Carol Platt Liebau: Explicitly Banning Torture: Bad Policy That Sounds Good

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Explicitly Banning Torture: Bad Policy That Sounds Good

So, according to this L.A. Times piece, U.S. Senate supporters of "an explicit ban on torture" of prisoners of war intend to keep inserting the language into legislation until it finally passes.

The key here is the word "explicit." Doubtless the overwhelming majority of Americans -- like me -- deplore the use of torture. And certainly the purposeless, recreational degradation of prisoners like those at Abu Ghraib is abhorrent, and well worthy of stern punishment.

But as the linked piece points out, terrorists can easily access military manuals. If they learn that it's "explicitly" illegal for any American to subject them to "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment," captured enemy combatants lose whatever incentive they have to cooperate with authorities when they're captured -- which may, in turn, cost American lives. By "explicitly" banning torture, the senators would also provide for captured terrorists the mental reassurance that they've nothing to fear (and yet more support for Al Qaeda's "Rule 18" -- instructing terrorists to make false claims of torture).

An "explicit" ban on torture certainly sounds wonderful -- and those who consider themselves morally superior to the people who are actually dealing with terrorists and trying to protect American lives can preen with abandon. But here's the hypothetical the ban's supporters don't address: If America were threatened with the imminent explosion of a nuclear device, would you support resorting to any measure that might, in fact, provide information about and save lives imperiled by the impending attack?

So the question comes down to this: With whose well-being are we most concerned: The hypothetical terrorist's, or the hypothetical Americans whose lives could be saved through information obtained under pressure from an imprisoned Al Qaeda?


Blogger Gerry said...

This is an extension of that wrong-headed thinking which believes our invasion of Iraq is helping establish a democratic state in that country. The truth is that the sacrifice of the lives of over 2000 American soldiers and the waste of billions and billions of dollars (which we do not have) has achieved only the establishment of an Islamic theocracy where there once was a secular state.

Too many more 'victories' like that and fundamentalist Christians will have to watch as a new majority changes the words of the Pledge of Allegiance to read,
" nation, by the grace of Allah.."

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two words: MORE tripe.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The United States, by treaty, already bans torture. The U.S. is a signator to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (signed April 18, 1988 by President George H. W. Bush; Ratified by the Senate on October 21, 1994).

It reads: "the term 'torture' means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed...."

Article 2 reads: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Article 4 reads: "Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law."

Full text of the treaty -

It is true that Attorney General Gonzalez has argued that this treaty does not apply to non-United States citizens captured outside our borders.
That is an absurd contention not found in either the treaty or our reservations.

There is NO wiggle room here Carol. We are bound by treaty to explicitly ban torture. And we are bound by that same treaty to pass such laws needed to enforce that ban.

The only daylight for you here is that the United States, along with China, specifically excluded itself from Article 30. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al, cannot be tried for war crimes for the violation of this treaty in the International Court of Justice.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous The Heretik said...

So the question comes down to this: With whose well-being are we most concerned . . .

Um gee I don't know. Just who might be tortured without explicit bans?
Maybe American soldiers.

And perhaps honoring the ideals found in our country's Constitution and its prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment might be something to put forward to the world.

Or we could go with that,"Let's show them. We're crazier than they are" bit you have going here.

This is the most impressive (or is it unimpressive) apology for brutality I have seen yet.

You should think about getting a job doing PR for David Addington.


5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight, we need a "nuclear option" that allows torture in case...

[cut to dream sequence]

~~ A recently captured terrorist has hidden a nuclear bomb in Dubya's teddy bear and only HE knows the secret abra cadabra password to disarm it ~~

Interagator: "Common you crazy A-rab tell us the code!"

Terrorist: "Eat my shorts you American Dog."

Interagator: Oh pshaw, we can't use dental instruments on him!! WHY did we pass that silly law????


Like anyone's following the "rules" of war anyway -certainly not Al Queda and evidently not the U.S. so....

This is more chicken-hawk, chicken-little "the sky is falling" B.S.

So Republican's can show their tough on....something.

This isn't about protecting American's - its more "Patriot Act" nonsense. Its instilling fear as an excuse to give the Fed's more power (smaller government my ass) and whittle away our civil rights.

6:18 PM  
Anonymous LQ said...

Torture is morally wrong and un-American and should be explicitly banned. The chances of it yielding useful information are remote. I say that as a supporter of the Iraq war and the president generally.

Btw, Carol, in the last two days, your site has been bombarded with left wing comments. Many of the lefties post too often, post too long, and post too little real analysis. Personal attacks and foul language have even been thrown in (in other words, the arrogance and hatred we’ve come to expect). Congratulations Carol. You must be striking a nerve!

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool! Can I decide who MIGHT know something that'll save lives? (You seem very knowledgeable, Carol, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.)
Why rue Abu Graib? If an explicit ban hurts us, think of what explicit evidence to the contrary will do FOR us. That explicit ban interferes with torturing people when we need to, anyhow.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Halliburton is gonna be pretty pissed if you stop a nuke from going off in the U.S.
I don't think the GOP will go for it.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Sidney S. Keith said...

All the intellectual babble aside, rationalistic justification of an evil practice neither changes the "evilness" of the act nor provides "moral justification" therefore.
If you are going to preserve in the pursuit of the evil practice, accept the moral degradation and respoinsibility therefore, but do not claim "RIGHTIOUSNESS" therefrom, for to do so is hypocritical inthe extream.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LQ Said: "Congratulations Carol. You must be striking a nerve!"

Yes "striking a nerve" is so intellectually challenging and honorable!! I mean it is SOOO difficult to make outlandish and extreme right-wing statements and incite people - thereby creating cyber-screaming matches ala "The O'Reilly Factor" in order to drive traffic to your blog so you can collect AdSense penny's for the RNC and hopefully get your own drive-time radio show.

I'd say it is closer to catering to the basest level of discourse and the lowest common denominator.

Congratulations Carol!!

10:16 AM  
Blogger digoweli said...

As a 63 year old former volunteer who served two enlistments during the Vietnam Era, there are two points that you didn't make on the Huffington Post. 1. All Armies have the same Geneva Manuals and so - as every TV and military movie makes clear - you are required to give your name, your position and a serial number to your captors and nothing more. That was not accorded the members of the Taliban Army even thought they were the government of Afghanistan at the time.

We have denigrated the Japanese, the Germans, American Indians, the Russians and almost anyone else we were at war with, with the exception of the Mother Brits, as lying, torturing, murdering thieves. Today we are finding that when we are pressured the way we have pressured them through the surrogate of American bribes and business practices abroad and now we are imitating them. What does that say about our system? About our humanity? and most of all about our courage and dignity as human beings.

Ray Evans Harrell
Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army 1964-1970

P.S. as for smaller government, does that mean that you would take away our medical under the VA? I already make 1/3 what my teachers made for the same work forty years ago in the name of productivity. These elitists will not be satisfied until they have 80% of the GDP to satisfy their sense of entitlement. Oh, I forgot, they do already. REH

11:28 AM  
Blogger Draino said...

Here, here, REH.

Your injection of common sense demonstrates that you continue to serve to your country well.

That's far more than can say for these obnoxious right-wing chicken hawks and Armchair Generals.

Thank You!!

12:58 PM  

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