Torture

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by KnightWriter, Apr 3, 2009.

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  1. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    That the Bush administration authorized and ordered acts of torture seems beyond dispute to all but those entrenched in the right wing, along with those who have an actual stake in there being no real consequences for acts committed by and because of the Bush administration. That brings us to this. Right now, there is an intense battle being waged over the release of several memos that would (and will, because they'll come out one way or another) probably inflame the issue further and remove any lingering doubt as to what the Bush administration authorized. It is my fervent hope that these memos are released and that more light is thrown on the acts of the Bush administration.

    Is there truly any reason to hold back these memos? It seems to me that the only reason to withhold them is one of the oldest justifications used to block disclosure known to man, which is embarrassment to a government and group of people. That Eric Holder apparently wants to go forward with it speaks volumes about him, but I think this will be a huge test for Obama. If he bows to pressure from people who probably know they went too far but are afraid of facing up to the consequences of their actions, it will be a tremendous disappointment for a lot of people.

    The terms of the debate surrounding torture seems to have quietly moved from whether torture was ordered by the Bush administration to whether it was justified, which seems like something of a marked change. If Obama wants to move forward without a Truth commission or official inquiry, the best way to do that is by opening up as much as possible that went on during the Bush administration and letting history be the judge. If Bush's actions were right, there shouldn't be anything to fear. Of course, we know that many of their actions weren't, and so we find ourselves where we are today.

    It's Obama's move, and I hope he chooses wisely.
  2. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I very much wish there could be some kind of formal truth and reconciliation process to come to terms with the Bush administration's policies. I agree the next best thing is to make the information public and let the American people's outrage or lack of outrage help determine what happens next.
  3. KGhobgoblin Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 5, 2009
    star 1
    Truth and reconciliation is a great concept to bring up. I just learned what that was the other day in class and I was amazed at how well it worked in South Africa. I'm not sure how well that would work in America, though. It really hasn't been tried on any significant scale.
  4. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    IMO, a truth commission can wait....or at least keep its findings under wraps for several years. The rationale being that as wrong as the neoconservative attitudes towards torture, war and international relations are, there's still people who are emotionally attached to the conservative movement as a whole. Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon and everyone hated him for it, but it turned out he was right and the country did need to move on.
  5. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Except that it did keep one thing from happening, which was public accountability. His underlings were prosecuted, but Nixon himself wasn't. When you don't make people publicly accountable and make precedents that basically need to be followed, you set the stage for it to happen again in some form at a later date.
  6. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 8
    [face_laugh] Ja, brü, South Africa's reconciled huh?

    KW this may seem callous, but bear in mind there's at least one thread about the use of torture in Gitmo authored by me out there - aren't there more important things happening at the moment which attention and energy should (probably) be focussed on?

    ES
  7. LtNOWIS Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 19, 2005
    star 4
    Well, it's like the Onion said about Eliot Spitzer: "I'm worried this sends a message that anyone could do what he did and get away with just a few weeks of mass-media vilification and the total collapse of one's career."
  8. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    Except that while Bush and company are generally disliked, there's been nowhere near the specific, concerted repudiation of these torture policies and it's legal architects. Which is exactly KW's point.
  9. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    White House leaning toward keeping memos secret.

    Why is "we were just following orders," or some variation on that theme suddenly worth protecting people over, when we executed people for doing just that decades ago? In fact, people from Nazi Germany are still being pursued today, and in many cases, their major crime was just following orders. They had a chance to say no, regardless of the consequences. So too did our CIA officials, regardless of their ranks.

    Maybe it's time we rethink what we did at Nuremburg and other war crimes trials. Perhaps certain things are war crimes only if they're committed by people who aren't Americans.
  10. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Um, did I miss the CIA conducting a Holocaust for that analogy? There seems to be some neccessary details being glossed over for that analogy.
  11. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I agree the Nazi comparison is unnecessary, but the reasons mentioned in the article for keeping stuff under wraps are just plain bad reasons. 'The agency can't talk about the mistakes and injustice committed by the agency because then the agency won't be taken seriously anymore'. Yeah. Real solid reasoning. Trying to cover up your mistakes and hope no-one notices, while everyone is talking about it: sound policy.

    EDIT: oh, there's more.
    "Something certainly is piling up right now."
    Looks like the NSA and CIA got just a little bit too much power there...
  12. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    But people acting in our name still basically murdered a lot of prisoners in our custody. There were doctors who served the CIA at the interrogations and unquestionably broke any semblance of the Hippocratic Oath. People in the CIA and elsewhere used tactics straight out of a Gestapo handbook. Did they commit a holocaust? Obviously not. But, it was a little holocaust to each and every person who was killed or maimed in the CIA's custody, some of whom were probably innocent.

    When you condone tactics used on others, you cannot reasonably call up any amount of outrage when those things are done to your fellow citizens. The United States as a country lost any claim to moral high ground by torturing people. When it's done in other countries to Americans, how can we be outraged when our country is doing it to others?

    It was decided long ago that "I was just following orders" was not an acceptable excuse. "I was just giving them because my legal team told me it as legal" is unacceptable as well. At what point do these things require prosecution? Only when six million people are killed? Three million? Something less than that?

    The reason that certain people are fighting to have the memos held back are because they know how embarrassing it would be. It's a problem as old as government: The government does wrong and then tries to cover it up, because it knows what it did was wrong, or just doesn't want to accept the consequences of its actions.

    Andrew Sullivan says it well here.
  13. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    The Obama administration has decided that it is too big a can of worms to open publicly. My sense of it is that if the public found out the extent of what happened under the Bush administration, it would bring down the CIA, and quite possibly permanently diminish the executive authority of the office of the president. Obama isn't willing to take on that project - destroy the institution for the purpose of steering the U.S. back toward the moral high ground on torture.

    The Obama strategy: save our intelligence gathering institutions, avoid explicitly dialing back the power of the presidency, but internally work toward bringing our practices more in line with what's expected of us from the point of view of international law is understandable, I guess, but it lacks transparency and doesn't address the fundamental issue of rebuilding trust with the American people and the outside world that we are really moving our way toward a different and better standard on interrogation and torture.

    On the other hand, this issue could really dominate the political agenda for years, and the public wants the president's focus squarely on the economy. Obama's prudence opens him up to being judged by posterity for failing to redress the crimes of the Bush administration.
  14. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    In today's world, the can of worms has already been opened to those that care to know about it. Releasing the memos just may force the MSM to cover it, and that would make the general public more aware of what happened. The memos will leak out over time, as they already have to some extent. The Red Cross report just confirms it all, as if there was any doubt.

    Hiding the memos serves no constructive purpose whatsoever.
  15. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    Sounds like the CIA and democracy have become opposing forces.
  16. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I sort of don't understand why this debate on torture is going on since there seems to be all this consensus that it doesn't actually WORK.

    So before anyone asks the question of if we should be doing it or not, shouldn't we be resolving an even more important point before we even get there of if this stuff even works? If it works fine: then we should be asking if we should do it or not and the morality involved in that.

    But if it doesn't work anyway -- the debate on all this is as much a waste of time as the torture itself. That thing you're doing... you know, the thing that doesn't work?

    Don't do that. Case closed.


    EDIT:

    I actually do support not releasing the memos. I understand the holocaust comparison and it's perfectly apt: that we're dealing with the holocaust is immaterial, it's the fact that the excuse of "just following orders" seems only insufficient if you're applying it to the other side. When you benefit from the actions, apparently KW seems to indicate that the excuse gains traction.

    That's possibly a very difficult debate. But whatever the final argument on it is, I think not releasing the memos is the right way to go for the time being.

    This is not for the benefit of the Bush administration or anyone carrying out the acts. It's for everyone else. It's becuase of some things I said recently in the Somali pirate thread: releasing the memos would instantly demand justice and law being applied, and whoever was singled out would immediate attract not only calls for justice, but also calls for aquittal.

    Look at what happened to Oliver North. The man lied and shredded documents. But he didn't seem to have to do much to gain a full aquittal from many of those who perscribe to right-wing politics. Not everyone of course, but a fair number.

    It may be simply not worth it to persue. Not that anyone will give anyone in the White House any credit for doing this, but if people are going to emotionally attach themselves you whatever name X is on those documents, it may be best for the time being to let it sit.

    Over time events will transpire that the memos can be released. People will forget why they liked Bush or that they liked him at all, and his supporters will grow old and pass on. Unless incriminating documents were outright destroyed, the information will eventually come out. And Bush himself may still be alive to face the day it does: he's out of office and still young, relatively speaking. One would hope a successful Obama administration may fragment much of the personal feelings people harbor towards the GOP and may be able to judge it better with a critical eye in time.

    Maybe then, at a time when information comes out and recognizing its truth is not immediately equated with conceding a victory to the other side, a full accounting can be made.
  17. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I thought we were past both 'if it works' and 'should anyone be doing it'.
    Weren't we?

    I think we're at 'should all be revealed'.
  18. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Ah, ok.

    I made an edit to the post above relating to that question.
  19. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I agree with Gonk. The memos create an opportunity for a partisan debacle on the scale of Clinton's impeachment trial, albeit on a more substantive issue.
  20. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Everyone, including Dick Cheney, says that torture is wrong and the U.S. does not do torture. What happened during the Bush administration is that the public and the government allowed itself to get into a debate over the definition of torture, when in fact the definition of torture was never really up for debate to begin with.

    That particular non-debate is entirely different from the debate over what kinds of interrogation techniques are effective and which are ineffective. The reality is that no state on earth would refrain from torturing a suspect about an imminent attack where time was of the essence. We need to find out whether this guy knows X and we have 24 hours before a nuclear attack on New York, etc.

    The open question is whether or not there has ever actually been one of those 24 hour scenarios outside "24." That kind of torture justification, and I think it would be a justification, remains as far as anyone knows, entirely hypothetical.
  21. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Except that it did keep one thing from happening, which was public accountability. His underlings were prosecuted, but Nixon himself wasn't. When you don't make people publicly accountable and make precedents that basically need to be followed, you set the stage for it to happen again in some form at a later date.

    This was KW's response to Alpha-Red, who I think was absolutely right in his/her assessment on Nixon and how this compares. KW's response I understand but have to disagree with.

    Yes, I understand that Nixon was never -- outside of the comparatively very easy grilling of the David Frost interviews -- held accountable. Unfortunately, the fact is that the notion (I like how Obama uses that word "notion", BTW -- it's proven very useful) prescibes, I think, to a form of nostalgia of the past... that there was a time when anyone WAS any more publically accountable than today. If anything it's moved in the opposite direction.

    Who was held accountable at the time for the Spanish-American War? Or Manifest Destiny? Certainly not James Polk or Andrew Jackson (the only President I can think of who WOULD have chosen to invade Iraq in 2003 like GWB). Who ever answered in the US for what happened in Iran or Guatemala in the 50s, or Chile in the 70s? Whoever answered for all those things that happened with America's sole Colonial experiment in the Phillipenes? What about the My Lai massacre... does anyone really think true justice was ever meted out for the scale of what happened?

    I didn't see the last epsiode of BG but what was that phrase... "all this has happened before, all this will happen again".

    You use the example of the Neuremburg Trials. But those trials are an evidence of only what is possible in the rare political circumstance that justice can be carried out without those seeking it themselves having to answer for thier own moral stance to the allies of the accsued. The trials should have taken place and did: but they did so upon the earth of a country that was laid to waste in a manner never before seen, surpassing even the overall devistation of WWI which merely destroyed a specific area of land within a country (France) but did not completely break either country themselves as the aftermath of WWII did.

    The reason the Nazis, the KKK, the Romans and many others are so vilified is easy: they're GONE. And whoever is left to carry thier standard will either not admit to it, or is delusional. You prosecute a Nazi, and no German will stand up for them. If you tried to prosceute a German for WWI war crimes in 1925, it would be a very different story.

    Nobody said this was a perfect solution and nobody said anyone has to like it. In the end, blame the people who protect the guilty through thier willful ignorance. But recognize that the protection is there nevertheless.
  22. JediSmuggler Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 1999
    star 5
    It goes beyond that. Do we really want to create the type of political dynamic that occurred between Sulla and Marius near the end of the Roman Republic?

    If that happens, it will make the aftermath of the election of 2000 look like a period of unity. Elections would increasingly be seen as a matter of life and death - and that's when people STOP using soap boxes and reach for the ammo boxes. Do you want that?
  23. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Who would take up arms to keep Dick Cheney out of jail? Can we see a show of hands?
  24. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    The uh, link is a bit inaccurate there, JS. Sulla did not have the Senate make him dictator for life. He never went further than the recognized term. They're getting him confused with Caesar.
  25. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    From a practical perspective, it's not even about whether the details should be released, because they either already have been (including in official form, with the initial memo releases earlier this year) or because details about them are already known due to leaks. Essentially, the real argument is whether the administration should sanction the information being put into circulation.

    I appreciate Gonk's very thoughtful post, and Jabba's as well. Still, I think no matter the calls for "guilt" or "acquittal," what really matters above all else is that everything is put on the table for the world to see. It can be an example to other countries, and in some small way be a step back to a true high ground.

    Even if history is the only judge in the end, the punishment will be sharpened many times over if everyone in the future is able to see what was done by the Bush administration.
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