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classicman2
10-06-05, 07:26 AM
The Fair & Balanced (and Unafraid) Network - Fox News ;)


WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to impose restrictions on the treatment of terrorism suspects, delivering a rare wartime rebuke to President Bush.

Defying the White House, senators voted 90-9 to approve an amendment that would prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held.

The amendment was added to a $440 billion military spending bill for the budget year that began Oct. 1.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. John McCain, also requires all service members to follow procedures in the Army Field Manual when they detain and interrogate terrorism suspects.

Bush administration officials say the legislation would limit the president's authority and flexibility in war.

But lawmakers from each party have said Congress must provide U.S. troops with clear standards for detaining, interrogating and prosecuting terrorism suspects in light of allegations of mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay and the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"We demanded intelligence without ever clearly telling our troops what was permitted and what was forbidden. And when things went wrong, we blamed them and we punished them," said McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

"Our troops are not served by ambiguity. They are crying out for clarity and Congress cannot shrink from this duty," said McCain, R-Ariz.

The Senate was expected to vote on the overall spending bill by weeks' end. The House-approved version of it does not include the detainee provisions. It is unclear how much support the measure has in the GOP-run House.

However, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, is supporting McCain's legislation. Murtha could prove a powerful ally when House and Senate negotiators meet to reconcile differences in their bills.

The confrontation by members of the president's own party shows how reluctant some lawmakers are to give him unchecked wartime power as the conflict in Iraq drags on and U.S. casualties mount. It also comes as the president seeks to show strength after weeks in which his approval rating plummeted, with Americans questioning the direction of the war, the sluggish federal response to Hurricane Katrina and the upsurge in gas prices.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said he was concerned that McCain's legislation could inadvertently endanger the lives of people who work in classified roles. He said he hoped to fix the potential problems during negotiations with the House.

"There are some changes that have to be made if we are going to be faithful to those people who live in the classified world," Stevens said.

Also pending is an amendment by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would distinguish between a "lawful enemy combatant" and an "unlawful enemy combatant." His proposal would put into law the procedures for prosecuting them at the Navy's Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a retired four-star Army general, endorsed McCain's effort.

"The world will note that America is making a clear statement with respect to the expected future behavior of our soldiers. Such a reaction will help deal with the terrible public diplomacy crisis created by Abu Ghraib," Powell said in a letter that McCain read on the Senate floor.

Republican supporters say that U.S. troops interrogating terrorism suspects do not know which techniques are allowed.

"We have let the troops down when it comes to trying to give them guidance in very stressful situations," said Graham, an Air Force judge for 20 years.

But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said the legislation is unnecessary. "We do not have a system of systematic abuse of prisoners going on by our United States military," he said.

The White House has said Bush advisers would recommend the president veto the entire bill over the legislation. But a veto is considered highly unlikely given that Bush has never used that power.

Also, scrapping a measure that provides money for pay raises, benefits, equipment and weapons for troops while the country is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would open the president to a flood of criticism.
______________________

The Senate voted cloture (96-4, I believe) last evening on the bill.

The Graham Amendment is one that the administration & most Republicans really don't want.

There are approximately 140 amendments remaining. Of course a number of these are non-germaine and can't be brought to the floor since cloture was invoked. I'm wondering if the Republican leadership (now that cloture has been invoked) will argue to the chair that the amendment is not germaine?





.

nemein
10-06-05, 07:41 AM
Does it actually define what "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" means, or is this more "feel good" legislation?

JasonF
10-06-05, 08:21 AM
Based solely on the article, it appears to tie "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" to procedures approved in the Army Field Manual.

Here (http://www.chicagoreader.com/pdf/050930/050930_cover.pdf) is an article (in PDF form) from a local Chicago paper detailing an Army Interrogator's experiences in Iraq and what he was and was not allowed to do to get people to talk.

DVD Polizei
10-06-05, 08:32 AM
Yeah, that law has teeth...as in as much teeth as my grandmother.

classicman2
10-06-05, 08:41 AM
What law?

classicman2
10-06-05, 08:46 AM
Based solely on the article, it appears to tie "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" to procedures approved in the Army Field Manual.

Here (http://www.chicagoreader.com/pdf/050930/050930_cover.pdf) is an article (in PDF form) from a local Chicago paper detailing an Army Interrogator's experiences in Iraq and what he was and was not allowed to do to get people to talk.

Do you, as I do, have a healthy skepticism about folks like him?

Reminds me of Robert McNamara a little.

mosquitobite
10-06-05, 09:00 AM
LOL! Let's see if Bush actually uses his veto pen! rotfl

Tracer Bullet
10-06-05, 09:11 AM
LOL! Let's see if Bush actually uses his veto pen! rotfl

If he does, it will be a sad day. His only veto so far will be to a bill limiting the use of torture. YAY

classicman2
10-06-05, 09:13 AM
It's not a stand-alone bill. It's part of the Defense Appropriations Bill.

It's merely an amendment.

resinrats
10-06-05, 11:23 AM
I wish they would allow as much torture as needed to the get info. Would you rather another terrorist attack happen due to the fact that some guy had the info to stop it but pansy congressmen held back the people doing the questioning?

JasonF
10-06-05, 11:56 AM
I wish they would allow as much torture as needed to the get info. Would you rather another terrorist attack happen due to the fact that some guy had the info to stop it but pansy congressmen held back the people doing the questioning?

My wish is that they stop another terrorist attack and I get a pony!

shaun3000
10-06-05, 12:04 PM
I'd rather them blow up another building than chip away at my constitution.

classicman2
10-06-05, 12:07 PM
I'd rather them blow up another building than chip away at my constitution.


:lol:

al_bundy
10-06-05, 12:09 PM
as long as that building is not visible from my window I don't care. I like looking at manhattan and seeing the skyline change with new buildings.

Tracer Bullet
10-06-05, 12:12 PM
Would you rather another terrorist attack happen due to the fact that some guy had the info to stop it but pansy congressmen held back the people doing the questioning?

Yes.

Putting aside the fact that torture has been demonstrated to be virtually useless in gleaning any useful or true intelligence... do you really want us to use the same tactics as an enemy that is beyond morally reprehensible? If so, what does that say about us?

classicman2
10-06-05, 12:24 PM
Yes.

Putting aside the fact that torture has been demonstrated to be virtually useless in gleaning any useful or true intelligence... do you really want us to use the same tactics as an enemy that is beyond morally reprehensible? If so, what does that say about us?

Torture is useless?

Hogwash!

Look at what happened in Vietnam & tell me that torture is useless.

Tracer Bullet
10-06-05, 12:27 PM
Torture is useless?

Hogwash!

Look at what happened in Vietnam & tell me that torture is useless.

Yes! I got a "hogwash!" from c-man! :banana:

Groucho
10-06-05, 12:27 PM
As long as they aren't torturing me, I don't have a problem with it. And since I'm not a terrorist, I have nothing to worry about.

resinrats
10-06-05, 02:09 PM
Lets look at it this way.

Your wife/husband/mom/dad/CHILD was in a building that got blown up and they die a horrible painful death. Later, it is revealed that the goverment had one of the guys that planned this in custody. If they could have tortured the guy, he would have confessed, the plot would have been foiled and your family member would still be here today. Would you rather let your wife/husband/mom/dad/child die than they get the info that would save them?

or

You yourself are in a building that is rigged to blow up. They have the bomber in custody and if he is tortured, he will tell them of the plot and you will live. If not, hope you like tons of building crushing you. Are you willing to die so the bomber won't be tortured for the info?

Duran
10-06-05, 02:13 PM
You assume that torture would make them fess up and/or give accurate information.

Tracer Bullet
10-06-05, 02:15 PM
Lets look at it this way.

Your wife/husband/mom/dad/CHILD was in a building that got blown up and they die a horrible painful death. Later, it is revealed that the goverment had one of the guys that planned this in custody. If they could have tortured the guy, he would have confessed, the plot would have been foiled and your family member would still be here today. Would you rather let your wife/husband/mom/dad/child die than they get the info that would save them?

or

You yourself are in a building that is rigged to blow up. They have the bomber in custody and if he is tortured, he will tell them of the plot and you will live. If not, hope you like tons of building crushing you. Are you willing to die so the bomber won't be tortured for the info?


Arguments from extraordinary circumstances are rarely if ever convincing. The second one is so ridiculous it can easily be ignored.

Your first example supposes knowledge that no one could possess. How do you know the terrorist would have confessed the plot if he was tortured? Are you just guessing? Is this a part of the game?

DodgingCars
10-06-05, 02:15 PM
I wish they would allow as much torture as needed to the get info. Would you rather another terrorist attack happen due to the fact that some guy had the info to stop it but pansy congressmen held back the people doing the questioning?

I'd rather live in a country that respected human rights than live in a country that was "safe" from terrorists.

DodgingCars
10-06-05, 02:17 PM
Lets look at it this way.

Your wife/husband/mom/dad/CHILD was in a building that got blown up and they die a horrible painful death. Later, it is revealed that the goverment had one of the guys that planned this in custody. If they could have tortured the guy, he would have confessed, the plot would have been foiled and your family member would still be here today. Would you rather let your wife/husband/mom/dad/child die than they get the info that would save them?

or

You yourself are in a building that is rigged to blow up. They have the bomber in custody and if he is tortured, he will tell them of the plot and you will live. If not, hope you like tons of building crushing you. Are you willing to die so the bomber won't be tortured for the info?

Or

If every single person in your family were slowly tortured to death it would save the lives of 1,000,000 people!

Groucho
10-06-05, 02:19 PM
resinrats scenarios are flawed, because they do not begin with the phrase "Pop quiz, hotshot!" or end with the phrase "What do you do? What do you do?"

classicman2
10-06-05, 02:23 PM
I'd rather live in a country that respected human rights than live in a country that was "safe" from terrorists.

It depends on whose human rights you're talking about. ;)

X
10-06-05, 02:24 PM
Look at what happened in Vietnam & tell me that torture is useless.Well, McCain really is pretty useless.

I think this will just cause us to step up having other countries do our interrogating for us.

JasonF
10-06-05, 03:02 PM
I think this will just cause us to step up having other countries do our interrogating for us.

So this is really just another facet of the outsourcing debate? Cool!

GreenMonkey
10-08-05, 04:03 AM
I've suddenly gained a little bit of respect for the Republicans, who have lost a lot of it with this administration (considering I didn't detest them like I do this administration).

That is, if this actually does anything and doesn't end up like other vague laws (like the restricting porn on the internet, etc).

JasonF
10-08-05, 06:38 PM
By the way, the nine Senators (all Republicans) who voted against the McCain-Warner Amendment were:

Wayne Allard, Colorado
Kit Bond, Missouri
Tom Coburn, Oklahoma
Thad Cochran, Mississippi
John Cornyn, Texas
James Inhofe, Oklahoma
Pat Roberts, Kansas
Jeff Sessions, Alabama
Ted Stevens, Alaska

Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) missed the vote (probably campaigning for the New Jersey Governorship).

Now let's see who winds up on the Conference Committee. Will the House delegation be able to kill the amendment? Possibly, particularly if several of these nine are on the Conference Committee and/or if some Senators who voted in favor of it and are on the Conference Committee cave to pressure from the White House and kill the amendment.

If the amendment makes it out of Conference Committee, I very much doubt that Bush will veto the entire appropriation just to get this amendment.

Supermallet
10-08-05, 07:03 PM
Now, if only our Republican-controlled Congress would start dismantling the Patriot Act...

classicman2
12-15-05, 01:06 PM
Fox News:

Sources: White House 'Ready to Accept' McCain Torture Ban

WASHINGTON — Several congressional officials are talking up a deal close to being reached Thursday between the White House and Sen. John McCain on language in the defense spending bill that bans U.S. interrogators from using "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of detainees.

Some suggestions were being made that a deal could be near. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said that "good discussions" were being held with McCain, and the White House "will be having more to say, I expect, soon."

McClellan said negotiators have been in close touch with McCain, R-Ariz., and others to make sure a legal framework exists to address the interrogations, but the White House still wants "to let discussions come to a conclusion."

Congressional sources told FOX News "the White House appears ready to accept" the heavily negotiated McCain language. Congressional officials who spoke to The Associated Press said they did not want to discuss details because they expected an announcement later in the day at the White House, possibly by President Bush and McCain.

The most important issue left on the table is whether the deal would limit measures such as stress techniques even in interrogations of high-value terrorists who may know about coming attacks. Sources say that is still not clear, and if the administration gives it up, it will mean less flexibility for interrogators

The Senate included the McCain provisions in two defense bills, including a must-pass $453 billion spending bill that provides $50 billion for the Iraq war. But the House omitted them from their versions, and the bills have been stalled.

Still, the language proposed by McCain has received overwhelming support in Congress. Late Wednesday, the House voted 308-122 for a non-binding resolution in support of the Senate-passed ban.

For months the White House has stated concerns that the McCain language goes too far. Administration officials cite doomsday scenarios where a detainee may have information that is critical to the safety of the United States and interrogators may need greater latitude to get prisoners to speak.

The administration was seeking language in the bill that would offer some protection from prosecution for CIA interrogators accused of violating McCain's provision.

"The debate has never really been about torture. There's a domestic law on the books prohibiting torture and we have an international prohibition against torture and the president says as a matter of follow see, we don't engage in torture," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told FOX News.

"The debate has been about, what does it mean to deal in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment? In some countries, there's stuff on the books to say you can't even insult somebody.
So, we want to simply insure that the American government has the tools necessary to question dangerous terrorists in order to gather information that may protect America from another attack," Gonzales said.

McCain, who spent five years in a POW camp in Vietnam where he was frequently tortured, rejected earlier administration compromises, arguing they would undermine the ban by not giving interrogators reason to follow the law.

Supporters of the provisions say the extra language is needed to clarify current anti-torture laws in light of abuses at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and allegations of misconduct by U.S. troops at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A deal between the White House and McCain does not mean a deal between the Senate and House.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is said to still oppose the ban, though he and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, are still working on "refinements," which deal with legal protections for both military and civilian interrogators.

The protections would guard interrogators from a private suit or prosecution as long as they were following orders and "a reasonable person would think it was a lawful order." That is a standard that already applies to members of the military and would now be extended to civilian interrogators, including the CIA and any contractors.

Warner said Thursday that a deal is near.

"In a reasonable period of time, this afternoon, there will be ink put to paper and we'll conclude it," he said.

At one point, Bush threatened a veto if the ban were included in legislation sent to the president's desk, and Vice President Dick Cheney made an unusual personal appeal to Republican senators to give an exemption to the CIA.

But support in Congress has forced the White House to renegotiate, particularly as Congress tries to get the defense spending bills completed before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

.

Pharoh
12-15-05, 01:09 PM
Stupid.

X
12-15-05, 01:14 PM
This became one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situations.

Wonder how many presidential pardons will be needed due to this? Those'll make nice headlines.

Ranger
12-15-05, 01:14 PM
Indeed. Sad day in America when the government agrees to a torture ban.

classicman2
12-15-05, 01:17 PM
It will be interesting to see the compromise as worked out - like defining the meaning of 'stress techniques.'

I can certainly envision lanaguage that, IMO, would go too far in restricting interrogations.

Numanoid
12-15-05, 01:20 PM
Lets look at it this way.

Your wife/husband/mom/dad/CHILD was in a building that got blown up and they die a horrible painful death. Later, it is revealed that the goverment had one of the guys that planned this in custody. If they could have tortured the guy, he would have confessed, the plot would have been foiled and your family member would still be here today. Would you rather let your wife/husband/mom/dad/child die than they get the info that would save them?

or

You yourself are in a building that is rigged to blow up. They have the bomber in custody and if he is tortured, he will tell them of the plot and you will live. If not, hope you like tons of building crushing you. Are you willing to die so the bomber won't be tortured for the info?I think you would have fit right in in certain countries like, oh, say, Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

But of course, when they tortured people, it was evil and immoral.

nemein
12-15-05, 01:51 PM
Indeed. Sad day in America when the government agrees to a torture ban.

If you want to define what is going on in simplistic terms like that. The issue is not to torture or not to torture, the issue is what exactly constitutes torture and when/where/what circumstances "persuasive techniques" can be used.

nemein
12-15-05, 01:52 PM
I think you would have fit right in in certain countries like, oh, say, Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

But of course, when they tortured people, it was evil and immoral.

Do you think our people have really done the types of things SH did? Do we have industrial shredders we feed people into?

Ranger
12-15-05, 02:03 PM
Having a woman smear red ink from her skirt on a Muslim's face may not be defined as "torture" but it is highly unacceptable to me. Especially if they have not even faced trial or been charged.

bhk
12-15-05, 02:04 PM
Do you think our people have really done the types of things SH did? Do we have industrial shredders we feed people into?

We're doing much worse than that by contributing to Global Warming and trying to impose freedom in the Middle East.

Tracer Bullet
12-15-05, 02:07 PM
Do you think our people have really done the types of things SH did? Do we have industrial shredders we feed people into?

Andrew Sullivan's blog has been doing a great job linking to articles, testimony, etc. that tell what sorts of things we've been doing. No, we haven't been feeding people into shredders, but we've been doing many unsavory things. We're not talking smearing paint on people. We're talking waterboarding and the like.

nemein
12-15-05, 03:43 PM
Have these been substantiated? Isn't it in the AQ manual to make baseless accusations? I'm not saying we haven't done unsavory things and we should put an end to that/enforce the laws that are on the books. It has to be done in a realistic way though IMHO which defines what is/isn't acceptable behavior in interrogation and recognize that when someone is willing to blow themselves up asking them nicely to cooperate isn't always going to work. What those boundaries are though is for the law makers (w/ the input of the people in the know IMHO) to decide, which is what is happening. Hopefully they will take a realistic approach, only time will tell though.

Goldblum
12-15-05, 04:34 PM
Having a woman smear red ink from her skirt on a Muslim's face may not be defined as "torture" but it is highly unacceptable to me. Especially if they have not even faced trial or been charged.
Not a problem to me if the guy was caught in the act of attacking soldiers/Iraqis.

Tracer Bullet
12-15-05, 05:03 PM
Have these been substantiated?

http://www.andrewsullivan.com/index.php?dish_inc=archives/2005_12_11_dish_archive.html#113443070259764798

This entry has a few links.

Isn't it in the AQ manual to make baseless accusations?

Who said anything about Al-Qaeda? Do a Google search for "Captain Fishback".

I'm not saying we haven't done unsavory things and we should put an end to that/enforce the laws that are on the books. It has to be done in a realistic way though IMHO which defines what is/isn't acceptable behavior in interrogation and recognize that when someone is willing to blow themselves up asking them nicely to cooperate isn't always going to work.

We already do. They're the Geneva Convention and the rules on treatment of prisoners in the Army Field Manual, which is all the McCain Amendment is, anyway. So basically, we're in the laughable position of the president and his administration agreeing to an amendment that says we should follow the law.

nemein
12-15-05, 05:08 PM
Who said anything about Al-Qaeda? Do a Google search for "Captain Fishback".

You said there was testimony from people about accusation of torture (or did I misunderstand you?). I countered that there's AQ documents out there that say their people should make accusations of torture whether or not it actually happened. Again I'm not say we are blameless, I'm also not going to accept every accusation someone makes as automatically being true though.

So basically, we're in the laughable position of the president and his administration agreeing to an amendment that says we should follow the law.
I agree it's pretty silly but that's the position they have allowed themselves to be forced into. If they had reacted quicker to the real allegations that were made we probably wouldn't be at this point now.

Tracer Bullet
12-15-05, 05:10 PM
You said there was testimony from people about accusation of torture (or did I misunderstand you?). I countered that there's AQ documents out there that say their people should make accusations of torture whether or not it actually happened. Again I'm not say we are blameless, I'm also not going to accept every accusation someone makes as automatically being true though.

No, our own guys. I'm saying there's testimony from Fishback, for example, that details our use of torture. I wouldn't take anything Al-Qaeda said seriously.

nemein
12-15-05, 05:13 PM
No, our own guys. I'm saying there's testimony from Fishback, for example, that details our use of torture. I wouldn't take anything Al-Qaeda said seriously.

And that use should be dealt w/. The main failing there seems to be lack of guidance. I agree some guildlines need to be established but they need to be done in a realistic way w/ the realization it's a nasty world out there and not everyone plays nice.

Tracer Bullet
12-15-05, 05:17 PM
And that use should be dealt w/. The main failing there seems to be lack of guidance. I agree some guildlines need to be established but they need to be done in a realistic way w/ the realization it's a nasty world out there and not everyone plays nice.

That's not what's been happening. The problem is that this administration ignored the law and sanctioned torture. They wanted to portray this as a few bad apples, but it's just not true.

nemein
12-15-05, 05:23 PM
Which is why we are now to the point of dealing w/ this new legislation. Hopefully it'll go through and get worked out in a realistic way so we can get on w/ life and everyone knowing what is/isn't allowable. I think the biggest issue/problem though is going to be what some people consider torture would not be considered torture by others. I suspect it's been an ongoing problem and why we have ended up in the situation we are now. I'm sure most people would agree the US shouldn't be participating in torture but when asked what constitutes torture I'm sure you're going to get a WIDE range of answers.

Ranger
12-15-05, 05:31 PM
The real reform will begin whenever all those suspects are actually charged and have trials.

JasonF
12-15-05, 05:59 PM
I liked this Michael Kinsely article:

Torture for Dummies
Exploding the "ticking bomb" argument.
By Michael Kinsley
Posted Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2005, at 2:24 PM ET

What if you knew for sure that the cute little baby burbling and smiling at you from his stroller in the park was going to grow up to be another Hitler, responsible for a global cataclysm and millions of deaths? Would you be justified in picking up a rock and bashing his adorable head in? Wouldn't you be morally depraved if you didn't?

Or what if a mad scientist developed a poison so strong that two drops in the water supply would kill everyone in Chicago? And you could destroy the poison, but only by killing the scientist and 10 innocent family members? Should you do it?

Or what if an international terrorist planted a nuclear bomb somewhere in Manhattan, set to go off in an hour and kill a million people. You've got him in custody, but he won't say where the bomb is. Is it moral to torture him until he gives up the information?

Questions like these have been pondered and disputed since the invention of the college dorm, but rarely, until the past couple of weeks, unstoned. Now the last of these golden oldies—about the terrorist who knows where the bomb is set to go off—is in the news. Not because it has happened, but because of Sen. John McCain's proposed legislation forbidding the use of torture by the United States government.

It feels strange even to have to use the term "proposed legislation" about a subject like this. When you think of all the things the law forbids, with varying degrees of success, it is hard to believe that torture by public officials isn't on the list. But yes, according to the Bush administration, no law prevents our government from torturing (at the very least) nonuniformed noncitizens outside the United States. And the Bush folks like it that way. But others, including many congressional Republicans, don't.

That hypothetical terrorist with a nuke is central to the most (maybe the only) articulate argument against the McCain bill. The argument, made by Charles Krauthammer in the Weekly Standard, is, in a nutshell: 1) No rational moral calculus could possibly justify sacrificing a million innocent lives in order to spare the would-be mass murderer a few minutes of pain. And 2) once you accept that torture would be justified in one situation, avoiding the use of torture on other situations is no longer a moral imperative. The question becomes where you draw the line.

In law school, they call this second point, "salami-slicing." You start with a seemingly solid principle, then start slicing: If you would torture to save a million lives, would you do it for half a million? A thousand? Two dozen? What if there's only a two-out-of-three chance that person you're torturing has the crucial information? A 50-50 chance? One chance in 10? At what point does your moral calculus change, and why? Slice the salami too far, and the formerly solid principle disappears.

Krauthammer stops at two slices. In addition to the terrorist-with-a-nuke, he also would torture a high-level terrorist to get information that is needed on a "slower fuse." When there is less urgency, he says, "the level of inhumanity" of the torture should be "proportionate to the need and value of the information." He has sundry other requirements involving procedures for authorizing torture and keeping the military out of it. This last one is not because (based on recent experience) he doesn't trust soldiers with truncheons and electrodes, but because he believes that the military should not be tainted by the sordid business of torture.

Krauthammer's proposed rules are fairly restrictive. That is a selling point: They are far from a wholesale endorsement of torture whenever it might prove useful. They acknowledge the humanity, even the human rights to some degree, of torture subjects. They aspire to no more torture than is necessary in any particular case. If these rules were enforced as punctiliously as their author lays them out, the U.S. Government might not find itself torturing a lot more people than it is torturing already, under various legal theories or none at all. And let's face it, we live with what's going on now. Most of us don't like it. But few of us are doing much to stop it.

But where do Krauthammer's rules come from? They have no obvious connection to the reasoning he uses to endorse torture in principle. They are just his opinion. This makes their careful limits more alarming than reassuring. There is no reason to suppose that if Krauthammer's reasoning was accepted, the result would be Krauthammer's rules. Once we are rid of the childish notion of an absolute ban on torture, there is no telling where adult minds may take us.

The trouble with salami-slicing is that it doesn't stop just because you do. A judicious trade-off of competing considerations is vulnerable to salami-slicing from both directions. You can calibrate the viciousness of the torture as finely as you like to make sure that it matches the urgency of the situation. But you can't calibrate the torture candidate strapped down before you. Once you're in the torture business, what justification is there for banning (as Krauthammer would) the torture of official prisoners of war, no matter how many innocent lives this might cost? If you are willing to torture a "high level" terrorist in order to save innocent lives, why should you spare a low-level terrorist at the same awful cost? What about a minor accomplice?

Or what about someone wholly innocent? It's hard to imagine a situation where someone who refuses to supply life-saving information could be considered "innocent." But it's not impossible. (Suppose the terrorists have his wife. …) In this cold, hard world, allegedly facing a challenge greater than any the civilized world has faced before, would you torture an innocent individual for five minutes in order to spare a million innocents from death? These would be wartime deaths, many of them more painful and grotesque than the laboratory torture you are sparing one lone individual. If you say yes, go ahead and torture an innocent person, you have pretty much abandoned the various exquisite moral distinctions that eased your previous abandonment of an absolute ban on torture. But if you say no, my own moral hygiene, or my country's, forbids the torture of an innocent individual, even if the indirect but predictable consequence is a million human deaths, you are more or less back in the camp of the anti-torture absolutists whose simple-minded moral vanity you find so irritating.

So Krauthammer's second argument—that once you abandon an absolute rule against torture, there is no obvious moral stopping point—"proves too much" (in another lovely law-school phrase). It can be used to discredit any nonabsolutist torture policy, including Krauthammer's own.

Torture is like almost every other issue: It involves trade-offs between the rights of individuals and the needs of society. In his own proposed rules, Krauthammer makes some strange trade-offs. How many lives would he give up in order to relieve the military of the onus of torture? And where will he find morally pre-damaged patriots better suited to the task? Do CIA agents deserve to be told that torturing people is a "monstrous evil" that is too "inhumane" for uniformed soldiers, but just perfect for them?

It is not fatal to Krauthammer's or any other person's particular set of torture rules that they draw lines more exact than evidence or reason can justify. Drawing bright lines in foggy situations is what the law does. But good rules need to be defensible against salami-slicing in a more general way. The strength of an absolute ban on torture—or an absolute rule of any sort—is its relative immunity from salami-slicing, both in theory and in practice. It is hard to explain why you would torture a teenager abducted into a terrorist gang if this would save a dozen lives, but would not torture a uniformed military officer in order to save a thousand. It is not hard to explain why you would not torture anybody at all. The argument may be wrong, but at least it is clear. The policy—just don't do it—is hard to misunderstand, making it easier to teach and enforce. And the principle can be consciously abandoned but it can't easily erode.

But what about Krauthammer's conundrum? Will you eschew torture even when a few minutes of it, applied to a very bad person, would save a million lives? One answer is that the law wouldn't really be enforced in such an extreme situation. McCain himself has hinted at this, as Krauthammer points out, and Andrew Sullivan fleshes out the point in a reply to Krauthammer published in the New Republic. This may well be true as a prediction, and tempting as a moral argument, but ultimately not good enough. Surely every law should at least aspire to be enforced. Or—an even more modest standard—a law should not depend on unenforceability for its very justification. Furthermore, a law expresses a social norm even apart from its enforcement. If the hypothetical situation ever arises, something will happen. What do we want that something to be?

There is yet another law-school bromide: "Hard cases make bad law." It means that divining a general policy from statistical oddballs is a mistake. Better to have a policy that works generally and just live with a troublesome result in the oddball case. And we do this in many situations. For example, criminals go free every day because of trial rules and civil liberties designed to protect the innocent. We live with it.

Of course a million deaths is hard to shrug off as a price worth paying for the principle that we don't torture people. But college dorm what-ifs like this one share a flaw: They posit certainty (about what you know and what will happen if you do this or that). And uncertainty is not only much more common in real life: It is the generally unspoken assumption behind civil liberties, rules of criminal procedure, and much else that conservatives find sentimental and irritating.

Sure, if we could know the present and predict the future with certainty, we could torture only people who deserve it. Not just that: We could go door-to-door killing people before they kill others. We could lock up innocent people who would otherwise be involved in fatal traffic accidents. Civil libertarians like to believe that criminals get their Miranda warnings and dissidents enjoy freedom of speech because human rights are universal. But if we knew for sure that a newspaper column by Charles Krauthammer would lead—even by a chain of events he never intended and bore no responsibility for—to World War II, wouldn't we be nuts not to censor it? Universal human rights would make no sense in a world where everything was known and certain.

This is not to say that Krauthammer's killer hypothetical could never happen. It is to say that morality does not require us to build a general policy on torture around a situation that is not merely unlikely in real life, but different in kind from the situations we are likely to face in real life. What we would do or should do if this situation actually arose is an interesting question for bull sessions in the dorm, but not a pressing issue for the nation.

Every day American forces in Iraq and elsewhere probably inflict more pain on guilty and innocent people than officially designated American torturers would do in a year, even if Bush and company were free of any legal restriction. That pain is not necessarily unjustified (although I believe it is). But it makes the whole debate about officially designated "torture" artificial and symbolic, not to say deeply hypocritical. And yet supporters of the administration, the war, and the practice of torture have not leaped to embrace this argument, for some reason.

http://www.slate.com/id/2132195/nav/tap1/

Favorite line: "Questions like these have been pondered and disputed since the invention of the college dorm, but rarely, until the past couple of weeks, unstoned." :lol:

darkessenz
12-15-05, 07:25 PM
If we began to have administrative procedures for torture, I can guarantee that we would think of new reasons, justifications, and explanations for why we need to torture more and more people. Much like the military, once you have one you feel the need to put it into use.

classicman2
12-15-05, 07:27 PM
There are times that the military needs to be put to use.


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