Ramanan Sivaranjan presents
20 June 2005, mid-afternoon
Some Americans need to get over themselves already. This link was found via Metafilter.
This is a post from my link log: If you click the title of this post you will be taken the web page I am discussing.
He’s a bit of a nut since he thinks Torture is A-OK, seeing as how all the A-Rabs are doing it. What a fucking idiot. This guy is rich too—it boggles the mind.
by ramanan on June 20 2005, 7:53 PM #
Well rich does not equal informed. Look at all the celebrities!
Here is a thought experiment for you: say your only daughter is kidnapped in a botched attempt. You catch one of the perps. Your daughter’s life is in imminent danger. Would you use torture to weasel out information?
Again, I am not advocating torture. Just a thought experiment.
by Sunny on June 21 2005, 1:39 AM #
He’s got some quality material in there…so much so that I’m not sure where to begin! ;-)
I believe that there is nothing more sacred than United States soil and that it deserves to be protected at all costs.
I thought that what make the US great was its ideals of democracy and the existance of “inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Sacrificing principles such as these (to protect these very ideals!) is regressive (and sadly ironic). But then again, I could be wrong. Dirt is an impressive substance too.
Presently there are over 500 prisoners there [at Guantanamo Bay]...Senator Durbin likened the actions of our military at Gitmo to those of Nazis, Soviet gulags and the “mad regime” of dictator Pol Pot. I find this to be a ridiculous exaggeration and an inappropriate comparison, as many millions perished under the cruelty of each of the regimes Senator Durbin compares us with.
So killing and torturing is okay as long as you do it in moderation and keep it below the million mark?
Also, I think he has that sentiment backward. After all, isn’t “a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic”? (Aside: Is quoting Stalin a bad thing?!)
It’s important to note that to date, there have been no fatalities among the prisoners at Gitmo.
I’m worried about the need to use qualifiers like “to date” and “at Gitmo”...It allows you to ignore pesky little details like the dozens of prisoners that have been killed by the US in other locations as well as those that it will kill in the future.
A red hot poker then rises from the hole and goes into the victim’s rectum. It goes in and out and can go as deep as the intestines. I suspect that Syrian interrogators find out rather quickly whatever it is they want to learn.
I think in that situation you would say whatever they wanted you to say, regardless of whether it was true or not – so do they actually learn anything from using torture?
Moreover, inaccurate and imprecise information can be just as bad (or worse) than no information at all. (We all know that misinformation can do dangerous things like start wars. e.g. “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” – GWB, 17 March 2003).
we as Americans do not support the use of torture to get information.
Most of the prisoners there are “terrorists” ... That way those that are not a threat to this country, or who may be there in error, can be returned home. I agree with Senator McCain’s recommendation.
The use of “most” (instead of “all”) as well, later, “who may be there in error” implies that he believes that (there is a good chance that) innocent men are being held indefinitely (and treated in a fashion that “unkind, and on occasion, even mean”). If the US wants to detain terrorists that’s one thing, but holding innocent people without due process is not cool.
by Ryan on June 21 2005, 2:20 AM #
I was more annoyed at the fact that this dude is a dumb ass AND rich. I hate shit like that.
And excellent comment Ryan.
by ramanan on June 21 2005, 2:20 AM #
Some quality reading includes:
1) Universal Declaration of Human Rights (This is short and should be required reading!).
2) Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Also short)
3) Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Long)
4) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Long)
5) Geneva Conventions (Really, really long)
by Ryan on June 21 2005, 2:45 AM #
Actually Rumsfeld is probably pissed that they didn’t shoot most of them in Afghanistan. Why go to all the trouble of capturing them alive, transfer them to Gitmo, and torture them for intelligence when you could just prevent all the technicalities by killing them from the get go. That would follow the Geneva Conventions to the letter.
by Sunny on June 21 2005, 3:20 AM #
Well they seem to be doing that in Iraq and in Afghanistan now, so maybe they’ve changed their policies. There is a discussion on Metafilter as to whether soldiers are putting guns near civilians they kill accidently to make them look like insurgents.
by ramanan on June 21 2005, 11:09 AM #
Well you know what I think about Metafilter. But if it was happening we would hear some rumblings about it. I am sure with all the media access, something like that would come out. Then again there can’t be any smoke without fire. Considering that most of these assholes hide amongst civilians, it is indeed likely. How can a soldier really distinguish?
Insurgents. I absolutely hate that word. Why can’t we fucking call them by what they really are—terrorists. Gutless bastards can’t even target their so called enemy – the US soldiers – but only attack innocent civilians. Murder their own, bloody people! And of course the western media provides them with a veil of legitimacy by calling them ‘insurgents’. Its as if terrorism is a valid political expression.
BTW, nobody will entertain my thought experiment?
by Sunny on June 21 2005, 12:27 PM #
Sunny, generally speaking, torture does not get you the information that you want. There was an interview a few months ago with Israel’s former lead interrogator, and he spoke at length about how he didn’t use torture, not because he was above it but because a man being tortured will tell you anything to make you stop. That’s the problem, anything, even things that aren’t true. So no, I would not, under your thought experiment, resort to torture, and as cute as your thought experiment is, it’s the reason that we attempt to have a dispassionate, established legal system. So that vigilantism like that does not trump good judgment and justice.
by Ben on June 21 2005, 3:37 PM #
I agree Ben. I read that interview as well. Although, I cannot comment on how valuable the information derived from Gitmo is, it just doesn’t stand up to the loss of basic rights and human decency.
But if I was really in that position as outlined in the thought experiment, I doubt I would be so reasonable and understanding! Situations like that bring out the worst in people.
Since I brought about semantics in my last comment, I would like to point out the carefree use of the word ‘gulag’. Last time I checked ‘gulags’ were for “processing” dissidents not suspected terrorists. So until they put the likes of Chomsky and Vidal in Gitmo, let’s not get carried away. No in America, dissidents are celebrated with tenureships at Ivy League colleges. And while we are so concerned with abuse in Gitmo, let’s shed some tears for the innocent millions languishing in Chinese labor camps. No, I am not justifying the torture in Gitmo; just giving a few pointers to Amnesty Intl for their next letter campaign.
by Sunny on June 21 2005, 4:21 PM #
Sunny, your jab at Amnesty is absurd. Have you gone to look at what their recent letter campaigns have been? Your comment follows a certain line of logic that doesn’t really work: you fault Amnesty for bothering to criticize the relatively small abuse at Gitmo in lieu of criticizing the Chinese, when in fact Amnesty criticizes that treatment everywhere, including China. Amnesty is consistent. They do not let the United States slide for its abuses simply because it is “better than anywhere else”.
Amnesty is consistent in its lobbying for the rights of man. The United States is uneven, at best – invading Iraq, yet trading with Saudi Arabia and China, threatening North Korea while sending billions of dollars to Israel. Amnesty is a nice straw man, but that’s the thing about straw – it’s so light and flimsy.
by Ben on June 21 2005, 5:55 PM #
If we want to talk about the treatment of dissidents in America, we have to look no further than the recent Republican National Convention in New York.
by Dave on June 21 2005, 8:22 PM #
@Ben – Well if Amnesty is consistent why haven’t I heard ‘gulag’ in a Chinese context? Amnesty’s statuates dictate that they shouldn’t take a political stand. But they do so with the US, India and Russia. Its really hard for to me pretend that they are somehow balanced.
@Dave – Could you care to expand? Dissidents can shell out criticism but are unable to take any?
by Sunny on June 22 2005, 12:27 AM #
I feel like dis-ing Bob Parsons (BP) some more:
...torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or other persons…
1) BP uses the term “interrogation techniques” (or an synonym) at least 13 times in his article. So he assents that (a number of) the activities at Guantanamo Bay are ”...intentionally inflicted … for such purposes as obtaining from [a prisoner] or a third person information or confession…”
2) BP states “One of the most important assets we are using to protect Americans both at home and abroad is our military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba”. I believe this gives us the ”...at the instigation of a public official on a person…” portion.
3) Hence, BP’s only defence that torture is not occuring is that the “techniques” used are not severe. i.e. He uses the term “mild” 5 times, for example “the interrogation techniques we are using there are incredibly mild”.
A U.S. military policeman who was beaten by fellow MPs during a botched training drill at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison…the MPs, who were told that he was an unruly detainee who had assaulted an American sergeant, inflicted a beating that resulted in a traumatic brain injury.
So I feel compelled to ask – is a traumatic brain injury severe?
by Ryan on June 22 2005, 2:40 AM #
Again, Sunny, your argument rings hollow. Shall Amnesty use the same verbiage with every single criticism they make of every government on earth? Does their use of the word in the context of Gitmo mean they do not feel that the same actions are taking place elsewhere? Oh but I forget, in America we can just say “evil” and use that to label every wrongdoing we see everywhere, we can overuse the word and rape it of any meaning, and that is a perfectly acceptable means of political discourse. So Amnesty used one word to describe an American prison camp, and has chosen to use other words to describe other government actions in the world. This is the basis for criticism?
I fail to see how Amnesty is betraying a political bias. You claim three examples, can you explain them?
I would also note that the Chinese, to my knowledge, do not at every juncture proclaim themselves the saviours of freedom and the champions of democracy. The Chinese government, in my experience, makes no claim to be saving the world. This makes their human rights violations no less reprehensible, but I can see holding the wealthiest nation in the world, with armed forces stationed around the world, claiming to brandish the flaming sword of liberty, to a higher standard. Does that seem unreasonable? Amnesty does criticize the Chinese, as well as all other violators of human rights around the world, wherever it can. But for the most part, the Chinese are violating the civil rights only of their own citizens – the United States military, in pockets and under certain limited circumstances, is violating the rights of citizens around the world. The global reach, couple with the relatively small and ultrawealthy population and pretensions to Messianic glory, seem to me to merit a rather scathing criticism. Like, say, using the word gulag to describe a prison camp that we keep off our own shores merely so we can violate the rights that we claim belong to man in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, but really only believe apply to an arbitrary group of citizens who happen to have been born on or reside in this particularly mound of dirt, demarcated on a map.
by Ben on June 22 2005, 3:54 AM #
Ben, if you really cared about people’s basic rights being violated, you would address it everywhere, not deserve special criticism for certain states. And Amnesty has done that with the US, India and Russia. I am still waiting for their criticism of Palestinian suicide bombers and Pakistani state-sponsored terrorism. Oh, of course I am sorry. Terrorism is a valid form of political expression. They are merely expressing dissent by chopping off heads of innocent civilians.
And what’s your argument? You are putting innocent civilians on the same par as suspected terrorists? If you seriously cannot distinguish between the two, then your moral compass is truly fucked.
Amnesty Int has been very effective in the past. The letters actually used to do a lot of good. Too bad they have resorted to shock value to boost their flagging ranks.
by Sunny on June 22 2005, 4:37 AM #
Do I put innocent civilians on par with suspected terrorists? In a sense, yes. Why? Because I believe in due process and the silly, antiquated, quaint old notion that we used to have that a person is innocent until proven guilty and has certain rights as a human being. So yes, I put suspected criminals of any sort on par with innocent_civilians, in the sense that any civilian could, at the whim of a government or malicious citizen, become a _suspected terrorist. Which brings us back to your original thought experiment: why do we try to have a dispassionate legal system? Because sometimes people are wrong, and if you torture that man who supposedly kidnapped your daughter, and you have the wrong man, then shame on you, and shame on the system that let you violate his human rights.
by Ben on June 22 2005, 4:53 AM #
I blow my nose at the preview button! Blow it, I tell you! Blow it!
by Ben on June 22 2005, 4:54 AM #
Suspected is the key word in your rant Sunny. We have a system of law that protects everyone because sometimes what we suspect isn’t actually true.
I’m curious, what exactly would the US have to do before you’d stop apologizing for them?
by ramanan on June 22 2005, 5:50 AM #
Ram, I am sure they were having a vacation in Afghanistan.
I am not apologizing for the US. What will it take for you to keep an open mind?
by Sunny on June 22 2005, 7:07 AM #
So then why can’t they be given due process, if it is so cut and dry? And what sort of intelligence can people stuck in jail for so many years provide? I have long since given up on having an open mind when it comes to the US. They would need to do something incredibly drastic at this point for me to change my opinion of the country.
by ramanan on June 22 2005, 11:25 AM #
Could you care to expand? Dissidents can shell out criticism but are unable to take any?
Certainly. You had written:
Last time I checked ‘gulags’ were for “processing” dissidents not suspected terrorists. So until they put the likes of Chomsky and Vidal in Gitmo, let’s not get carried away.
During the RNC, the police indiscriminately rounded up people off the streets and sent them to Pier 57, a disused bus depot. MetaFilter has more.
By it’s literal definition, Pier 57 wouldn’t be considered a gulag despite all of it’s dissidents being processed if only because there was no forced labour. “Concentration camp,” however, would be apt.
Additionally, to on the one hand criticize Ben for not attacking China’s human rights record while at the same time joking that American dissidents are granted tenure seems, to me at least, a bit retarded.
by Dave on June 22 2005, 9:23 PM #
Did you guys see that BP mea culpaed
Many readers pointed out that the methods being used at Gitmo were not only inhumane but also were not very effective. So I checked the references that I was provided and sure enough I was wrong.
by Ryan on June 23 2005, 4:48 AM #
“US acknowledges torture at Guantanamo; in Iraq, Afghanistan – UN
06.24.2005, 11:37 AM
GENEVA (AFX) – Washington has, for the first time, acknowledged to the United Nations that prisoners have been tortured at US detention centres in Guantanamo Bay, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, a UN source said.
The acknowledgement was made in a report submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, said a member of the ten-person panel, speaking on on condition of anonymity.
‘They are no longer trying to duck this and have respected their obligation to inform the UN,’ the Committee member said.
‘They they will have to explain themselves (to the Committee). Nothing should be kept in the dark,’ he said.
UN sources said this is the first time the world body has received such a frank statement on torture from US authorities.
The Committee, which monitors respect for the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is gathering information from the US ahead of hearings in May 2006.
Signatories of the convention are expected to submit to scrutiny of their implementation of the 1984 convention and to provide information to the Committee.
The document from Washington will not be formally made public until the hearings.”
by Ryan on June 27 2005, 2:25 AM #
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