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Today in Passive-Aggresive Torture Apologias


I’ve been been meaning to get to Saletan’s defense of torture for a while. Lindsay, however, has now done it well enough that I don’t really have to bother:

If it is reporting, it’s bad reporting. Saletan takes the claims of the most senior architects of torture at face value. These guys know more about the program than almost anyone, so we can’t afford to reflexively discount what they say about it, if we want to understand it, but let’s keep in mind that they are professional deceivers who, at best, skirted the law and at worst broke it. They see themselves as fighting an ongoing war and they know that what they say now will have implications for how that war goes. They have every reason to lie about what they did and how they did it.

Saletan blithely ignores basic critical questions like: If torture was so effective, why didn’t we catch Bin Laden during the height of the torture era? Why did it take over a decade?

He comes across as utterly credulous, producing lines like: “So, for what it’s worth, there were internal checks on the practice, at least because the CIA would be politically accountable for what its interrogators did.” Right. That’s why Jose Rodriguez deleted all those interrogation tapes.


Saletan resorts to pompous weasel words when he lacks the courage of his convictions. He’s too timid to come out and say that he approves of the “enhanced interrogation program” as it was used in the hunt for Bin Laden, but he keeps tipping his hand with the language he uses to describe the panelists’ arguments.

For example, he writes that the panelists “scorned the delusion that these methods hadn’t produced vital information.” By using the word “delusion” instead of “belief” or “claim,” Saletan implies that the pro-torture contingent is right without having to provide any evidence for their dubious claim that torture produced vital information that couldn’t have been gotten any other way. According to Saletan, the panelists “trashed the Obama-era conceit that we’re a better country because we’ve scrapped the interrogation program,” the word “conceit” implies that Obama is wrong or dissembling.

It’s all this good, so you should read it. Lindsay did, however, leave me one piece of low-hanging fruit. Amazingly, he actually buys the ol’ Jonah Goldberg “fraternity hi-jinx” routine:

4. We had tested enhanced interrogation techniques on ourselves.

Rodriguez said he quickly accepted the use of enhanced interrogation in part because “I knew that many of these procedures were applied to our own servicemen. Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers had gone through this.” If these methods were safe and moral to use on Americans, weren’t they safe and moral to use on our enemies?

I have enough faith in our audience to assume that they know what “consent” means, and hence that I don’t need to belabor how pain one agrees to be subjected to knowing it’s of finite duration and won’t be escalated is not remotely comparable to being tortured involuntarily. I can’t believe that anyone is still trying to sell this argument, and it’s even more amazing that anyone would buy it.

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  • Saletan’s a hack, of course, which means dissembling liar by commission and omission, in aulden days a sophist who’d teach misconstruance for profit and status; well, just like today. Still, it’s amazing how hacks like armchair foreign legionnaire Saletan reach their conclusion without having to think about the subject matter nor caring about the fallout of their shouting fire in a crowded theater. Maybe Tarantino could make a movie about how hacks’ bad karma ultimately causes them to be done away with by crusading sadists. I’d pay good money to watch that, over and over.

    • BigHank53

      Why don’t you look up ol’ William yourself and waterboard him until he coughs up his offshore bank account numbers? Either he comes through and you make some decent cash, or you have to sell the video for $19.99 a copy. Either way, he’ll shut his festering pie-hole, which has to be counted as a net good.

    • Julian

      Crusading sadists? Crusadists!

      • expatchad


  • It looks to me like Saletan is more pro-Washington-bigshots that actually pro-torture.

    Sure, he’s got his convictions, but what are his convictions against the aura of power that surrounds a guy in a suit with some staffers around him?

    • Ronan

      Would you support torture it was being carried out by Obama? I mean that literally

      • Ronan

        ..’if it’..

      • No. Duh.

        • “Duh” – I mean that literally. I expect that you make grunting sounds when you try to communicate, owing to a intellectual birth defect, or perhaps a head injury sustained at an early age.

      • expatchad

        Depends. McConnel, Graham, Boehner…..sure!

        • expatchad

          And I mean THAT liteerally.

  • RepubAnon

    As regards to the “fraternity hi-jinks” excuse – run a web search on “fraternity”, “hazing”, and “death”. You’ll get lots of hits, such as this web site for a plaintiffs’ firm specializing in the resulting lawsuits:

    Justice-50: Nationwide Litigation

    Why is it deemed acceptable to treat prisoners in ways that result in criminal prosecution in the US?

    An Arkansas Tech student is behind bars accused of beating a fellow student into a coma.

    The Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity is now banned permanently from Arkansas Tech’s campus The university is still deciding whether to suspend or expel the suspect in this case. But more, he could face up to 6 years in prison for what he allegedly did to a pledge.
    Source: AR Tech Student Arrested for Beating During Fraternity Hazing

    • LittlePig

      Well, there’s a fact about my alma mater I was not aware of. I don’t recall the Action doing a feature on it…

  • RhZ

    People still read Saletan? And Slate? Huh.

    • DrDick

      The mind, she does boggle. Twice, once on each count.

      • RhZ

        I am not being flip. Its time to put these people on the list and then ignore them strenuously. This guy went on my shitlist back during the war, same for the website when they printed Hitchens at the same general time.

        Paying attention to them is more worth than its worth. Pls, people, we got to start making some headway forward.

        Its like McArdle. You will *never* win if you engage, the rabbithole is always deeper than you have time to dig through. So just dis-engage.

        You’re out, Saletan. Good luck Sparky!

    • Origami Isopod

      People still read all kinds of hacks. Lots of people are impressed by high-flown-sounding bullshit.

  • Laen

    When I look at the Republican party’s stance on rape and women’s health care…I submit that most of them don’t know the meaning of the word consent.

    • DrDick

      Silly rabbit. Of course they know the meaning of “consent.” In this context, it simply means being born female.

      • Lindsay Beyerstein

        That’s good, DrDick. Dark, but good.

      • Jameson Quinn

        Not quite. There’s a special exception if you’re a virgin and have a male blood relation nearby and nobody can see any part of your legs or torso.

        • Lurker

          You forget “white” from the equation.

    • LosGatosCA

      The real problem is that liberals don’t understand the concept of blind obedience to superior white males.

      Once you can grasp that concept everything else falls into place.

      Resistance is futile, not to mention extremely painful, as it should be.

  • I’ve been through SERE. What was done to us was not “enhanced interrogation”.

    There were pretty strict rules in place as to what they could and could not do to us.

    Most of it involved humiliation and some degree of discomfort.

    I felt like was actually being physically hurt I could call a time out.

    As much as it sucked, everybody knew that the worst that was going happen to any of us was failing the training.

    • Murc

      And, as has been said many times before, by better and more eloquent writers and people than me: the reason SERE exists is to prepare people in the service for being tortured if captured.

      • True, but that’s only a very small part of it.

        The vast majority of the training wasn’t focused on torture at all but on the types of interrogation techniques and other mind games that they might play on you.

        A lot of it was based on POW experiences in Vietnam and Korea.

        Much of what the Communists did was meant to extract false war crimes confessions or to use you for propaganda purposes. They might try to get a picture of you holding up a DPRK flag, for example.

        • Much of what the Communists did was meant to extract false war crimes confessions or to use you for propaganda purposes.

          Which means that the people who put those techniques to use to gather intelligence either decided that techniques designed to get false confessions are a good way to get truthful information, or decided that they wanted to get some false confessions.

          • Which I consider to be wrong for the most part.

            Nothing is 100% effective or ineffective, but that’s generally not a very good way to get useful intelligence.

            People will either tell you what they think you want to hear, or the first convenient lie that gets you to stop hurting them.

            As a prisoner, giving up intelligence doesn’t get you tortured any less. They’ll just decide that you’re the easy one and keep coming back for more.

            • Lee Brimmicombe-Wood

              Reading up on the Dirty War in Argentina, I think there’s a case to be made that torture works if you want the results to be the demoralisation of your enemies and the terrorisation of the populace. In the case of the Guerra Sucia there’s plenty of evidence that torture did result in the dismantlement of networks and a drying up of support for the Monteneros and the ERP. Paul H Lewis’s book compares torture in the pre- and post- ‘Process’ eras and there’s a notable difference in effectiveness in the early period, when detainees had a good chance of being rescued by the courts, and the later era, when the terror was in full flight.

              • Yes, that is the basic reason behind most state terror.

    • Ramon A. Clef

      The only people I ever hear claim SERE isn’t torture are those who’ve never experienced it.

      • Never experienced which one? Torture or SERE?

        It sucked pretty bad, but it was a walk in the park compared to what went on at the Hanoi Hilton (just to use one example).

        I knew it was going to end in a fairly short time and I knew they were only allowed to go so far.

        I don’t know if I’m making myself understood so I will state in the clearest possible terms:

        I would consider using SERE as a justification for torturing suspected terrorists to be absolutely wrong.

    • DrDick

      I think this is an important distinction. In SERE, you know the limits of what will be done to you. In torture, you do not know. This can make it much harder to endure as you may reasonably assume that it may get much worse.

  • Saletan knows he can be pro-torture because it’s unlikely that a high-dollar white columnist is ever going to be tortured. Torture is for those brown people, so it’s all cool. If he thought there was a chance that he or any other columnist was going to be hit with a plank of wood, he’d change his tune fast.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      All the more reason that Saletin needs a “lumber massage”.

    • It depends on how you define White. Officially according to the official US Federal Government classification Arabs, Persians, and other Middle Easterners are all White. Look at the affirmative action forms they send out when you apply for any university job in the US. Or just the US census. As opposed to white skinned, blue eyed, blondes with German surnames in Spanish speaking countries in Latin America who are all officially non-White.

      • William Berry

        @JOP: An elementary point of logic— Hispanic is a cultural/ linguistic/ ethnic category. Hispanic does not equal non-white.

  • Tracy Lightcap

    The thing that got me about this piece is the way Saletan accepted that the practice of torture was “regulated”. If there is one thing that the history of the practice tells us, it is that it cannot be controlled. The reason for this is caught in Gaspari’s distinction of combatants and bureaucrats. He came up with classification to explain the internal conflicts in the Brazilian army in the days of the Gorillas.
    Combatants are those agents in the field who use torture to obtain “intelligence” and to terrorize their enemies. Their actions are always outside of regulations and above the law. They also know that their superiors know what they are doing and informally approve of it. The bureaucrats, oth, are those in command and staff positions who are more concerned with maintaining discipline in the ranks and who, over time, become concerned about the impact of using torture on the reputation (I almost said honor, but that ship has usually sailed) of the armed forces. When the bureaucrats attempt to restrain the combatants, their orders are usually ignored because they aren’t “realistic” given the tactical situation or are not meant to be taken seriously (“”They always knew about this! They’re just putting on a show for the politicians!”). The result is either the complete collapse of discipline in the organizations concerned – see Iraq under Saddam – or, more commonly, to the cashiering of the combatants – see the fate of Yezhov in the SU. Once this kind of thing starts, it is almost impossible to control. Yet Saletan allows Haden and co. to get away with saying that they had the whole business under their thumb and delimited. Well, the CPSU said the same thing about torture after the Stalinist Terror. Yet the practice continued and grew more sophisticated. Sort of like it did with us during the WoT.
    The whole article is an apology for torturers and their craft. It turned my stomach. It also showed just how important it is for us to both provide more legal prohibitions against torture, more ways for torture victims to get their day in court against the US agents who tormented them, and to confront, finally, the justifications given for the practice. Having a new Ellsberg or Assange leak the full version of the Senate report on torture would be a good first step.

  • Carbon Man

    Who cares if KSM was tortured? I don’t give a damn about his feelings or hus “human rights”, the dirtbag got what he had coming to him. I hope he’s permanently scarred and broken.

    Of course liberals think we must be very very concerned about his precious feelings, even though he comes from a part of the world where stonings and beheadings are common practice. Waterboarding is nothing in that part of the world.


    • T. Paine

      And trying to force women to have children against their will is nothing in this part of the world! I look forward to you volunteering to be tortured because of this moronic false equivalence, you cretin.

      • Carbon Man

        If you don’t want to be tortured, don’t join a group that likes to fly airplanes into buildings.

        I think a good message was sent by what happened to KSM–join Al Qaeda and we will fuck you up. That’s a good thing even if they didn’t get any intelligence.

        • Julian

          you just said waterboarding is nothing in that part of the world – so how did waterboarding KSM show him that we would “fuck him up?”

          • Carbon Man

            I am talking about people all worried over WHAT WILL THE MUSLIMS THINK?

            Give me a break. They live under fundamentalist regimes that stone people to death. If they’re so concerned about human rights they can start at home.

            • T. Paine

              You realize this makes no sense, right? If “we” don’t care what “the Muslims” think, then how can torture be effective at deterring potential terrorist attacks?

              Also, I’m kind of surprised that you’re advocating for the US to replicate the worst features of the North Vietnamese. But hey, I gess they showed America that they would fuck Americans up, and so we stopped being their country, right?

              • T. Paine

                being = bombing, of course.

            • Leeds man

              “If they’re so concerned about human rights they can start at home.”

              Irony overload! Crash cart stat!

            • DrDick

              They live under fundamentalist regimes that stone people to death.

              Y9ou mean like the one you and your fellow conservatives want to impose here?

              • I have never heard of anybody dying from an overdose of THC. So maybe he is confused about the health dangers of smoking hashish? ;-)

            • Since when do “The Muslims” all think the same thing? There is a wide divergence of theological, political, and other ideas among the several billion Muslims in the world. I am pretty sure that my Muslim students here in Ghana have different opinions than my Muslim students in Kyrgyzstan did. But, since my wife is Muslim I have to care about what one of them thinks. Also the vast majority of Muslims do not live under fundamentalist regimes that stone people to death. Saudi Arabia is home to a rather small minority of Muslims on a global scale. The largest Muslim country in the world is Indonesia.

              • DrDick

                And the second largest is India (where they represent about 13% of the population).

                • Thlayli

                  And that’s after the Muslim-majority parts of the country split off to form Pakistan and (eventually) Bangladesh.

            • The one time I ever agreed with John McCain was when he said:

              “It’s not about who they are, it’s about who we are.”

              • Cody


                John McCain has held some good positions over the years. Generally he changes his tune when he can actually make a difference though.

        • Leeds man

          “If you don’t want to be tortured, don’t join a group that likes to fly airplanes into buildings.”

          And if you don’t want to be bombed, don’t be standing near someone on the US kill list, or live in a country the US has decided should relive the Stone Age. Wise advice all around.

        • sibusisodan

          Fair point. If I were the kind of person considering involvement with such an organisation, I’d certainly have to be very religious, pretty fanatical and probably have quite a lot of animus towards the enemy for either real or imagined past injustices.

          Given that, knowing that my hated enemy, towards whom I am probably willing to die in the process of opposing, will torture me if they catch me is quite an effective deterrent. Not.

        • I think a good message was sent by what happened to KSM–join Al Qaeda and we will fuck you up.

          I think that the utility of threats against people willing to fly airplanes into buildings is…not obvious.

          • +1

          • Carbon Man

            Being a martyr and thinking your going to see 72 virgins is one thing.

            Possibly getting captured and getting a big celebrity trial with the full menu of constitutional protections to spew your propaganda is another.

            Ending up at some secret CIA black site, all alone, isolated, and turned into a blubbering psychological trainwreck from being waterboarded and stuffed into boxes? THAT might change your mind about, say, laundering money for airplane hijackers. You might think twice about it, at least.

            • Murc

              Possibly getting captured and getting a big celebrity trial with the full menu of constitutional protections to spew your propaganda is another.

              So what you’re saying is, you think we’re a weak, pathetic country. A country so insecure, so deeply fucked up, that we’re incapable of conducting a trial according to the rule of law.

              Good to know.

            • The Nuremberg Trials

              Actually, we’re more effective at making pyschos look like psychos than you seem to think.

              • Bill Murray

                sadly that ‘re is the past tense — were

            • Mark D’ski

              no one is waterboarding (or even prosecuting) any individuals at HBSC (the bank that did the money laundering)

    • Julian

      the claim that “waterboarding is nothing in that part of the world. nothing.” is hard to square with the claim (which I assume you support) that waterboarding and other torture techniques helped extract information from detainees.

      After all, if waterboarding is nothing, why did it work on them (which it did, according to torture advocates like Saletan and Hayden)?

      • Cody

        I think he’s made clear that he doesn’t believe in torture for gaining intelligence. He’s pro-torture to inflict maximum suffering on people who have attempted to wrong us.

    • I want MY daughter to grow up to be Waterboarder-in-Chief!

    • Leeds man

      Damn right CM. We can torture because we’re civilized!

      • T. Paine

        White man’s burden!

    • Murc

      Who cares if KSM was tortured? I don’t give a damn about his feelings or hus “human rights”, the dirtbag got what he had coming to him. I hope he’s permanently scarred and broken.

      Well, I do.

      I care about the human rights of everyone, even the worst pieces of shit in the world. The only way that justice and equality under the law can be ensured for the deserving is if they are extended even to the undeserving as well.

      I also, proudly, am prepared to proclaim that vengeance has no place in ours or any system of justice.

      • Haystack

        CM and his ilk seem to be missing the genetic material that would allow them to understand these concepts.

    • efgoldman

      Carbon Man just missed the pancakes he thought he was going to get for breakfast, that’s all.

      • I did that yesterday. I spent too much time calculating grades and missed the pancake breakfast at the Coffee Cue. When I checked my clock it was already lunch time and I had to settle for jollof rice, salad, and fried chicken instead of pancakes, sausage, and coffee. Although unpleasant missing pancakes is better than being water boarded.

        • expatchad

          Especially if you have a young male asian cook working for you.

          Now that can be turture.

          • expatchad

            Well, that was convoluted…because my brain isn’t.

            • The cook was a young African woman. I live in Ghana.

              • expatchad

                Well, my point, if I can dignify that mess with that label, is that if you are cooking food not a part of your native culture, you may produce a product surprising to the victim

      • Bill Murray

        he’s probably on the east coast or central SD and the Perkins’ and Dennys’ are all closed and had no Bisquick at home

      • Patrick Phelan

        If you’re ever in this situation, pancake batter can be made with an embarrassment of ease by combining a cup of flour, a cup of milk, a half-cup of sugar, and an egg. Beat it, put it on the pan, flip it when it bubbles, DONE. It’s so easy, you’ll never need a troll again!

        • Joey Maloney

          You left out the rising agent. What that recipe will get you is a thick, exceedingly oversweet crepe.

          Expecting pancakes and getting bad crepe: nearly as bad as waterboarding.

        • expatchad

          Take one troll, Beat it, put it on the pan, flip it when it bubbles, DONE.

          It’s so easy, you’ll never need suffer a troll again!


    • Who cares if KSM was tortured? I don’t give a damn about his feelings or hus “human rights”, the dirtbag got what he had coming to him.

      It isn’t about him; it’s about us.

      Maybe KSM deserved what he got, but it would have been wiser for us to show him more mercy than he deserved.

      For one thing, we wouldn’t have been thrown off bin Laden’s trail. For another, we wouldn’t have fallen victim to the false confessions he provided about Iraqi WMDs.

      • DrDick

        I for one belong to the faction which says no one deserves to be tortured (with the possible exception of Carbon Man and our other batshit insane rightwing trolls).

        • Ever hear of this guy?

          What about Nero?

          If you think that it would have wrong, purely on the basis of dessert, apart from other considerations, for them to be tortured, you are part of a small faction indeed.

          There are a lot of good arguments against torture. “Luis Garavito deserves better than that,” doesn’t strike me as one of the better ones.

          • Bill Murray

            so you’re previous statement about not supporting torture duh, wasn’t actually completely true. good to know

            • I am 100% against torture.

              As it turns out, being against something does not require you to find every argument against it compelling.

              One of the arguments against rape is that it denies a woman’s father or husband of his property rights. Tell me, Billy, do you 1) find that argument convincing, 2) support rape, or 3) suddenly realize there’s a hole in your reasoning?

              Your comment tell us a great deal about your own thought process, and none of it good. You’re going to support any argument that leads to the conclusion you like, and conversely, can be expected to dispute any argument, regardless of merit, that tends to lead to another conclusion.

              Those of us familiar with your body of work already knew that, though.

            • Hogan

              “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

              Some of us are able to keep the concepts of “he deserves it” and “we should/are entitled to do it to him” separate.

              • I’m sure if he’d thought for 7 or 8 seconds, he would have been able to work it out, but he thought he had a chance to yell “A-HA!!!” at me.

                Certain people I encounter online tend to get really stupid when that happens.

                • DrDick

                  No. I said what I meant. There may be people in the world who deserve to die, but no one deserves to be tortured. It is a moral issue.

                • Not you, DrDick. Bill Murray.

          • Leeds man

            “you are part of a small faction indeed”

            I have a sneaking suspicion that DrDick knows this. As a species, we loves us some sweet, sweet revenge.

            • DrDick

              Oh, I am all for revenge (I am an Okie hillbilly, after all), I just think torture is always morally repugnant and an abomination. Beat the shit out of them or kill them, just do not torture them.

              • Leeds man

                “Beat the shit out of them or kill them, just do not torture them.”

                Much overlap between those three, methinks. Is there a manual somewhere which distinguishes them unambiguously?

                • DrDick

                  Not really and I was being rather facetious. I was simply making the point that I understand the impulse to revenge, but do not think it ever justifies torture (nor does anything else). I will admit a bit of moral ambivalence on killing people. I oppose the death penalty completely and am generally opposed to wars. I do recognize, however, that violence is sometimes necessary and that it is sometimes not possible to stop some people by any other means than killing them. That said, death should always be a last resort.

    • LosGatosCA

      Carbon Man could very well be Dick Cheney, he certainly captures the Bush torture regime attitude perfectly.

      Most torture regimes seem to be retribution and/or deterrence driven.

      Low efficiency on intelligence gathering seems not to be an issue, the infliction of pain seems to be the objective – shock and awe on a personal level. Don’t mess with us or we’ll mess with you more and we don’t really care about collateral damage (folks who get caught up in the net). Any intelligence gathered is just a bonus.

      Of course, you can’t say that in a society that imagines itself to be civilized so the torture supporters have to pretend there is some greater value to the civilization – ‘We are protecting you and our society from the true barbarians by thwarting imminent attacks.’

      Personally, I don’t think Cheney, Addington, Yoo, et al ever gave torture rationales any greater thought than they did to starting the Iraq War. As Wolfowitz said, ‘WMDs were (the pretext) what we all agreed on.’ Imminent threat is the equivalent cover story for the torture regime.

      • I don’t know. I think they valued false confessions about Iraqi WMDs and Iraq-al Qeada connections pretty highly.

        • LosGatosCA

          False confessions are not actionable intelligence to thwart imminent threats.

          They prized these false confessions in exactly the same way Stalin valued ‘convictions’ at show trials.

          • Pretty much. They were both meant to convince the public of the need to support large-scale state violence against an enemy.

            The main difference was, Stalin was fighting an enemy within, and Bush, a foreign enemy.

      • True, retribution against people based upon a shared ethnicity seems to be a frequent common denominator in physical mistreatment by the state. The Russians just had a big party to celebrate the founding of the infamous Usol’lag Corrective Labor Camp recently. Among the people sent there in the 1940s were Soviet citizens of German ethnicity who were condemned to forced labor without any trial. A total of 3,508 deaths among this contingent in the camp have been verified.

        • Carbon Man


          I’d be thrilled to watch California all-American white boy Adam Gadahn waterboarded and chained up.


          Ditto for white guy John Walker Lindh.

          • LosGatosCA

            Thanks for making my point.

            There’s no imminent threat from Lindh. You’re just motivated by vengeance – the more painful the better, it seems. You’re just a caricature of a human being.

            • expatchad

              Well, count me among the cartoonsw. And I don’t even live in the US anymore.

          • Ethnicity: a group of people believed by themselves and outsiders to share a common ancestry marked by cultural signifiers such as language. Basically the same thing as race, but the difference in imagined ancestral blood lines of distinct groups are marked by cultural traits rather than phenological ones.

          • Snarki, child of Loki

            How about Terry Nichols?

            I’m sure he could say plenty about OK city bombing co-conspirators amoung the right wing crazy militia types.

    • somethingblue

      Know what else liberals think we must be very very concerned about?


      • expatchad

        I’m a liberal who’s rather negatively inclined in my view of bayonets….

        • Colin Day

          Just don’t be inclined on a bayonet. :-)

          • expatchad

            Sticking one on the end of your rifle will not necessarily increase your survival odds.

    • Malaclypse

      I don’t give a damn about his feelings or hus “human rights”, the dirtbag got what he had coming to him.

      Internet tough guy is not overcompensating, not at all. He is the manliest of manly men.

      • DrDick

        Who just happens to spend all day hiding under his bed, pissing and shitting himself every time he sees a dark face or hears a voice with a different accent.

    • Pseudonym

      Do you think that stoning and beheadings being commonplace over there is a bad thing? Or are you just envious?

      • DrDick

        The latter, I am sure.

  • MacCheerful

    Could somebody please explain to me how Saletan’s piece was a defense of torture as opposed to a report on the thinking of the torturers?

    Could you point out where in the piece Saletan actually defended the practice?

    I appreciated knowing how the torturers think (particularly where they simply disclaimed reliance on ticking bombs and instead said their purpose was to brutalize people into being completely compliant slaves). It gives a better sense of what’s going on.

    • Scott Lemieux

      To quote Lindsay, “Saletan shamelessly exploits the ambiguity between “the case some other people made for torture” and “the case I’m making for torture.” The defense that he’s just reporting what the panelists said is ridiculous. He’s not a stringer for the AP. This column appears in the op/ed section.”

      • MacCheerful

        Even those in the op/ed sections occasionally use their time to comment on other people’s opinions. What struck Saletan as interesting, and me too, is the torturers defense of their actions doesn’t include a ticking bomb scenario like all their erstwhile defenders like to include.

        As for the rest, Saletan struck me as doubtful of their arguments, and he certainly didn’t endorse their avoidance of the word torture, but someone who thought that it was a good idea to hear what they are thinking.

        Which it is. I can read all day here and elsewhere about the accumulated moral disgust of people at torture, something I feel myself. What is harder to figure out is what the people in the room with the waterbuckets are saying to themselves and to their superiors as to why it’s a good idea.

        Saletan did not also feel the need to append an additional paragraph stating his own personal moral disgust. So be it. That doesn’t make him a defender of torture and it strikes me as gratuitously hostile to accuse him of it.

        Again if you can point to any specific statement by Saletan defending torture in that piece I would be interested. I didn’t see it. And if your argument is that we know Saletan is torture defender and he was being disingenous in that piece, what previous articles on his part defendeded torture.

        You can call the piece incomplete. But to call it a defense of evil is over the top.

        • DrDick

          Unclear on the concept, I see.

        • Malaclypse

          What is harder to figure out is what the people in the room with the waterbuckets are saying to themselves and to their superiors as to why it’s a good idea.

          Because power corrupts.

          • LosGatosCA

            At best it’s a misguided sense of justice, like cops who do bad things to the people they think/know are bad actors. I’m sure many of the folks involved, like Cheney and Addington are simply motivated by sadistic impulses more than any high minded public service and are searching for excuses to indulge their darkest selves. When the opportunity presents itself they use weaker people who do what they’re told or ambitious people who want to advance by doing what they are told, to do the dirty work.

            And the flip side of the coin is how Cheney treated the CIA community whenever they would not do what they were told and how he made the guy he shot in the face apologize to him. He would have been an effective lieutenant to Stalin, Hitler, any of the nastier more blood thirsty Roman, English, French, or Russian caesars/kings/tsars and in earlier times plotted against them while in their service until his opportunity to whack them presented itself. His type of character runs throughout history.

            • LosGatosCA

              Every time I see Cheney open his mouth all I hear is

              “Let me please introduce myself
              I’m a man of wealth and taste
              And I laid traps for troubadours
              Who get killed before they reached Bombay
              Pleased to meet you
              Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
              But what’s puzzling you
              Is the nature of my game, ahhh yeah, get down, baby “

              • Joey Maloney

                I’m pretty sure all the stray RF in the room from that 1970s-era tube-driven sound equipment wouldn’t have been good for his bionic bits.

            • Is it crazy that I think even less of Cheney, or of the people who sat on the panel, than of the people in the room with the water buckets?

              • LosGatosCA

                Not at all, the people with the water buckets, the dogs, doing all the torturing were just following the cruel sadistic orders of their civilian leaders who should have known the values of the country, never mind the legal implications of heir orders.

                It’s similar to Abu Ghraib. Is Lynde Englund as big a monster as the people who decided to restore that prison to its Saddam-like glory and then bring over the Gitmo crew to play more sick games with the folks we put in there?

                Cheney is a war criminal, the Charles Manson of the torture regime.

        • Laen

          And I quote

          “Fourth, the right question to ask about enhanced interrogation isn’t whether people lie under torture but whether using torture to train human beings in obedience is wrong despite the payoffs.”

          Fuck Saletan, that is not a question that needs to be asked.

          Then we can address the fact that he assumes there is a payoff when evidence doesn’t show it. Next we can look at him ignoring the fact that better information can be, and was gotten, through other means. Then we can look at word choice, he still uses enhanced interrogation when it’s torture confligating the words to the reader. Still tries to put separation between the torture and the payoff, like the time lapse somehow changes it. Uses the word “despite”, like it’s assumed the payoff in question is real. If he’s not pro torture, he is at a minimum a torture apologist.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, asking war criminals whether their tortures were a complete waste is sure to get the real truth about torture!

    And since I havent seen it upthread: torture enough people and you’ll get some intel, sure. But if you’re not even bothering to try interrogation, how do you know torture was necessary?

    CIA didn’t know shit about interrogation. Instead of going to those who did – Army, FBI – they kept it on their turf by going with that asshole Jessen etc. I’m not quite convinced false confessions were a deliberate goal; never attribute to malice, etc.

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