A few questions on the torture issue - and some historical perspective


So, in looking at the torture issue, I have a question...

Even if you assume everything the Democrats are claiming is true, and even if you accept as fact that all the way up to President Bush believed in and endorsed actions that constituted torture (I don't believe that, but this is just for the sake of argument):

  1. Is that really worse than President Franklin Roosevelt ordering the imprisonment (or at least allowing it to happen) of thousands of Japanese-Americans, American Citizens, who had done absolutely nothing wrong, were never charged with a crime, and whose only fault was having the wrong ethnic background?
  2. Is it really worse than President Truman ordering the atomic bomb to be dropped on Nagasaki, killing approximately 80,000 people, most of them civilians, and most of them from radiation poisining?  Oh yeah...our intelligence tells us the Japanese were already planning to surrender when we dropped this second bomb.

Presidents are faced with all kinds of difficult, no-win decisions.  Some are right, some are wrong.  But to criminalize good-faith attempts to protect the country seems to me to be reckless in the extreme.



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There is no defense for the

There is no defense for the treatement of Japanese-Americans in WWII.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a different story.

  • Japan started the war.
  • There was a plan for an invasion of Japan, but after the US suffered 50K casualties taking Okinawa, it was feared that it might take 4 million participants and cost 250K  or more casualties. (Marshall reportedly feared 1 million).
  • The Japanese military establishment was dead-set against surrender and was encuraging Japanese civilians to participate in a suicidal defense operation.

Could I have some links regarding your sources for the idea that the Japanese were planning to surrender? A few diplomats fannying about doesn't count - the miliary never would have stood for it unless ordered to do it by the Emperor.



Moral relativism....

is not persuasive.  


This is lamer than having the courage of conviction to argue that waterboarding isn't torture or that at least that it was allowable because some lawyer said so.

Jim_Knowlton, if you're testing talking points, go back to the drawing board or just stick with the straightforward argument that the methods weren't torture.  It sounds as if there is still at least a 50-50 chance the 'waterboarding isn't torture' claim could be upheld, at least in the court of public opinion if not also in a real court.  And these two examples have weaknesses, as already pointed out.

a few responses

1.  If I'm wrong about Japan planning to surrender before the bomb being dropped on Nagasaki, I stand corrected, but here is what I read, from Wikipedia (they also have a footnote for this):

Up to August 9, the war council was still insisting on its four conditions for surrender. On that day Hirohito ordered Kido to "quickly control the situation" "because Soviet Union has declared war against us". He then held an Imperial conference during which he authorized minister Tōgō to notify the Allies that Japan would accept their terms on one condition, that the declaration "does not compromise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign ruler".[65]


Also...my point wasn't to criticize Truman...it was really to show how it's dangerous to after the fact pick apart wartime decisions made by a President...by definition, those kinds of decisions are wrenching and difficult.

2,  No talking points here...I was just giving my honest opinion, and asking some questions.  I think the reality is, if you look at wartime decisions through the years (there are plenty of other examples, such as Wilson's sedition acts and Lincoln suspending habeous corpus), that what Bush has done does not strike me as uniquely so bad that it warrants prosecution where none of these other actions do.

The differnce between torture and harsh interrogations


There is one huge point that is being missed by everyone when asking if harsh interrogations reach the level of torture. And many republicans are hiding behind a lack of information and knowledge of the real interrogation methods used. If you take each interrogation separately and evaluate it on its own merits in isolation it may or may not reach the level of torture.  But, when you add in all the relevant information about pre and post conditioning of detainees, it most certainly reaches the level of torture by any standards. When a prisoner is held for undetermined amounts of time in conditions that are used to soften and break the will of the detainee and then use a series of harsh interrogations techniques on top of other harsh day to day conditions you cross the line into torture.Example: A new detainee is held in isolation for ten days a bright light is on him, loud noise is being played that is so obnoxious that you want to stick a pen in your ears, guards come by and if you are sleeping they help you up and hand cuff you to the overhead cables for a couple of hours, while they string you up, you protest and you get 5 or 6 leg and knee strikes and you are blind folded while some walks around yelling at you or having a vicious sounding dog walking around you ready to tear you open. Now the fun begins after 10 days of the above you are lead to an interrogation room, now you are subject to harsh interrogation techniques ever couple of days. Repeat those steps above for 30 to 45 days and you have a horror fill torture chamber that is nothing short of those used by dictators for thousands of years.  My bet is most of you panty waists wouldn’t last 5 day without crying for your mamas. 

Two important points; first, if you are going around the world waving your big foam I’m # one finger and proclaiming that democracy and rule of law is what we are all about, torture really puts screws to that claim. Second, when our American military men and women are captured can we ask our enemies to abide by a standard of conduct for prisoners that does not include torture

Our enemies behead their captives

(and if you are female, they'll probably rape you). 


I'll admit my ignorance on the subject, but the GITMO prisoners still had their heads and limbs attached.

Yes, they did behead captives.

I doubt they got much actionable intelligence out of them after they beheaded them, though.  So I assume you're implying they got great intelligence out of them while they still had their heads, using only slightly less harsh techniques than beheading?

But here's an aspect of limiting the consideration of an official torture policy only to whether torture is effective, as Cheney would have us do.  For the sake of argument, let's grant him his claim that he got actionable intelligence even though we've not yet seen evidence of it.  Here's the rub:  If 'a little' torture was effective, wouldn't harsher torture have been more effective?  Why just use limited torture if harsher torture works better?  Is there a point at which torture loses its effectiveness?  The fact that Cheney can't tell us just how much and how harsh the torture must be to produce the best and greatest amount of actionable intelligence shows how futile it is to use effectiveness alone as a measure of whether torture should be policy.  And there is considerable testimony from professional interrogators that it is not as effective as other interrogation techniques in producing good intelligence. 

Who knows?  If we're to be thinking only about its effectiveness as he insists, maybe we should be critical of him now not because he used those methods, but because the methods were too restrained?  Maybe we missed out on better intelligence?  I think you get my concern: that letting him limit the conversation only to its effectiveness not only ignores many other important considerations, it's very hard to have a meaningful discussion about it on the effectiveness basis itself. 

For the WWII internment camps,

We made a formal apology and paid reparations to the detainees. For Guantanamo Bay, we unceremoniously released the innocents incarcerated there and many are saying that we did the right thing in imprisoning them.

There are also better examples of mass civilian slaughter than the atomic bomb, such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Tokyo_in_World_War_II#Firebombing


Tourture doesn't provide RELIABLE intellegence. It's STUPID. . .


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