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Thread: Waterboarding, Just water boarding

  1. #1
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Waterboarding, Just water boarding

    From the Hot Air blog - Video: Steve Harrigan Gets Waterboarded on Fox.

    He could barely get through his report, so shattered was he by the experience. By the end of the segment he’s reduced to sobbing and pointing to a copy of “The Conservative Soul” that he’s held up to the camera..
    From Wretchard at the Belmont Club - Waterboarding at Fox.

    ... Nobody even admits to waterboarding, though the individuals depicted on the video apparently know a lot about it. But assuming somebody did this kind of stuff would you never approve it if you had reason to think the interrogation would save lives? Here are a variety of answers whose logical flaws are interesting to pick out. Readers, start your brain cells!

    1. "It's wrong period". Even if waterboarding could save a thousand lives legitimizing the practice is unmistakably evil. We make something bad into a licit act and one day these practices will be used against American citizens on the grounds that it is useful.
    2. "What's the difference?" We accept the use of force to subdue suspects, often injuring them in the process. We even subject US soldiers to this waterboarding experience to train them against hostile interrogation. A prisoner will likely suffer far more injury being taken prisoner than being waterboarded, if Harrigan is correct. Since violence is part of social life, as an established fact, why should this not very injurious practice be unreasonably excluded just because someone calls it torture?
    3. "Let the market decide". If I were a father whose child were kidnapped I would voluntarily submit to Harrigan's experience to win the release of my son. I would be willing to exchange the stress of waterboarding for the life of the hostage. Why should the malefactor, if found, be exempt if I the parent would not exempt myself? And come to that, when I send a police officer after a malefactor, am I not asking him to assume a risk far greater than the consequences of waterboarding? If I could obtain the location of the victim by using it, thereby saving the victim and ensuring the safety of law enforcement, is that not in fact moral? All suffering is fungible. What we need is to create a mechanism for the rational exchange of preferences.
    4. "You'll never know". Whether you're damning yourself to hell by waterboarding a likely suspect or damning the victims to a painful fate by not saving them from those monsters. But you may have to do something. So look at yourself in the mirror each time and ask: "do you feel lucky today, punk? "
    5. "We'll never have to make this choice" It's too hard. Let's work through the United Nations and engage in dialogue and then if somebody really needs to do it, well I hope they won't tell us.

  2. #2
    Council Member SSG Rock's Avatar
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    Default They call that torture?

    I watched the video, expecting Harrigan to be all shook up after the experience. I didn't see that. He was somewhat distressed during the actual procedure and he gave up pretty quickly, but that sure doesn't fit my personal definition of torture. It's child's play compared to terrorist methods.
    Don't taze me bro!

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    Council Member Stu-6's Avatar
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    Since the point of something like that is fear it seems as thought this was not an accurate portal. The reporter knew that he could quit at anytime, he knew the people doing it to him, and he knew they were not interested in killing him. What he doesn’t know is what it would really be like. A report like this does little to increase the publics understanding of the issue; it’s just a ratings grab.

    Not commenting one way or the other about the use of such methods but that report is lousy journalism.

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    Council Member SSG Rock's Avatar
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    Default yeah...

    Thats true.
    Don't taze me bro!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stu-6 View Post
    Since the point of something like that is fear it seems as thought this was not an accurate portal. The reporter knew that he could quit at anytime, he knew the people doing it to him, and he knew they were not interested in killing him. What he doesn’t know is what it would really be like. A report like this does little to increase the publics understanding of the issue; it’s just a ratings grab.

    Not commenting one way or the other about the use of such methods but that report is lousy journalism.

    I agree very much with you.

    BTW, talking about journalism and real life, Brits came out with some documentary movie with the name: Torture: Guantanamo Guidebook. Anyone saw it? I am interested in any opinion. This is description:

    In an inspired melding of investigative journalism and the reality-TV format, Tim Carter's British documentary provides a disturbing demonstration of the conditions and coercive methods used by American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay. For four days, seven volunteers agree to submit themselves to techniques believed used at the prison. "The clearest impression yet of what it might be like ... an impeccable exercise in liberal journalism: its revelatory intentions are more serious than many TV news bulletins" — Guardian.

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    Council Member Shivan's Avatar
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    Default Waterboarding: A Tool of Political Gotcha (Bing West)

    A well said piece by West: http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/200...olitical-mane/

    ABC news, FWIW, claims only 3 people have been "waterboarded": http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/...ive-only-.html

    This is indeed a game of "gotcha" by the media, left, etc. If the Democrats in Congress are so opposed to it, they can always legislate, which is their duty anyway.

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    Default well, yeah...

    Perhaps its because I'm a political scientist, but it seems to me more than a little self-evident that the techniques of interrogation (and torture) become politicized, both inside and outside the United States. Complaining about it seems a bit like complaining that it sometimes rains during operations.

    I agree that the Democrats (well, Congress more broadly) have a responsibility to specifically forbid it if they think its an issue--although given that it is already a rather clear violation of IHL, one would have hoped they didn't have to.

    If the technique has been infrequently used, it strengthens rather than weaken the position of critics: the image of US-as-torturer has done serious damage to the US moral position in the GWOT, and (quite apart from the legal, moral, and operational arguments against waterboarding) it does rather seem a rather steep price to pay for a technique possibly used on only three prisoners. I constantly find Abu Ghreib, Gitmo, and waterboarding raised with me in the ME, and frankly I think they are collectively a rather large mobilization and recruiting gift for AQ and various AQ wannabes. Are we forgetting that COIN is, to a large degree, about issues of politics and legitimacy?

    I'm with Malcolm on this one.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default

    Is Bing West saying that waterboarding is okay if we simply watch and benefit from it? Or that it's okay because we've only used it a few times (that we know of --- given the veil of secrecy, how does ABC News or anyone else know?)?

    What exactly is Mr. West's argument? That it doesn't matter much if the U.S. government legalizes the use of torture by its agents, as long as those agents don't use it too much? Doesn't he understand that it may not be used much because it hasn't been accepted as legal practice?

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    Council Member Shivan's Avatar
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    Default maybe not

    [QUOTE]
    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    [waterboarding is] already a rather clear violation of IHL . . .the image of US-as-torturer has done serious damage to the US moral position in the GWOT, and (quite apart from the legal, moral, and operational arguments against waterboarding) it does rather seem a rather steep price to pay for a technique possibly used on only three prisoners. I constantly find Abu Ghreib, Gitmo, and waterboarding raised with me in the ME, and frankly I think they are collectively a rather large mobilization and recruiting gift for AQ and various AQ wannabes.
    If "waterboarding" is that clear a violation of IHL as claimed, then Congress should have legislated it away, no? Have they decided to then ignore our obligations under IHL? Have we even defined "torture" to include "waterboarding"? Rather ipse dixit to call it "torture" if not.

    As for the information war, recall that in the 80s, Reagan et al. were vilified by world media and accompanied by mass protests (and lots of hysteria) in Europe when missiles were deployed. Reagan and Thatcher prevailed. Today, a similar situation exists: whatever the U.S. does, media in the Mid East and elsewhere will vilify, as they currently do. Thus, we have to continue to do that which will protect Americans, until such acts are specifically forbidden by Congress.

    Claiming that this is a boon for AQ recruiting is to buy into propaganda. AQ et al have not had trouble recruiting before or after 9/11, nor in finding grievances, real or imagined, for their propaganda (see, for example, "Inside Al Qaeda" by Gunaratna, and "The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global" by Gerges). The Intel Community needs to be able to use all techniques that are currently legal to do their job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shivan View Post
    (see, for example, "Inside Al Qaeda" by Gunaratna, and "The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global" by Gerges).
    Fawaz (Gerges) is indeed an odd source to cite in support of your argument--I've heard him twice in the last few weeks argue that US detention and interrogation methods have served to swell jihadist ranks, based on his recent field interviews with militants, supporters, and young men hoping to make the trip to Iraq to fight US forces (which, as I noted earlier, is very much my impression too).

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    Council Member Shivan's Avatar
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    Default Gerges

    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    Fawaz (Gerges) is indeed an odd source to cite in support of your argument--I've heard him twice in the last few weeks argue that US detention and interrogation methods have served to swell jihadist ranks, based on his recent field interviews with militants, supporters, and young men hoping to make the trip to Iraq to fight US forces (which, as I noted earlier, is very much my impression too).
    Actually reading the book would be helpful. It goes to the point that "AQ et al have not had trouble recruiting before or after 9/11, nor in finding grievances, real or imagined, for their propaganda."

    Gunaratna (and others) have cited numbers as high as 7 million men radicalized and armed (or willing to be armed) to fight in jihad, and drawn from all over the Muslim world. Is that all the fault of Abu Ghraib, interrogation, etc.? Could it be possible Gerge's recent informants you cite are spouting exactly what they want reported?

    I'm not denying that Iraq, Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, etc., are beacons for recruiting, but my point is that such an increase is marginal at best. Take Pakistan & Afghanistan as examples: long before 9/11, there were an estimated 120K armed militant running about. A hypothetical increase to 125K means little given the starting point.

    If, on the other hand, we were talking about 1.2 billion Muslims all of whom were at peace and in love with America, and we suddenly started torturing people and that became a recruitment device, you may have a point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shivan View Post
    Gunaratna (and others) have cited numbers as high as 7 million men radicalized and armed (or willing to be armed) to fight in jihad, and drawn from all over the Muslim world. Is that all the fault of Abu Ghraib, interrogation, etc.?
    Leaving aside how credible that number is--and the serious dangers of lumping all Islamists into the same category-- I hardly think that anyone is claiming that its the sole source of militant Islamist grievance.

    What is being claimed is that, quite apart from what I believe to be its clear illegality (under IHL) and immorality, water-boarding is not worth the damage it does to the US national image. In a long war of ideas and legitimacy, reputation counts.

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    Council Member Shivan's Avatar
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    Default back to square one

    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    I believe to be its clear illegality (under IHL) and immorality
    Personal value judgment. Let the U.S. Congress (a) define waterboarding (b) determine if it is illegal under international and/or U.S. law and (c) act accordingly.

    Actually, I live in the Mid East off and on, and speak Arabic. Having mingled with Arabs from all walks of life, waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, etc. is only an issue among Western liberals. Arabs think of us a far too genteel and naive in many aspects. The greatest grievance among many Arabs towards my dear Uncle Sam is that they cannot get visas to America.

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    Quote Originally Posted by Shivan View Post
    Gunaratna (and others) have cited numbers as high as 7 million men radicalized and armed (or willing to be armed) to fight in jihad, and drawn from all over the Muslim world.
    Ok, slightly off thread, but I could not, as we say in Australia, 'Let this one go through to the wicketkeeper.'

    This figure beggars credibility in every reasonable sense of sound statistical analysis. How did Gunaratna (who is at the helm of what is essentially a Government funded social science program focussed on security) come up with this figure?

    He certainly does not have the resources (or ability) to poll everyone (or even a representative sample) of the Islamic world. I even doubt whether respected polling groups like Pew could undertake such an audacious poll. Singaporean think tanks obviously have some (well hidden) abilities..

    I suspect that if challenged on this, after a few disingenous and distracting observations, we would find that the figure cited comes from some form of 'government source' , thus obviating the need for substantiation because, after all, they know what they are talking about, don't they? As a last resort , if pushed, we would find out that if came from 'classified source' , thus totally removing the need for rigorous verification. Gunaratna, and others of his ilk, have 'form' for this.

    The problem with 'careless' facts from 'credible' figures is that people accept them at face value. The mental image of millions of putative violent jihadists is quite disturbing - and, dare I say it, grist for the mill for those who make their living, name and reputation from being expert commentators on the matter.

    The fact is that it does nothing to 'help' confront the true nature(s) and scope of the problems associated with radical Islam - related issues of political violence . This appears irrelevant to those who spout such meaningless, and ultimately useless figures.
    - Mark
    Last edited by Mark O'Neill; 11-03-2007 at 11:52 PM. Reason: spelling

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    Council Member Shivan's Avatar
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    Default jihadist number

    I'm not wedded to the number, nor do I take it as absolute. However, if we consider that the number represents about 00.50% of all Muslims spanning the globe, it is not that huge. 50 basis point deviation from the mean in any group (although Muslims are not homogeneous) is not that much.

    Yes, how did he come up with the number? What degree of radicalization are we speaking of? When putative jihadists claim to be "willing" to take up arms, do they intend to do as they say?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shivan View Post
    Personal value judgment. Let the U.S. Congress (a) define waterboarding (b) determine if it is illegal under international and/or U.S. law and (c) act accordingly.
    I have no problem with this (although, under IHL, individual states have no right to "legalize" that which is internationally prohibited).

    Actually, I live in the Mid East off and on, and speak Arabic. Having mingled with Arabs from all walks of life, waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, etc. is only an issue among Western liberals. Arabs think of us a far too genteel and naive in many aspects. The greatest grievance among many Arabs towards my dear Uncle Sam is that they cannot get visas to America.
    I was working in Gaza when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. The anger was real, and virtually universal. Those in SWC who served in Iraq are better placed than I to say whether Iraqis were upset or it was simply a western, liberal non-story.

    I suspect we're never going to agree on this one, so I'll leave it there.

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    Council Member Shivan's Avatar
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    Default agree to disagree

    Yes, we will not agree on the waterboarding issue.

    The Gaza crowd is hardly illustrative of Arab thought. They hate us, and along with their West Bank cohorts, had a fine celebration on 9/11 as I recall.

    One must also account for how much genuine passion there exists for issues, and how much is whipped up by Arab/Western presses and anti-American leaders.

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    Council Member Abu Buckwheat's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Shivan View Post
    Personal value judgment. Let the U.S. Congress (a) define waterboarding (b) determine if it is illegal under international and/or U.S. law and (c) act accordingly.

    Actually, I live in the Mid East off and on, and speak Arabic. Having mingled with Arabs from all walks of life, waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, etc. is only an issue among Western liberals. Arabs think of us a far too genteel and naive in many aspects. The greatest grievance among many Arabs towards my dear Uncle Sam is that they cannot get visas to America.
    Shivan, You must live in a different Middle East than I because I get Abu Ghraieb, Fallujah, Qana, and 9/11 conspiracy theories thrown in my face almost daily. I speak Arabic & in live in a ME capitol ... also served in Iraq. There is nothing about those issues that can't turn a peaceful group of guys smoking the Shisha into a pretty worked up crowd. They especially believe in the 9/11 Jewish conspiracy and when I tell them I saw the attacks with my own eyes and that Jews, Moslems and Christians were killed in the hundreds only then do they soften up and regret what they say. They think the Bush neo-conservatism is really a neo-Crusader trick of great shrewdness. They can't believe its just incompetence.

    There is nothing Western liberal-inspired about the anger and resentment here in the ME. Its genuine and deep seated ... oh and they are angry about not being able to get Visas too... especially the Iraqis that worked for us.

    As for Gunaratuna's estimate of 7 million armed and angry Moslems in the Jihad ... it not a good estimate. Its 1 billion angry innocent Moslems who have a political gripe about our policies and approx 21,000 amed & in the Jihad globally (incls Taliban, AQI, Chechens, AQ global & franchises, ASG and other mini-Jihads). Maybe 100,000 active supporters. Thats my guess.

    OK back on topic ... My wife says - "A little bit of torture is like a little bit pregnant ... in the end you're still knocked up."
    Putting Foot to Al Qaeda Ass Since 1993

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    Council Member Shivan's Avatar
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    Default my apologies

    Abu Buckwheat -- Careless writing on my part by adding Abu Ghraib. I was focusing on the issue of waterboarding, hence the following sentence "Arabs think of us a far too genteel and naive in many aspects." The last line is facetious, as you may have figured: "The greatest grievance among many Arabs towards my dear Uncle Sam is that they cannot get visas to America."

    Yes, I know how upsetting the issue of Abu Ghraib is, and the conspiracy theories percolating in the region. Arabs would not be Arabs w/o conspiracy theories, and which has a long history in their social traditions. A lot of anger is whipped up though, like the cartoon controversy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shivan View Post
    AArabs would not be Arabs w/o conspiracy theories
    Yes, its a good thing we have no equivalent in the west

    Poll: U.S. hiding knowledge of aliens

    June 15, 1997
    Web posted at: 12:00 p.m. EDT
    (CNN) -- Nearly 50 years since an alleged UFO was sighted at Roswell, New Mexico, a new CNN/Time poll released Sunday shows that 80 percent of Americans think the government is hiding knowledge of the existence of extraterrestrial life forms.

    ...

    Sixty-four percent of the respondents said that aliens have contacted humans, half said they've abducted humans, and 37 percent said they have contacted the U.S. government. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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