country A, grab their lands/wealth. Impose a new legal system also declaring at the same time that any backchat/dissent=treason with normal penalties.Sympathizers or corrupt locals are appointed to positions of authority, scribes will write what they must and in not too many years no one will remember any other story about how they came to be subjugated than the official one(blaming them for their situation).

            Another example would be if Islam ever beat us in war(unlikely in open warfare but eventually very likely as per mass muslim immigration/infiltration/birthrate to Europe). They would drag our leaders from their prison cells into a ‘war crimes’ court and simply declare that as kaffirs our leaders are ipso facto guilty of war against islam and god etc….. beheading, end of story. Everyone else would fall in line and a new reality would have been created there and then. It seems to work well….

            ……………………………………………………..
            “I wonder how many German civilians were supporting the allies as they were being bombed?Or Japanese civilians? They mostly supported their leaders and saw us as the aggressors. I was thinking more of the French and Philippinos (f spell check always fails on that offering only wrong alternatives, I’m leaving as is) and possibly some of the Germans and Italians. Japan being much more isolated and homogeneous of a culture, agree more.”
            ………………………………………………………
            There was no reason to imagine that the Germans were anything but staunch right up to the end. One does not fall in love with those who are saturation bombing you or mass raping your women or threatening to genocide you(Morganthau Plan).
            As for the Italians…..they seem to me to have a strong sensible down to earth culture and would always choose survival over anything, hence pretty useless at war unlike their ancestors.
            Regarding the Filipinos, they preferred their American colonial masters over the Japanese(sensible choice IMO).

            …………………………………………………………
            “One thing is for sure and that is the real reasons for war are never ever revealed
            Sometimes. Argue what you will about Japan and oil embargo, what have you. The embargo was in place due to the horrible oppression and genocide in Manchuria and elsewhere. I also don’t accept the argument that just because we don’t want to trade with you, you have a right to Pearl Harbor (and Darwin FWIW) us. Goes for opium as well as oil.”
            ……………………………………………………………..

            No one actually goes to war solely because of ‘human rights’…….it is not a factor unless for propaganda purposes to get the domestic population onside and support the war that the leaders want for other reasons . In the case of Japan in Manchuria and China to intervene solely because of human rights would have then meant western intervention against both Mao and Chiang Kai Shek as they were both killing chinese by the millions. No one gave a rat’s about Stalin starving 6-10 mil Ukrainians to death in 1932-3, in fact western media were under orders to downplay or ignore it. That inspired move came in handy too a few years later when Churchill and FDR wanted Stalin to be BFF and didn’t want any public knowledge of him as a butcher, rather the image was to be a cuddlesome ‘Uncle Joe’….
            The aim was to get the Japanese involved in a war with the US so that Germany would be induced to honour their treaty and declare war on the US too. Pearl Harbour was a gift to FDR as he could call it ‘this day of infamy’ etc and Americans would be nicely upset and not nearly so isolationist as before. Game set and match…. Japan was also a threat to US and European colonial interests with their ideas of “Asia for the Asians”.

            More recently I suspect that the real reasons for taking out Saddam Hussein were 1/ Selling oil for euros. Very naughty to upset the petrodollar system. 2/ Iraq was becoming too powerful for the Israelis so they had the US sort it out for them. Funnily enough Gaddhafi was talking about a gold backed currency just before western backed Al Qaeda put a severe stop to that sort of talk………and the ongoing saga vis a vis Iran is because they are selling oil for payment in non USD currencies. They are nicely ringfenced though to keep that contagion limited. Russia is in the crosshairs for non USD energy sales so we will see where that goes.

            Follow the money………!!!

            • wtp said, on December 13, 2014 at 10:41 pm

              how did Stalin and his USSR manage to win WW2?
              Well, there’s no accounting for stupidity and hubris in your enemy. And let’s not forget in addition to the aid he received from the other Alllies, he was only fighting a one-front war. The other Allies were engaged in North Africa/Italy and the Pacific/Burma/etc.

              Over the long haul either right wins out or society falls into another dark ages. See my response to TJ elsewhere here.

              Though I think we’re having a chicken/egg agreement here. In your context I would agree that might makes right due to the limits of mortars’ knowledge and understanding. After all, in most circumstances both sides think they are right.

              ——–

              As for why nations go to war, the reasons are nearly infinite. I disagree that they don’t go to war over human rights. I agree that they don’t do so, for the most part, if those rights being violated are those of a people so far removed that there is no reason to fear for oneself. But we, and more so our UK allies had interests in China. Not that those interests were pure either, but nowhere near as evil as the Japs.

              As for Stalin starving the Ukranians, people did care. But the leftist/communists in the media actively participated in shutting off any information of it getting out. Can’t make omlets without breaking eggs they said.
              If they were “under orders”, those orders were coming from Stalin. As for FDR true, he loved him his Uncle Joe. Churchill was under no such delusions and did not trust that SOB a bit. So Sir Winston went along with using Stalin for what it was worth as Hitler was his greater threat at that time.

              As for Japan and “Asia for the Asians”, if you believe that claptrap you’ve had your head in too many conspiracy theories. No one in Asia liked Japan nor saw them as their savior and those hard feelings are apparent and open today throughout the Far East.

              Again, the Euro threat to dollars is conspiracy claptrap. The Euro is falling apart. There is no greater threat to the dollar than the dollar itself.

              Not sure where you are going with the khadaffi reference but if you really believe in all gold backed currencies (not exactly the same as a gold standard) you haven’t thought the process through. But that’s a whole other subject.

            • wtp said, on December 13, 2014 at 10:43 pm

              That shoul read “…might makes right due to the limits of mortals’ knowledge…”

            • ronster12012 said, on December 14, 2014 at 12:00 pm

              WTP

              Thanks for that response.
              ………………………………………………………….
              “how did Stalin and his USSR manage to win WW2?
              Well, there’s no accounting for stupidity and hubris in your enemy. And let’s not forget in addition to the aid he received from the other Alllies, he was only fighting a one-front war. The other Allies were engaged in North Africa/Italy and the Pacific/Burma/etc.”
              ………………………………………………………….
              It may have been a one front war……but what a front!!

              All games from football to war utilize forced errors and he who can force the most errors wins…Some say that Stalin was planning to attack west. One of those claiming that is Victor Suvarov, a former Soviet intel analyst with access to archival material.He wrote a series of books on it starting with one called Icebreaker in which he claims that Stalin was going to attack westwards but Hitler beat him to the punch. He has his supporters and detractors so who knows. The Germans certainly thought that Stalin was the main threat to Europe. If indeed the Soviet Union was preparing to attack west then the Germans had no choice in the matter.

              …………………………………………………………
              “Though I think we’re having a chicken/egg agreement here. In your context I would agree that might makes right due to the limits of mortars’ knowledge and understanding. After all, in most circumstances both sides think they are right.”
              …………………………………………………………..

              I am currently building my own house and today’s work was so boring(drilling 1200 holes in brackets!!) that I had quite awhile to think about this question and how to resolve these opposing positions as I do agree that
              that feeling/thinking/believing/knowing that one is *right* does make one stronger…..morale cannot be overestimated.

              However, the opponent is doing the same and the winner gets to impose his ‘vision thing’ on the other and will create a new reality there and then upon his victory.

              Thanks for repeatedly making your point, as it made me think about the issue more.

              …………………………………………………………………..
              “As for why nations go to war, the reasons are nearly infinite. I disagree that they don’t go to war over human rights. I agree that they don’t do so, for the most part, if those rights being violated are those of a people so far removed that there is no reason to fear for oneself. But we, and more so our UK allies had interests in China. Not that those interests were pure either, but nowhere near as evil as the Japs.”
              ……………………………………………………………………
              I don’t know if the reasons for war are nearly infinite. They could probably be sorted into greed and security.

              As someone or other once said……….nations do not have friends, they only have interests.

              ……………………………………………………………………
              “As for Stalin starving the Ukranians, people did care. But the leftist/communists in the media actively participated in shutting off any information of it getting out. Can’t make omlets without breaking eggs they said.
              If they were “under orders”, those orders were coming from Stalin. As for FDR true, he loved him his Uncle Joe. Churchill was under no such delusions and did not trust that SOB a bit. So Sir Winston went along with using Stalin for what it was worth as Hitler was his greater threat at that time.”
              …………………………………………………………………….

              I still don’t understand why Churchill saw Hitler as a bigger threat than Stalin. Hitler was even an anglophile at heart and didn’t want war with Britain. He did want to toss the Treaty of Versaille which most today say was unjust and Britain did too in 1935, but a world war…..no.

              Regardless of propaganda at the time(and even later), the Germans had no plan to rule the world. This was said at the time that the British Empire actually did rule the better part of the world.

              Nazism was in response to a particular set of conditions at a particular time in Germany and was racially based not internationalist and therefore not that transferable, unlike marxist-leninism that had ambitions for worldwide revolution. That was an ideology that actually did plan on ruling the world……. and we allied ourselves with them. 70 million dead and the real threat remained….

              ……………………………………………………
              “As for Japan and “Asia for the Asians”, if you believe that claptrap you’ve had your head in too many conspiracy theories. No one in Asia liked Japan nor saw them as their savior and those hard feelings are apparent and open today throughout the Far East.”
              …………………………………………………..

              I was merely noting their slogan, not agreeing with it. While asians may have been happy initially to see whites given the boot they soon learned that the Japanese were much harder masters.

              I used to work with an Indonesian born Dutch guy many years ago who experienced the japanese occupation as a boy. The things they did to the Javanese…..not nice at all. While it was no picnic for the whites the locals were treated very harshly.

              ……………………………………………….

              “Again, the Euro threat to dollars is conspiracy claptrap. The Euro is falling apart. There is no greater threat to the dollar than the dollar itself.”
              …………………………………………………

              I agree that the Euro is falling apart and was a bad idea from the start but what I was referring to was not the strength of the Euro but rather the need to keep all energy transactions in USD. That seems to be at least one reason why Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Iran, Russia etc were/are/will be punished. If demand for USD drops then what happens to it? And if it drops enough to not be considered the world reserve currency then what are the implications of that?

            • wtp said, on December 14, 2014 at 10:19 pm

              Eh. I doubt the USSR was considering such a move. Sounds like a guy who sees an opportunity to get attention. Stalin was interested in easy victories like dividing up Poland and such. I think he was caught by surprise. He was busy consolidating power at home. Nor did he have the tools for an offensive campaign. He barely held on defensively, a much, much easier task.

              OK, nearly infinite didn’t feel right when I wrote it either, but I think they are varied and complex. Historians like to boil complex things down to simple causes because it broadens the market for their books. Then other historians come along to refute the previous ones, followed by counter-counter revisionism, etc. To me the reason there is sufficient material for all this is that there really is a lot going on in the interbellum periods. The 20-20 hindsight people thrive on this as there is always something they can point to and say, “This, this here is the cause. Had this not happened, war would have been avoided!!”

              True, Hitler did like and respect the Brits, but he also took great advantage of them in the process of suckering Chamberlain. Hitler was much closer and the far more immediate threat. What was to be done once the Nazis rolled over that Marginot Line speed bump? The threat from Stalin was far more ideological and abstract at that time. Plus a good chunk of the UK was more in love with Stalin than FDR was. Over the short term, and where necessary, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Either way, while I agree communism has been the greater evil, perhaps that is just because the Nazis lost. Though even as I type that, I kind of doubt it. Somewhat as you say, the Germans were not as set on world conquest, at least overtly, as communism is. But the Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Slavs, etc. might feel otherwise.

              As for the USD, what could possibly replace it? The Euro was the best shot. What other government is as stable and responsible and powerful economically as the US? You might find two out of three out there at best, but all would be amongst US allies.

            • ronster12012 said, on December 27, 2014 at 12:46 pm

              WTP

              Sorry for the slow reply, I’ve been very busy here.
              ………………………………………………..
              “Eh. I doubt the USSR was considering such a move. Sounds like a guy who sees an opportunity to get attention. Stalin was interested in easy victories like dividing up Poland and such. I think he was caught by surprise. He was busy consolidating power at home. Nor did he have the tools for an offensive campaign. He barely held on defensively, a much, much easier task”
              ………………………………………………….
              The way he tells it, Stalin spent a lot of manpower *removing* defenses. One example was a whole defensive zone 200 miles wide and a thousand miles long. Defenses are not of much use if you plan on doing the attacking, in fact they are a hinderence. Same goes for the reorganization of defensive units to offensive units, the large number of paratroopers ready and the modification to the T34s to be able to be fitted with rubber tyres as opposed to tank tracks….all only suitable for western European sealed roads no eastern European bogs.

              Anyhow, it’s an interesting (and free) read……..http://www.jrbooksonline.com/pdf_books/icebreaker.pdf

              I remember reading AJP Taylor’s ‘Origins of the Second World War’ in the early 1980’s(note to self, should reread) and he was quite controversial then but is currently not controversial in the slightest.

              ………………………………………………………..

              “OK, nearly infinite didn’t feel right when I wrote it either, but I think they are varied and complex. Historians like to boil complex things down to simple causes because it broadens the market for their books. Then other historians come along to refute the previous ones, followed by counter-counter revisionism, etc. To me the reason there is sufficient material for all this is that there really is a lot going on in the interbellum periods. The 20-20 hindsight people thrive on this as there is always something they can point to and say, “This, this here is the cause. Had this not happened, war would have been avoided!!”
              ………………………………………………………….

              Perhaps the point is not the avoidance of war when everyone wants it. I am thinking about WW1 in particular where every player felt it approaching 10 years or more before it actually arrived and all either welcomed it or at least acquiesced. It served many agendas on all sides, so there was not just one cause but a whole complex list……that said though, greed and security are two primal forces that work their way out via complex webs of reasoning.

              What worries me know is that I have had a few (about 4) people in my circle of friends say straight up to me that they feel WW3 is waiting in the wings and will make her entrance soon……and that they can feel it.
              Perhaps it is needed to clear the decks and press the reset button on all the debt floating around worldwide. I myself don’t want it and i don’t know anyone who does, but that won’t stop the PTB doing it if they feel it is needed.

              …………………………………………………………….

              “True, Hitler did like and respect the Brits, but he also took great advantage of them in the process of suckering Chamberlain. Hitler was much closer and the far more immediate threat. What was to be done once the Nazis rolled over that Marginot Line speed bump? The threat from Stalin was far more ideological and abstract at that time. Plus a good chunk of the UK was more in love with Stalin than FDR was. Over the short term, and where necessary, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Either way, while I agree communism has been the greater evil, perhaps that is just because the Nazis lost. Though even as I type that, I kind of doubt it. Somewhat as you say, the Germans were not as set on world conquest, at least overtly, as communism is. But the Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Slavs, etc. might feel otherwise.”
              ……………………………………………………………..

              Suckering the Brits? No one suckers the Brits. You don’t get to rule 25% of the world by being suckers. If you are referring to the Munich agreement and the reincorporation of the Sudaten Germans then it was hard to say no(with a straight face at least). Britain had no actual moral standing to tell the Sudaten germans that they had to stay under Czech rule given the sheer number of countries they ruled, and their bodycount achieved in doing so. In todays world we say that everyone has the right to national self determination as a fundamental human right(as long as it’s OK with the PTB and it suits their gameplans lol)Kosovo….of course my democratic darlings, it’s your inalienable right. Crimea…..no way, piss off lol

              As for the Jews, Poles Slavs etc…….well in war there will always be winners and losers and some will get hurt.
              The Poles were cynically used by the British and French to start the war with their guarantees of protection that the British had no intention or ability to fulfil. The Poles attacked many ethnic Germans in the lead up to the outbreak of war, some put the death toll in the tens of thousands. I don’t think the US or Britain would stand by and watch tens of thousands of their kin living across a border get killed without doing something. In fact I know damn well they wouldn’t. This was the response the British and the French were counting on to get the ball rolling.

              As for the Slavs…..only one combatant country wasn’t a signatory to the Geneva convention, and that was an allied country….the Soviet Union. If they had been signatory to it (and abided by it)then their captured personnel may have been treated better. My neighbour was a boy in occupied Holland and told me about seeing starving Russian POWs dressed in rags rummaging through rubbish bins while the Dutch themselves were starving. Terrible treatment, but probably the same as German POWs received in the Soviet Union where millions of them were killed.

              As for the jews, complex story. Many games going on but the real game was the zionists game of the creation of Israel. Much collateral damage but they succeeded in reaching their goal.

              Talking about historical truth, in 1995 Britain was due to release their archives according to the 50 years rule.
              Was not to be.Their release was postponed for 30 years so there should be some very interesting reading in 2025….in fact I might take the year off to go through it. On second thoughts though, there is no way they will let any real stuff out as too many people are interested in that period. Perhaps in a hundred years time, when no one cares and WW2 is like the Crimean War or Zulu wars….all will be revealed. Truth cannot emerge till enough people are capable of handling it.

              cheers

        • T. J. Babson said, on December 12, 2014 at 2:22 pm

          I agree with Ronster here, WTP. History is written by the winners, and the winners define what is “right.” A good example is the rise of Islam.

          • WTP said, on December 12, 2014 at 3:21 pm

            You’re thinking too narrowly. Depending on your context of Islam, it becomes more obvious. As I’ve discussed in the past with Magus, to which he agreed, these Islamic extremists cannot run a viable state. All they are is essentially a mafia protection racket. They can’t even produce an AK-47, or even the bullets for such, on their own. Starve the beast of it’s capability to steal and thus feed itself and it will wither and die. The only reason these Islamic extremists have ANY sway or power is because we lack the will to do what any rational civilization would do to protect and preserve itself. Kill the enemy. Pursue him, harass him, make him feel he has nowhere to hide, starve him of resources until he cries “Uncle!”. That is the only path to defeating the problem. See Japan/Italy/Germany again. These clowns are nowhere near the complexity and viability of those empires, and also are far less civilized. We have the capacity to do this. The reason we have the capacity to do so is because we understand that freedom is a wealth producer (well some of us understand this, the rest like Mike are along for the ride). Allowing people to make decisions for themselves, to use the product of their creation to their own benefit. These things create wealth, or actually enable and encourage wealth to be created. Some wealth is shaved off to produce might. Every civilizations must understand however, that the more you enslave your wealth producers, over time the less wealth and thus the less might you will have. Fail to understand this and your civilization fails to thrive. On a larger scale, through stupidity of mind and lack of will the Dark Ages can return. Sorry if that sounds like stream of consciousness but I’m pounding this out between meetings about using wealth to create might.

            • T. J. Babson said, on December 12, 2014 at 9:31 pm

              “As I’ve discussed in the past with Magus, to which he agreed, these Islamic extremists cannot run a viable state.”

              I am talking about the entire sweep of Islamic civilization, which was created by conquest. Islam imposed its bad ideas on a sizable fraction of humanity because the winners decide what is right and wrong.

            • wtp said, on December 12, 2014 at 11:04 pm

              OK, let’s consider that context. In that time, in that context, Islam was right at the time they achieved that sweep. Western civilization sucked during the rise of Islam. But again, how long did that last? Only as long as it took western civ to get itself together, relatively speaking, and push them back at the gates of Vienna. How did they do that? By developing a society that was freer, though they didn’t understand it in that context at that time, and thus wealthier and able to drive the Islamists back. Aside from very weak rebounds in the 1870s and WWI, Islam civ has been on a miserable slide ever since. Only our internal weakness, which could work to the advantage of ANY adversary, enables Islam to have the effect it does.

              And to note, rational thinking people with Islamic understanding of basic human (family) values could very well triumph in the ultimate ashes of civilization over a thousand years or so. Following a new dark age. There’s no way I could ever prove my point, but I see the Islamic civilization that might rise from the ashes of ours (should we be stupid enough to commit such suicide) would look back on our western civilization with the same reverence that we, from a Judeo-Christian perspective, look at the “heathens” of Athens and Rome.

            • wtp said, on December 12, 2014 at 11:17 pm

              Missing also, with about a century gap, in addition to the gates of Vienna, the Iberian peninsula as well.

            • T. J. Babson said, on December 13, 2014 at 12:18 am

              OK, let’s switch examples. Let’s look at the Armenian genocide. It is barely mentioned, and the reason is that the Turks won.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 13, 2014 at 7:43 pm

              Winners do get to right history. Plus, Turkey is an ally, so we don’t say things about it. Kind of a tradition in foreign policy. Not right, of course.

            • wtp said, on December 13, 2014 at 1:00 am

              Because they’re Turks and not Arabs. And Armenians lacked the momentum. Look, life isn’t perfect. Sometimes the team that over the long hual will ultimately lose, on a shorter time span will win. This idea of a continuous ever improving march of civilization is a 20th century affectation. It may survive. But not if the forces of idiocy prevail. And it’s sagging right now, IMNSHO.

              Islam was only able to conquer what it did because there was a period where they were able to produce. Produce wealth, produce military knowledge, produce the understanding of astronomy that made navigation possible and probably enhanced their military capabilities. I’m pushing the edges of my knowledge of Islamiccivilization, but if you study and understand the concepts of where success comes from, be it business, politics, sports, medicine, engineering, what have you, there’s a common thread. Not a theme but a thread. And that thread is …ahhhh fuck, lost it….efficiency? Damn. Something like that. Well, I suppose you’ll have to fill the rest in yourself as I’ve been up since 5:00 AM working, thinking, and in the last couple hours drinking and smoking. I’m beat. TTFN.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 12, 2014 at 11:01 am

      Well, I said (or wrote) a lot of words. We shouldn’t be torturing people. We should not be killing innocent people.

      Killing lots of innocent people is worse than torturing a few people. But both are bad.

      While he does have some harsh critics on the left, Obama has gotten something of a pass from the liberals on his policies. If a Republican had been doing the same stuff, many of this liberals would be outraged. People are very forgiving of their guy and very harsh on the other team’s guy. Of course, some conservatives have been unfair in some of their criticism and oppose him sometimes just because he is not their guy.

  3. ajmacdonaldjr said, on December 12, 2014 at 1:56 pm

  4. T. J. Babson said, on December 13, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    Extreme mental anguish. Definitely torture.

    (Newswire, December 13th, Las Vegas) — A group of leading photographers, curators, and general taste arbiters has determined that Peter Lik’s sale of a photograph may constitute torture under the Geneva conventions.

    The photograph in question, an open edition of a mundane Southwestern landscape, sold recently for $6.5 million, the largest figure for a photograph in history.

    The sale, announced in an artistically unsanctioned press release which circumvented auction houses and was generally agreed upon as “fishy”, was conducted in conjunction with two others totaling $10 million. Rubbing salt in the wound, the buyer remained anonymous. For members of the art establishment, the dynamics of the sale amounted to waterboarding or other practices causing extreme mental anguish.

    http://petapixel.com/2014/12/13/just-peter-liks-record-breaking-photo-sale-may-constitute-torture/#more-153287

  5. Glen Wallace said, on December 18, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Yes, there doesn’t seem to be much of any justification for torture on any front. Ironically, if information extraction is the goal, methods that are moreso the opposite of torture would seem to be the most effective. For instance, the famous truth serums are pleasure inducing opioid drugs. Another way to derive information might be to try to induce the Stockholm syndrome in captives. It would seem that if the Stockholm syndrome occurs in such adverse circumstances as a hostage crisis, then it could be that much easier to induce in more comfortable quarters where the captives could ‘cozy up’ to the captors and become sympathetic to their position.

    Overlapping the Stockholm syndrome is the methods used to deprogram cult victims. Typically, a cult victim is deprogrammed by being kidnapped by family members and volunteers. The high risk in such a deprogramming is that the deprogrammers have to succeed with the cult victim before he or she is found by the cult. If the cult victim is found and retrieved by the cult before the deprogramming is complete, the deprogrammers could face criminal kidnapping charges. However, a government military prison would have the luxury of time and the purse of a nation to set up a state of the art deprogramming facility, employing the most effective psychological techniques involving not just counseling but also music, aromatherapy, color therapy, oxygen therapy and the finest herbal teas to sway the captives over to our side.

    • T. J. Babson said, on December 18, 2014 at 8:53 pm

      Glen,

      Look at this cartoon:

      http://www.condenaststore.com/-sp/I-think-that-if-these-Islamic-fundamentalists-got-to-know-us-they-d-like-New-Yorker-Cartoon-Prints_i8543376_.htm

      Isn’ that what you are suggesting?

    • wtp said, on December 18, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      Ran across this by accident, but nothing seems to have changed in regard to “truth serum”. It’s pop knowledge but still pretty clear TS is BS.

      http://laughingsquid.com/hank-green-of-scishow-explains-why-truth-serum-doesnt-necessarily-cause-people-to-tell-the-truth/

      No time to add more than what TJ’s cartoon doesn’t more succinctly say.

    • ronster12012 said, on December 30, 2014 at 12:42 pm

      Glen

      I like your thinking re torture and its limitations. i also like your ideas “employing the most effective psychological techniques involving not just counseling but also music, aromatherapy, color therapy, oxygen therapy and the finest herbal teas to sway the captives over to our side.”

      Perhaps even easier would be to set up a pub in Gitmo.Get rid of the orange jumpsuits and dragging people everywhere, better to have a pub with an attached bistro with a good selection of nice food……and also a nice selection of attractive prostitutes(paid for by the gov). A full stomach, congenial atmosphere, and plenty of women to shag one stupid…….why go through all the hassle (and death) to get 72 virgins? Stockholm syndrome for sure…..hell, I would! Whaddayawannaknow???

      A parallel situation is POWs. IMO POWs should be treated as above too. If you are a conscript soldier fighting a stupid war for people you don’t respect what would make you lay down your arms and leave the field…..being tortured and killed by the enemy …..or getting to sit out the war in safe and congenial surroundings. Hell it wasn’t your fault that you gained 20 kilos in that really great POW camp!! When word gets around then mass desertions become common.

      As for real world examples…I worked with an Iraqi guy around 1990. He was an Iraqi Assyrian christian and hated Saddam. He was conscripted to fight in the Iran Iraq war. All the conscripts were demoralized and couldn’t give a shit. Word got around that the Iranians treated POWs very fairly….so lots of Iraqis dropped their guns and bolted, including my workmate. Good strategy IMO, as every enemy that deserts is one you don’t have to kill and one who won’t be trying to kill you.


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