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How Torture Helped the Allies in WWII

May 5th, 2009 · 65 Comments

A small historical irony about the recent weird effort to enlist the bombing of Hiroshima in defense of torture (torture begins with T, Truman begins with T—don’t you see it?): Whatever role the bombings played in hastening Japan’s unconditional surrender, it was probably enhanced by the testimony of captured Air Force First Lieutenant Marcus McDilda. Though he initially professed to know nothing about the Manhattan Project or the atomic bomb that had been dropped on Hiroshima—because he didn’t—under torture he “confessed” that, contrary to Japanese hopes that the Americans could not possibly have produced more than a few, the United States had hundreds ready for deployment, with Tokyo and Kyoto next on the list of targets. In this case, of course, that was best for all concerned but it’s one more reminder that information obtained under duress is not always the most reliable.

Tags: War


       

 

65 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Daniel // May 5, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    And in the end the Japanese were still bombed. So much for getting information at all costs.

  • 2 Anderson // May 5, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    I still don’t know why you think it’s “weird” to cite Hiroshima in defense of torture. The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. Many of those deaths were slow and agonizing – the result of horrific burns and radiation poisoning. Hiroshima is a particularly graphic illustration of the principle that we are sometimes justified in inflicting grave and certain evil in the interests of a greater but uncertain good. Even in cases where the good is very uncertain. Hiroshima is controversial because the harm was so great and the benefit so dubious. But there are plenty of other examples that are much less controversial, like the conventional aerial bombing of Germany and Japan during WW II and the economic sanctions we imposed on Iraq during the Clinton and Bush I administrations. The relevance to torture seems pretty clear to me. The case that torture is sometimes justified does not rest on the premise that it is a reliable method of interrogation. Even if it is very unreliable, it may still sometimes be the only way of obtaining information needed to avert a catastrophe.

  • 3 LP // May 5, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Anderson: I think you’re making Julian’s point for him. People who believe that “we are sometimes justified in inflicting grave and certain evil in the interests of a greater but uncertain good” are likely to defend both torture and the destruction of Hiroshima, whereas people who think that principle is _insane_ are likely to condemn both. The invocation of Hiroshima is just a device to motivate people to line up on the ‘pro’ side, since shame over Hiroshima is one of the emotions that we, as a culture, prefer to suppress (since entertaining the possibility that the U.S. did something that atrocious is morally almost unbearable). It’s not an attempt to make a logical analogy, it’s simply an attempt to bring torture into the glow of righteousness surrounding Hiroshima.

  • 4 Matthew Yglesias » Tonight’s Homework // May 5, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    [...] – Torture makes your intelligence worse. [...]

  • 5 Anderson // May 5, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    LP

    Good luck persuading people who believe Hiroshima was justified that they really believe the bombing was an atrocity and are just suppressing that belief out of shame. I somehow doubt you’re going to win many converts with that line of argument.

    And what about the other things I mentioned? Conventional bombing of Germany and Japan during WWII killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. The UN-approved sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s are estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iraqis through malnutrition and disease. Atul Gawande recently argued strongly in the New Yorker that solitary confinement, which is used on tens of thousands of inmates in America’s prisons, clearly meets the definition of torture. Are defenders of those policies also suppressing their shame, in your opinion? Are you one of them?

  • 6 rmwarnick // May 5, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I’ve had these bogus arguments thrown at me all week on another blog. Torture advocates must really be desperate.

    It’s simple. Torture is against the law. The law defines torture precisely. Either we have the rule of law or we don’t.

  • 7 Anderson // May 5, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    The law defines torture precisely.

    You’ve got to be kidding. The law defines torture in terms of “severe” pain or suffering. Pain or suffering that does not meet the threshold of “severity” does not qualify as torture.

    So one of the obvious questions is how strong the pain or suffering must be, or how long it must last, to count as “severe” and thus to count as torture. Does the pain caused by a light slap across the face count as “severe” pain? A harder slap? How hard? Two slaps? Repeated slapping? At what point does slapping cross the threshold from non-torture to torture? Where do you draw that line? How do you decide where to draw it? Similar questions can be asked about many other forms of treatment that may or not qualify as torture, such as stress positions, sleep deprivation and exposure to high or low temperatures.

  • 8 N. // May 5, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    You’ve got to be kidding, “Anderson”. The Geneva Conventions — including Common Article 3, which applies to *EVERYONE*, no exceptions — ban “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” treatment, just to deal with idiots who say “But is it bad enough to be torture?” If you’re even asking that question, then it is “cruel, inhuman, and degrading”.

  • 9 jrosen // May 5, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Torture in “interrogation” is unlikely to produce reliable intelligence. So why do it? Two reasons come to mind, not unrelated: to show that you can (your basic sadism) or to elicit false confessions — as was classically done in the Inquisition and during Stalin’s reign of terror.

    There were at the time and still are serious moral issues over the effectiveness and morality of Allied area bombing in WWII. There were many conflicting considerations, but as a Jew born in 1939 (in the US) I quite possibly owe my chance to live out my life to to that campaign, at least to some degree. Among other things, it drew the Luftwaffe away from the Eastern Front and enabled the Soviets to do most of the work of destroying the German war machine on the ground…at the cost of somewhere around 25,000,000 dead (US losses, including the bomber crews shot down, were less than 5oo,000). But whenever and wherever there was fighting (except perhaps on some small Pacific islands or the N. African desert) civilians were killed, directly and also from starvation and homelessness. Total war is like that.

    That said, it’s not fair to equate the bomber crews with the torturers for the simple reason that the crews were also combatants who faced becoming casualties themselves, and did so in large numbers. The thing that distinguishes a torturer from a soldier is that the former faces no risk whatsoever of hurt in return, while the latter is always putting his own life at risk.

    The question of The A-bombs on Japan is yet another matter. It is just too facile to condemn the decision to use the bombs out of hand. Much that we have learned since was not known or was simply too uncertain at the time. There was the suicidal defense of Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Pelelieu to suggest that invading the home islands would have been a bloodbath. There was great uncertainty about the attitudes of a million Japanese soldiers in China. There was the horror of the mass suicide of civilians on Saipan, not to mention the Kamikaze campaign. And there was a tradition of Japanese middle-rank officers had assassinating moderate Japanese statesmen for being defeatists; a group of them actually tried to prevent the Emperor’s broadcast ordering surrender even after the bombs were used. Without the bombs, it was plausible that even a surrender order from Hirohito
    might not have been obeyed. ( The desire over-awe the Russians and end the war before they could stake claims to occupation was a part of the mix, but not the larger part. In any case, that was a miscalculation which only spurred Stalin to catch up within four years. The biggest atomic secret — that it could be done — was blown wide open over ground zero at Hiroshima. )

    In my non-professional opinion, blockade and isolation would have brought a surrender, but how many Japanese would have starved to death before that point was reached? More than died under the bombs? It is impossible to say. But given what was known at the time it is just too easy to condemn the decision out of hand.

    To get a feeling for the context (and a really good exposition of the science) Richard Rhodes “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” is hard to beat.

  • 10 Rizzo // May 6, 2009 at 2:14 am

    Point taken. Remind me to buy some new batteries for my reading comprehension meter.

  • 11 Julian Sanchez // May 6, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Anderson-
    If your point is that both fall into the category of “horrific act some believe to be justified by aversion of yet greater horror,” this had not escaped me. I just doubt that analogies at this level are much more helpful than “things beginning with T.”

    jrosen-
    I’ll do a post with a closer look at the empirical case for the bombing given (1) what we know now and (2) what was known at the time. It’s at least arguable that (2) is weaker. But I think a separate post may be in order on how easily we conflate the question about the justification for the bombing in either of those cases and questions about blame and guilt. The further we get from Hiroshima, I suspect, the fewer people will be so anxious to defend it, in part because fewer people will feel implicated in some kind of collective accusation.

  • 12 jrosen // May 6, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Julian

    I wasn’t trying to defend it so much as trying to show that at the time the decision to use t he A-bombs was made, much that has come to light since was unknown or poorly known, so blanket moral generalizations of the type that so often show up in anonymous comments strike me as cheap shots. Of a certain age and able to remember some of the events personally as they broke into public knowledge, that offends my sense of fairness.

    It seems clear, however, that as a long and very destructive war drags on, all participants descend from relatively civilized standards into a collective barbarism. The Pacific War began with the Bataan Death March (for which several high Japanese officers were hung) and ended with Americans fire-bombing Tokyo and machine-gunning the survivors of sunk merchant ships in the water. There is enough shame to go around.

  • 13 The Other Anderson // May 6, 2009 at 9:31 am

    As the “Anderson” who frequently posts on torture, torture memos, etc. at Volokh & elsewhere, kindly allow me to distinguish myself from my evil twin in this thread.

    … That said, a couple of points:

    (1) If all our guys did was slap KSM around a little, none of us would have heard about it. That’s not even the point under discussion.

    (2) The annihilation of German civilians by carpet bombing was a war crime by any serious definition. Read Bomber Command by Max Hastings. Terror was the original rationale behind strategic bombing. Later they had to try arguing that they were “really” destroying targets of military value, the definition of which expanded to factory workers’ houses.

    (3) As Daniel Larison pointed out, our failure to come to grips with Dresden and Hiroshima does indeed provide today’s war criminals with excuses. But that’s a rhetorical point, not a logical one, or a legal one. No one prosecuted the Turks for the Armenian genocide, but that didn’t help Goering et al. at Nuremberg.

  • 14 Anderson // May 6, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    N

    You have completely missed the point. rmwarnick claimed that the definition of torture is “precise.” How is “severe pain or suffering” a precise definition? What is the minimum level of pain that qualifies as “severe?” How do we decide? The statute provides no guidance at all.

  • 15 Torture And The Ultimate Ticking Bomb - Liberal Values - Defending Liberty and Enlightened Thought // May 6, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    [...] biggest incident of using torture in the hopes of stopping a bomb was in Japan before Hiroshima. Julian Sanchez points out that the use of torture did not help the Japanese. Not only wasn’t the bombing [...]

  • 16 Anderson // May 6, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Jrosen,

    Torture in “interrogation” is unlikely to produce reliable intelligence. So why do it?

    Because torture doesn’t have to be reliable to sometimes produce the information needed to avert a catastrophe. If the stakes are high enough and other forms of interrogation have been tried and failed, or there isn’t enough time to try them, then torture may be justified even if its chances of success are low.

    In other contexts, we believe we are justified in taking actions that will certainly, or almost certainly, inflict very grave harms (killing civilians by bombing cities, executing or imprisoning criminals, imposing economic sanctions on foreign nations, etc.) for very uncertain benefits. Why shouldn’t this apply to torture also?

  • 17 The Other Anderson // May 6, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    How is “severe pain or suffering” a precise definition? What is the minimum level of pain that qualifies as “severe?” How do we decide? The statute provides no guidance at all.

    Welcome to the real world of law.

    “Severe” first of all means what the dictionary says it means. Then a court has to apply that meaning to the facts and decide whether the facts fit the definition or not.

    Since the term comes from the Convention Against Torture, it would also be relevant to examine any commentaries on that treaty, and to look at how other nations’ courts had interpreted the treaty. This would not be binding authority, but could be persuasive depending on the reasoning of the court.

    Google will yield plenty of evidence that sleep deprivation and forced standing, for instance, inflict “severe physical pain or suffering” after prolonged periods.

    And waterboarding is a no-brainer. Yoo/Bybee had to eliminate “or suffering” from the statute to have even a prayer on that one.

  • 18 The Other Anderson // May 6, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Re: That Anderson’s eager desire to imagine *some* situation where torture would supposedly be justifiable, Jonathan Chait’s rebuttal will suffice:

    Finally, yes, we can imagine ticking-time-bomb situations where regular interrogation methods work too slowly and extreme measures might prove helpful. But this premise bears the same relationship to the question of legalizing torture as the morality of stealing a loaf of bread to feed your starving family does to the question of legalizing theft.

    IOW, tell it to the judge.

  • 19 Consumatopia // May 6, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Because torture doesn’t have to be reliable to sometimes produce the information needed to avert a catastrophe.

    This assumes that false information has no cost. Which is a strange assumption to make in the context of this particular thread…

  • 20 The Other Anderson // May 6, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    It’s precisely the ticking-bomb, no-time-for-Mr.-Nice-Guy situation that most encourages the supposed terrorist to lie. All he has to do is hold out while the clock ticks down.

    Sure, we might have caught some schmuck whom we can bang with a telephone like in Mr. and Mrs. Smith and get him to spill, but it shouldn’t be so hard to break someone like that without torture.

    Or, at least as likely, we have the wrong guy, or a cell member who’s been insulated from the crucial data (or fed the wrong data!), and we waste time torturing him while the clock runs out. At which point, we’re like, “oops, sorry we tortured you”?

    I would submit that the free nations of the earth (+ many hypocritical nations) did not unite in the Convention Against Torture in order to sacrifice a perfectly useful, highly effective, low-downside method of interrogation that has no adequate substitute. Just call me a cynic, I guess.

  • 21 Anderson // May 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    The Other Anderson,

    You’re conceding the point that, far from being “precise,” the definition of torture in the Convention Against Torture, and the U.S. code, is vague and ambiguous. No one has any clear idea of where the law draws the line between nontorture from torture, because it has never been clearly defined.

    As for waterboarding, as far as I’m aware there is no definitive legal opinion as to whether waterboarding qualifies as torture. The Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on the question, and there is no consensus among legal scholars. Part of the problem is that the term “waterboarding” is used to refer to a number of different procedures. Some may be torture and others not.

  • 22 Anderson // May 6, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    “This assumes that false information has no cost.”

    No it doesn’t. False information most definitely has a cost. That doesn’t alter the fact that torture does not need to be reliable to sometimes produce the information needed to avert a catastrophe. If the bomb is ticking, a million lives are at stake, and other forms of interrogation have been tried and failed, then interrogators may be justified in using torture even if they think the chances of success are low.

    And the chances of success may actually be high. The prisoner may fold like a cheap suit after just a few minutes of mild torture. Or even just from the threat of torture. Different people have different thresholds for pain and fear.

  • 23 Anderson // May 6, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    “I would submit that the free nations of the earth (+ many hypocritical nations) did not unite in the Convention Against Torture in order to sacrifice a perfectly useful, highly effective, low-downside method of interrogation that has no adequate substitute. Just call me a cynic, I guess.”

    Not a cynic. Naive. Governments want to sign the CAT to make themselves look good on the world stage. But they don’t want to do anything that will tie their hands and prevent them from doing whatever they feel is necessary for their national security. So they have a strong incentive to keep their torture a secret, to lie about it, to cover it up, to minimize the risk of legal exposure. They’ll hire foreign third parties to do their torturing for them (e.g., “extraordinary rendition”) or engage in cover-your-ass tactics like the OLC memos.

    There is also the aforementioned vagueness problem with the definition of torture in the treaty, and the huge loophole of “lawful sanctions.” To quote the CAT: “[Torture] does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.” So if you want to torture uncooperative prisoners, you can simply define torture in your domestic laws as a lawful sanction for failure to cooperate, and torture your prisoners in full compliance with the CAT.

  • 24 The Other Anderson // May 7, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Anderson, are you a lawyer? It doesn’t sound like it.

    The law is the law, whether there’s a “definitive” case on point or not. Unless the Torture Act is void for vagueness (which at least one court in this country has already held it is not), that doesn’t matter. Plenty of criminal statutes are not spelled out to the nth degree, and people go to jail every day for violating them.

    Indeed, the alleged absence of such cases (what have other courts in other CAT signatories said?) is a Very Big Reason why the Yoo/Bybee memos are a steaming pile of crap — they don’t give the client any sense of the possible *range* of judicial interpretations.

    And I would not advise that you torture anyone and then rely on your “lawful sanctions” defense.

  • 25 Consumatopia // May 7, 2009 at 9:48 am

    False information most definitely has a cost. That doesn’t alter the fact that torture does not need to be reliable to sometimes produce the information needed to avert a catastrophe.

    Unless the false information prevents you from averting a catastrophe. Whoops! Fact altered!

  • 26 Consumatopia // May 7, 2009 at 9:57 am

    And again, the weird thing is not merely that you didn’t consider the danger of false information, but that you didn’t consider the danger of false information in this thread.

  • 27 Barry // May 7, 2009 at 11:05 am

    jrosen: “Two reasons come to mind, not unrelated: to show that you can (your basic sadism) or to elicit false confessions — as was classically done in the Inquisition and during Stalin’s reign of terror. ”

    And during the Bush administration, when they wanted to ‘prove’ a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

    I don’t have a link for it, but I heard once that the KGB actually had to set up a real investigative unit, for situations where finding out what was going on was vital. People raised under the ‘pull in suspects, torture confessions, shoot, write up paperwork’ system couldn’t deal with actual investigations.

  • 28 Joe S. // May 7, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Only by torturing innocent people into false confessions can we inflate a bunch of crazy guys hiding in a cave into the biggest threat that America has ever faced.

    I wonder what they’ll torture Ashton Lundeby into saying.

  • 29 Tel // May 7, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Suppose we’d captured a city in Germany before the war was over. Would it have been an unambiguous war crime to firebomb it after we’d captured it? After all, among the citizens there could have been Hitler Youth fanatics who would work to sabotage our efforts, potentially costing thousands of Allied lives.

  • 30 Poptarts // May 7, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    “And during the Bush administration, when they wanted to ‘prove’ a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.”

    And they wanted to invade Iraq because of the oil and/or Israel? How’s that going? I for one am not sorry Saddam’s torture-state is gone. And I see people who rail against Bush’s torture but feel the toppling of the Iraqi torture state as the worst mistake in human history as a little partisan.

    “(3) As Daniel Larison pointed out, our failure to come to grips with Dresden and Hiroshima does indeed provide today’s war criminals with excuses. But that’s a rhetorical point, not a logical one, or a legal one. No one prosecuted the Turks for the Armenian genocide, but that didn’t help Goering et al. at Nuremberg.”

    Has Larison come to terms with the Civil War yet? You know, the Northern military intervention into the South? Yes it wasn’t specifically to free the slaves but it did topple a nasty regime.

    Anderson:
    “Even if it is very unreliable, it may still sometimes be the only way of obtaining information needed to avert a catastrophe.”

    I thought Obama made a very good conservative argument against torture at his 100 days press conference. Tortures’s a shortcut and takes the easy way out. “It may be the only way?” No it isn’t the only way, it’s the easy way that more often than not gets unreliable information when solid information could have been obtained by more patient, hardheaded methods that don’t compromise our values and ideals.

  • 31 RobertSeattle // May 7, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Al Queda could fill the heads of 100′s of their devotees with various fictional plots of dastardly things they could do – then we get this info and they have effectively terrorized us without lifting a finger.

  • 32 Tom // May 7, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    “And I see people who rail against Bush’s torture but feel the toppling of the Iraqi torture state as the worst mistake in human history as a little partisan.”

    Nice ad hominem. Who are these people who think it was “the worst mistake in human history”? And are they the same people who “rail against Bush’s torture”? Here’s an ad hominem for you: You. Are. An. Asshole.

  • 33 SKI // May 7, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Anderson said:
    “As for waterboarding, as far as I’m aware there is no definitive legal opinion as to whether waterboarding qualifies as torture. The Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on the question, and there is no consensus among legal scholars. Part of the problem is that the term “waterboarding” is used to refer to a number of different procedures. Some may be torture and others not.”

    Not accurate. http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/ecclesiastes/2009/04/the-water-cure-as-torture.php

    Some quick research turned up the following two cases from U.S. courts:

    In re Estate of Marcos Human Rights Litigation, 910 F.Supp. 1460 (Hawaii, 1995), was a civil action by victims of President Fernando Marcos of the Phillipines, and the court found that the plaintiffs had experienced “human rights violations” including, but not limited to, “5. The ‘water cure’, where a cloth was placed over the detainee’s mouth and nose, and water poured over it producing a drowning sensation….” The court referred to the listed practices as “forms of torture” that were used in “tactical interrogation,” which the court described as a “euphemism for torture, disappearance or summary execution.” 910 F.Supp at 1463.

    In Cavazos v. State, 160 S.W.2d 260, 261 (Tex. Crim., 1942), it was undisputed that the defendant “was carried from one jail to another by the officers; that he was made to stand for hours on tin cans with his feet bare and with his arms extended above his head; that he was slapped and kicked; that he was given electrical shocks with an iron rod charged with electricity; that he was given what is termed ‘water cure’ until he was willing to confess and did confess to the commission of the offense in order to escape such further treatment.” The court concluded that the confession was obtained “by force and physical and mental torture” and was inadmissible.

  • 34 Michael // May 7, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    I have a couple of questions for those on this board who favor harsh interrogation/torture:
    1. What to do when someone is tortured and later found to be completely innocent (i.e. case of Maher Arar). Canadian sent from US to Syria to be “harshly interrogated” and later released with no charges. Should US officials involved lose their jobs? Be charged with a crime?
    2. Should there be an age limit to these wall-slammings, stress positions, solitary confinement, water boarding etc. Perhaps draw the line at 9 years old? 16? Some of those who claim to have been tortured by the US have been minors.

  • 35 MyName // May 7, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Anderson: “You’re conceding the point that, far from being “precise,” the definition of torture in the Convention Against Torture, and the U.S. code, is vague and ambiguous. No one has any clear idea of where the law draws the line between nontorture from torture, because it has never been clearly defined.”

    This is the stupidest argument I’ve run across. The only time when the legal definition of “torture” is ambiguous is when you’re writing legal memos to cover your own (or your boss’s) ass. Take the proposed activity. Repeat 100 times. If that procedure has the potential to screw someone up for the rest of their life then guess what, it’s *torture*.

    Waterboarding (especially repeated 100 times) is torture. Banging someone’s head against a wall is torture. Making someone run around on all fours naked with a leash on is torture. It’s not rocket science here!

  • 36 Bloodstar » Irony of the Day // May 7, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    [...] How Japanese Torture helped hasten the Surrender of Japan in World War II [...]

  • 37 Michael // May 7, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Also to Anderson and Tom and other proponents of torture:
    What about the Guilford 4 and Birmingham 6 in England? If you don’t know much about the rest of the world, you may not be aware of these people who were imprisoned several years due to confessions obtained using solitary confinement, threats, and sleep deprivation. They were all completely innocent of the IRA bombings they were accused of.

    People who believe the current “War on Terror” is something new don’t know history. Compare this to the turn of the 20th century with Anarchists, Communists and Syndicalists bombing and assassinating governments throughout Europe and America. One could argue that Islamic fundamentalism is not nearly the global threat that communism posed at that time. We did have the excessive Palmer Act, but no official condoning of torture.

  • 38 Anderson // May 7, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    The Other Anderson,

    The law is the law, whether there’s a “definitive” case on point or not.

    “The law is the law” does not clarify the meaning of laws that define crimes in such vague terms as “severe” pain.

    Unless the Torture Act is void for vagueness (which at least one court in this country has already held it is not), that doesn’t matter.

    Of course it matters. Is one light slap to the face torture? Two slaps? Repeated slapping? Hard slapping? How hard? No one knows the answer to these questions, because the law on torture provides no clear guidance. Similar questions can be asked about all sorts of other forms of interrogation that involve the infliction of pain or suffering. How are interrogators supposed to know what types of treatment they may lawfully use on prisoners when the law is so vague and ambiguous?

    And which court has held that the Torture Act is not void for vagueness? Cite the case.

    Plenty of criminal statutes are not spelled out to the nth degree, and people go to jail every day for violating them.

    You’re still missing the point. The vagueness problem I have described with the law on torture is not that it fails to “spell out to the nth degree” the meaning of torture but that its definition is so vague as to provide no clear guidance at all.

  • 39 Anderson // May 7, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Not accurate. http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/ecclesiastes/2009/04/the-water-cure-as-torture.php

    Er, a blog post citing two (2) cases in which judges wrote that specific acts of waterboarding were torture does not demonstrate a legal consensus even with respect to those specific acts, let alone for waterboarding more broadly.

  • 40 Anderson // May 7, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    I have a couple of questions for those on this board who favor harsh interrogation/torture:
    1. What to do when someone is tortured and later found to be completely innocent (i.e. case of Maher Arar).

    Depends on the specifics of the case. I’m not sure what the point of the question is supposed to be. There is obviously a risk that innocent people will be tortured. Just as there is a risk that innocent people will be executed or imprisoned. What do you propose we do when someone is executed, or locked up for 50 years, and then found to be completely innocent?

    2. Should there be an age limit to these wall-slammings, stress positions, solitary confinement, water boarding etc.

    No. Should there be an age limit to the people we kill by dropping bombs on them during warfare, or by subjecting them to economic sanctions? The UN has estimated that the economic sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s, strongly supported by the Clinton Administration, caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Including hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Many or most of these deaths were slow and lingering. The victims died from disease or malnutrition, because the sanctions cut off food and medical supplies.

    Strange how little attention is paid to this mass human catastrophe by people who claim to be morally outraged by five minutes of waterboarding of terrorists.

  • 41 Thomas // May 8, 2009 at 4:31 am

    Concerning whether the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime, I have a slightly different perspective: my grandfather was a marine who was preparing for the invasion of the Japanese mainland. After losing a cousin in Okinawa, he had no misconceptions that he could very well die during the invasion as well. And if he had died during that invasion, I would not be here today.

    So you can see how I have trouble seeing the dropping of the A-bombs as war crimes.

  • 42 Consumatopia // May 8, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Strange how little attention is paid to this mass human catastrophe by people who claim to be morally outraged by five minutes of waterboarding of terrorists.

    Yeah, those strange post-WW2 allies, getting so upset over a little Japanese water torture after we firebombed their cities.

    Those strange Chinese, getting so upset over the Rape of Nanking while the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere was busy freeing them from Western colonialism.

    The only strange thing is how certain you are of things when you know absolutely nothing about them and seem to have paid them little or no thought. What’s most hilarious is your chant to “cite” this or that while I’ve never seen you cite anything, ever, despite making all of your claims with absolute certainty.

  • 43 Anderson // May 9, 2009 at 12:47 am

    The only strange thing is how certain you are of things when you know absolutely nothing about them and seem to have paid them little or no thought.

    Good grief. The irony.

    And yes, the firebombing of Tokyo is yet another act to which you seem strangely indifferent. Set a hundred thousand people on fire – that’s just a statistic. Starve a hundred thousand children to death – that’s just a statistic, too. But waterboard a suspected terrorist for five minutes – that’s a moral outrage.

  • 44 Consumatopia // May 9, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Good grief. The irony.

    Indeed, we’ve managed to prove you know nothing of the law (see above), of philosophy (see previous thread), of the history of torture (see every single post you’ve ever made), and you’ve shown no evidence that you’ve ever read or thought about them ever, and yet you go on talking. We present you with documented evidence of our claims. You just repeat your same nonsense. These two threads stand as monuments to your idiocy.

    And yes, the firebombing of Tokyo is yet another act to which you seem strangely indifferent. Set a hundred thousand people on fire – that’s just a statistic. Starve a hundred thousand children to death – that’s just a statistic, too. But waterboard a suspected terrorist for five minutes – that’s a moral outrage.

    So I guess you’re okay with Japanese water torture and rape? Either that or you’re okay with your own illiteracy.

  • 45 Julian Sanchez // May 11, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    “So you can see how I have trouble seeing the dropping of the A-bombs as war crimes.”

    I can see how it makes you personally uncomfortable, I suppose. I can’t see how your grandfather’s living or dying has the slightest thing to do with whether it was a war crime.

  • 46 Triangle whip // May 12, 2009 at 12:29 am

    War is a no rules buisness, and some time you may have to torture insolent subjects. Is torture a majic pill ?No! But to take it off the table is not the answer either. I rather torture, than bomb innocent civillians. The Genva Conventions does NOT protect everyone. Spie Mercs under Article 1-48-48…
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SAVAGEC/

  • 47 Triangle whip // May 12, 2009 at 12:39 am

    I think the GC and Hague Con should be atleast conditional, if not eliminated together.. USA tortured / whip victims since George Washington. Yes we dind’t deal much in torture in ww2. We had the Soviets to do the dirty work for us.. After that we paid other countries to interigate foregn prisoners, especially those [bananna] repupblice we help create like Chile/ Pinochete.. We even enlisted a former Gestapo officer named Klaus Barbie in the CIA. What did we learned from him?!
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SAVAGEC/

  • 48 Triangle whip // May 12, 2009 at 12:48 am

    I’d rather apoligize to the Japs for the 2 atom bombings way before I ever think of apoligizing to a damn terrorist for his uncomfortable statis..
    Wasn’t it us that we started the ban on surface nuclear detonations world wide?
    If Obama really care about America, why doesn’t he put greater efforts in going after the AIG folks that ran off with billions of our tax money? Oh! that was a law broken here. And are we a nation of laws?? HAHAA..

  • 49 Two Stories of Torture in World War II - 2parse // May 14, 2009 at 11:11 am

    [...] Sanchez told the first story about how torture helped win “the Good War.” The Japanese tortured an American airman in the immediate aftermath of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki trying to get information [...]

  • 50 Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » Why Does Language Matter? // May 15, 2009 at 7:42 am

    [...] Contrariwise, excepting vulnerable minds who watch too much of Joel Surnow’s torture porn 24, even children who grew up in the Bush years know that torture is not just criminal but stupid. No government that tried what we did ever got anything but what its torturers asked for. Sometimes that corresponded with reality, more often it did not. [...]

  • 51 What’s awesome this week: Let them eat dog food « A Fistful of Science // May 15, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    [...] 1. How Torture Helped the Allies in WWII [...]

  • 52 trianglewhip // May 16, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Bj said who grew up in the Bush years know that torture is not just criminal but stupid.
    I can both agree and Disagree with that statment, depending on curcumstance..
    Torture is nothing but punishment through pain complience. Why do we have TASERS?! Why are school kids paddled? Now bieng it criminal, well that is determined bv whose judging… Id rather NOT torture by all means. But if challenged, then what? Give him a cigar , and a nice plce to stay??
    Yes I agree that when the CIA tortured, those punks, for info, it backfired. In that buisness, and war, there no guarenteed solutions, at all. But through the Bush admin, The insurgency and foregn figters deminished greatly, time on. Why. Because alot of potential combatants, relized that the risk is now place more on them, than us, if they get wounded / captured.. Where were those combative Al Sdar, Iranian Sheites, during Sadamn Hussian? Not in Iraq at that time..

  • 53 trianglewhip // May 16, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Declaring war on Iraq against the International community, is CRIMINAL as well. We did hanged Nazis for that alone.. All those that voted for it, should hang as well. Oh! We are a nation of laws here..
    What ever you think how bad torture is, doesn’t matter.
    As long as humanity and war exist. There will always be torture. Can you eliminate it? NO. Can you control, and direct it on the proper curcumstance, that won’t get innocent people hurt? Hell Yes!
    If you want to win war, you better go all the way, get dirty, and live with it.or stay home. This nation was built on people that tortured. But we knew to not let it get out of hand. And that is the only thing to seperate good guys from bads guy, if that how you want to classify people..

  • 54 Anne // May 21, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    I think torture is defined as putting people in an agonizing way, to get something out of it; either by thrill, or by information. I think dropping the bomb on the Japanese citizen’s defines the word. The U.S. wanted to make a statement of strength and ruthlessness. Torture is torture and to be an American, we believe in the 1st amendmant… we all have alienable rights in this world. We want this way brought to the world, (democracy) way the world wants, too

  • 55 trianglewhip // May 24, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Ann said I think torture is defined as putting people in an agonizing way, to get something out of it; either by thrill, or by information. I think dropping the bomb on the Japanese citizen’s defines the word.
    I agree But torture is proper as a means of deturent punishment only. To get intelligents or confessions is counter productive, and time consuming. Winston Chirchil did a nicer, and more eficient way to the Nazi spies he cought. He gave 2 choices. Work for him as a double agent for a small payment, or HANG by the neck.. I do that 1st.
    I rather torture terroist, than bomb “innocent” civillians incl women and children.
    War is legalized murder, and atrocity, to the victors.. I rather be marked as a sadist, than a child killer…

  • 56 Liz // Jun 7, 2009 at 5:27 am

    :(

  • 57 Liz // Jun 7, 2009 at 5:28 am

    emoticons r cool… unlike torture!!! :) :(

  • 58 Dennis D // Jun 15, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Without debating the morality of torture , claiming it doesn’t work is ignorance produced by blind ideology. Yes torture works. We learn this from childhood. Ever have a bully twist your arm for lunch money? How fast do you offer up your money? Do you lie to the bully and tell him you don’t have any?

  • 59 trianglewhip // Jun 16, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    I never had bullies twisted my arm for anything. But I had bullies slam me to the ground and bashed the crap out of me, for many reasons. Kinda reminds me of dropping bombs on civilians.. I know torture works allot too. Watch the UFC… Too bad most of our politions never got into fights….

  • 60 Sam // Jun 17, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    The atomic bombings were horrific, and yes, many civilians died. This will always be a terrible fact. But how many civilans were tortured, mutilated, raped and killed all across Asia when the Japanese invaded? The thousands of civilians in Nanking, China who were killed in despicable ways by the Japanese were not the only ones. In every country and island that they invaded, they submitted the inhabitants to horrible methods of humiliation, torture, and death.

    It is a shame that so many Japanese civilians had to die in the atomic bombings. But when your nation has been doing worse to the civilians of every neighboring country for the duration of the war, it’s difficult to feel any sympathy.

  • 61 trianglewhip // Jun 19, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    I totaly agree, about the Japenes atrocities. And if you justify that no matter what the enemy has done, then you should justify torture as well for the same reasons.. The atom bomb was murder torture and mutilation in 1 package.. So we left the rape part, until we set foot…
    Politions been making a big deal on our atrocities we did like Abu Gharaid and Gitmo. But see what our so called “victims ” are doing ever since..
    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2007/0524072torture12.html.
    If we are wiling to lay unmaned landmines, and bomb civilian targets, that totaly endangers children, then I see torture NO more as evil, if not less….

  • 62 trianglewhip // Jun 20, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Civilian airstrikes do more damage to our moral standing, than any torture we committed. Franklin Roosevelt made a strong point on it prior to ww2
    see http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:Ba9_Cs5VmlcJ:randazza.wordpress.com/2009/06/11/hes-got-a-point/+geneva+convention+air+strikes+civilian+roosevelt&cd=7&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
    Scroll down to the bottom..
    I believe that ww2 might of be shortened if we didn’t did all that carpet bombing on German civilians. Because the last days were the most vicious fight of the whole war it’s self. The people were living in ruins, and the only thing you have left is anger and violence..
    Ask Isreal about their airstrikes. And see how things are doing with them..

  • 63 ali // Nov 10, 2010 at 11:51 am

    And on the authority of Wabisa bin Mabad, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: I came to the messenger of Allah and he said: “You have come to ask about righteousness ?” . I said:” Yes.” He said: “Consult your heart. Righteousness is that about which the soul feels tranquil and the heart feels tranquil, and wrongdoing is that which wavers in the soul and moves to and from in the breast even though people again and again have given you their legal opinion [in its favor].”
    Im an english muslim. I reject the increasing evil understanding version of ‘englishness’ as torture when i grew up and throughout my teens and most of my 20s was something scum like the SS, Gestapo and KGB involved themselves in. Now i find though very same types of people equating this type of behaviour with englishness. If this is the new englishness then you can keep it. Ill stay true to the previous version and i therefore have zero intention of ‘intergrating’ with such a morally- ruined degenerate nation. The 7/7 bombs were insides jobs, as was 911, the bali bomb (i havent yet looked into the bombs in madrid and india). Also there were the bombs that blew up russia. All done by the security forces entrusted by their people to give themselves sweeping powers and start illegal wars and steal what they couldnt afford. Lord Goldsmith found a justification, and it seems that some people are very very busy giving their legal opinion in favour of something digusting. Not matter how many times you say it, it will remain that whoever falls into this type of behaviour is a disgrace.
    Incidently, it turned up in a recent study that if you do good and are kind you have a good sense of yourself and are thus calm and happy. If you are a total ***** like Bush, Blair, Putin, Sakozy and many many others living in the US, Europe and the World in general who enjoy the idea of torture and like to justify it, i would have thought the opposite is true.

  • 64 ali // Nov 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Dear Trinaglewhip,
    Those who win a war by ANY MEANS NECESSARY invariably lose it. Why? Because in every single national, tribal or racial group and any/every other type of group that you can name there are people who do not define themselves by their gender, skin colour or class (ie money) but rather by their principles. If their principles were amongst many other virtuous things, not ever ever engaging in torture, rape, and deliberate attacking of civilians, then when their so-called kith & kin/friends expose themselves for the heartless, merciless, ruthless scum that they are all bonds that previously held them together are broken, and very likely irrevocibly so. Thus love grows cold, and hate grows strong, and civil war then looms on the horizon. Those who love chastity can never love the perverted, nor the charitable the miserly, or the brave the coward, and so on. I hate people you as i am deeply opposed to torture, thus it is likely we will fight. When you die i wont care. Ultimately this war is about muslims and non-muslims, but as im sure you can see (myself being a good example) there are many people who increasely hate the new definition of American and British and are ‘joining’ the other side. No one can ever win if their people fight.

  • 65 Granger Stuwert // Mar 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    how were people tortured in WWII??

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