Rather Hopeful

Somehow I doubt it:

President George Bush cited the London July 7 bombings in an interview broadcast last night to justify his support for waterboarding, an interrogation technique widely regarded as torture.

In an interview with the BBC he said information obtained from alleged terrorists helped save lives, and the families of the July 7 victims would understand that. Bush said waterboarding, which simulates drowning, was not torture and is threatening to veto a congressional bill that would ban it.

Perhaps someone would like to ask said families? I have a feeling that the reposnse would be along the lines of, yes, it\’s torture and no, we don\’t use it. Because, you see, we don\’t torture people, because we are civilised, we\’re not terrorists.

But then I\’m projecting my views onto others, just as Shrub is. Be interesting to know who was right though.

20 comments on “Rather Hopeful

  1. I don’t think Rachel from North London would be particularly happy that Bush is backing torture in her name.

  2. Engram rather falls down by saying “obviously, waterboarding is qualitatively different from the techniques that al Qaeda likes to use” without explaining why it’s different from, say, suspending-and-whipping.

    Which would be hard, because it isn’t [both are terrifying, painful and degrading, but don’t cause serious permanent injury. Forced partial drowning is different from having the hands drilled or the limbs severed, but that’s not the claim Engram is making.]

    The other point about forced partial drowning that makes it inherently torture is that the prisoner has no idea whether or not he’s going to survive the process. You might believe the CIA would never torture anyone to death; I’m slightly sceptical; and someone who’s grown up with non-stop propaganda about how evil America is would doubtless have no difficulty believing they really intended to kill him…

  3. BGC, Engram-Backtalk is right about the consensus on a meaning of a word defining the correctness of that meaning. But that backfires on his argument about waterboarding, because as far as I know the consensus, outside the Bush administration anyway, is that waterboarding is torture. The sad thing is that a large proportion of the US public believes the use of torture is justified against ‘terrorists’.

    The fact is, that not so long ago, the US courts punished people for using techniques that we are speculating about.

    As for it simulating drowning – it is drowing, according to people who have undergone it (eg John McCain), except the death bit. Hopefully.

  4. Yes, asking the families of the 7/7 victims would be a useful exercise – as long as you were prepared to listen to the answers. I never cease to be reassured by the robustness of the views of ordinary folk.

    Of course Rachel of North London is a fine example of the bien pensant liberality who chose to settle in close proximity to the trendy restaurants of Crouch End. That she is capable of infinite compassion & understanding is a given & it’s only right that she should be referred to here. But you might also care to canvass the opinions of a near neighbour of hers whom fate placed on the train in front of hers. He seems to be more in favour of methods that put feet in close proximity to slow fires. Of course, if the BBC were putting together a late night discussion panel on the subject I can guess who they would chose to invite.

    We’re all proud to live in a ‘compassionate’ society. Apparently, with the exception of a few neanderthal thugs from the BNP, we were all in favour of immigration, asylum seekers & the wonder of multiculturalism. Until it turned out we weren’t.

    Maybe we’re universally opposed to the practice of water-boarding. Or do we trouble to ask the wives & daughters of the troops patrolling the streets of Baghdad for their opinions? And if they give them, do we want to listen?

  5. If waterboarding is outlawed, then what’s the next worse method? Cries for that to be outlawed will then be made and outlawed it then might be. Continue this ad infinitum, how do we get intelligence from prisoners?

  6. Ingram,

    Looking at the other way, if waterboarding is acceptable but doesn’t work what is the next technique to be tried as “harsh interrogation”? Continue this process ad infinitum and we end up with the scenario described in Stephen Leather’s thriller, Cold Kill.

  7. Ingram, Japanese POWs gave up information in response to relatively kind treatment by the Allies – treatment of a kind contrary to what they believed they would face on being captured.

    That is not to say that a friendly face or cigarette will work with every Johnny Foreigner, but do not limit yourself to thinking that only torture can get information from prisoners.

  8. Apparently, with the exception of a few neanderthal thugs from the BNP, we were all in favour of immigration, asylum seekers & the wonder of multiculturalism.

    this is still true, it’s just that the neanderthals are sadly a bit more prominent and less ashamed than they used to be.

  9. yup, how awful of me to believe that the majority of people aren’t a bunch of sadistic bigot vindictive c**ts.

    Tim adds: The thing is though, rather than *our” beliefs, what are the *people’s* beliefs? Given the enthusiasm for capital punishment we might not be right….

  10. “yup, how awful of me to believe that the majority of people aren’t a bunch of sadistic bigot vindictive c**ts.”

    Well, only if you equate being less than thrilled with the rate & amount of immigration, plus the disaster that multiculturalism has proven to be, with being ‘a bunch of sadistic bigot vindictive c**ts.’

  11. The thing is though, rather than *our” beliefs, what are the *people’s* beliefs? Given the enthusiasm for capital punishment we might not be right….

    Hmm, I’d claim the people weren’t right – give me JS Mill over the mob any day of the week.

    Well, only if you equate being less than thrilled with the rate & amount of immigration, plus the disaster that multiculturalism has proven to be

    But multiculturalism hasn’t proved to be a disaster – that’s a ridiculous and nonsensical lie. If it had proved to be a disaster, then (for example) the rise in immigration over the last 10-15 years would have led to a substantial rise in crime, rather than crime levels little changed from 1987 and lower than 1997…

  12. Tim, the polls tell us a lot of people support capital punishment and a lot of people don’t. The same goes for torture. This doesn’t tell us much.

    I think I would support the torture of someone who harmed me or my family. I think I would be that angry. But I would like to live in a society where cooler and hopefully wiser heads prevail, rather than one that goes on a misguided rampage of revenge every time a bomb explodes.

    Someone (Ahud Barak?) once wrote that democracy must sometimes fight with one hand behind its back. I think that is absolutely right.

  13. “multiculturalism hasn’t proved to be a disaster – that’s a ridiculous and nonsensical lie. If it had proved to be a disaster, then (for example) the rise in immigration over the last 10-15 years would have led to a substantial rise in crime”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3914289.stm
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=504499&in_page_id=1770
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/01/28/npolice128.xml

    But feel free to complain that that’s just the ‘Tory press’ stirring thing up…

  14. It’s worth noting that the number of Al Qaeda terrorists that underwent waterboarding at the hands of the CIA (three, supposedly) is fewer than the number of journalists who have agreed to experience it in the name of research.

    For what it’s worth, I think waterboarding falls just – just – inside the line of what is acceptable and what is not. It should only be used in extremis (which it appears to have been). We can’t wholly ignore the utilitarian argument. If a terrorist plot which kills and maims hundreds could have been averted via waterboarding it takes someone more high-minded than me to simply chalk them down as collateral damage in our zeal to maintain moral hygiene. There’s a version of the Sorites paradox at work here: how many people are you willing to sacrifice before coercive interrogation methods are acceptable? Maybe democracy should fight with one hand behind its back, but not bound hand and foot and stuffed in a sack.

  15. David, but how do you know that someone has information which you need in order to prevent a terrorist attack? Then there is the argument that if you use waterboarding and they give information how do you know its true or false to provide time for the attack to take place?

    I know its a terrible cliche but the argument against all form of torture or “harsh interrogation” has to be the “slippery slope” one.

  16. David, if a specific technique does fall within the definition of torture, then the USA has an obligation not to practice it.

    Moral obligations aside, the state should not be sanctioning “coercive interrogation techniques” that fall within the definition of torture.

    If an interrogator thinks he has a good reason to use such a technique, say in the mythical ticking bomb scenario, he should go with his conscience and submit himself to the legal system after the event. If it ever got to court, I am sure no jury would convict him, within the context typically described.

    As for the utilitarian argument… well, the UK lost nearly 500,000 military and 70,000 civilians in the Second World War in order to maintain our way of life. How many lives is the rule of law worth?

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.