24 April 2009

On the torture memos

Straight to the point: The release of the memos is part of the left's continued denial that the confrontation with terrorists is a war in any sense. It is a law enforcement matter, not a military one. And in law enforcement situations, suspects are not subjected to "harsh" treatment. You give them coffee, cigarettes -- you know, make them comfortable. Then you ask them, kindly and gently, whatever is on your mind.

It strikes me also, that this is part of the incremental stripping away of national sovereignty. In a world in which a "nation" is simply a formality, those things which used to be justifications for wars are now causes of legal action. Just as citizens of a city, county, or state don't carry on private wars with each other but go to court instead; just as citizens who are harmed do not take the law into their own hands and get justice for themselves -- nations shall not carry on private wars, or act so as to get justice for themselves by military means. As the nation-state must go the way of the dodo bird in favor of world citizenship, so must the freedom of a nation to see to its own security. It's a denial, if you will, of nations' rights. If there is to be world citizenship (Obama obviously thinks so), then there is, or must be (eventually) a world state. Since a state must have a monopoly on the use of physical force, it stands to reason that the world state must have this monopoly. For that to happen, the monopoly enjoyed by the nation-state must be dismantled. So, no private security ops for the nation-state and, hence, no prosecution of wars by nation-states. Well, that's what I think, anyway.

From what we've been told, one would think the legal advice given to the Bush administration amounted to, "Hey, torture is okay, and it's okay to use torture when interrogating suspected or known terrorists." In actual point of fact them memos examined each technique in punctilious detail. Indeed, use of the term memo has been somewhat misleading. Most people's experience with memos is with document of two or three pages in length. These memos are larger than that. The briefest of the memos is 18 pages.

The so-called torture memos can be accessed here. Enjoy. With the release of these memos, outlining in great detail how we go about "torturing" people (including the very tight controls employed), we are probably out of reliable interrogation techniques. Now terrorists, if there really are any (clearly His Beatitude is doubtful), will be able to provide more intelligent SERE training for their "high level" operatives. There is nothing like knowing what to expect to help get you through potentially stressful situations. The worst part of almost anything is not knowing what to expect, and about how long it will last. Knowing exactly how you are going to be "tortured", and for how long, should be of inestimable benefit to terrorists -- if there were any, which there aren't. There can't possibly be: the President wouldn't make useful information available to an enemy.

Apparently, any technique which involves anything more aggressive than asking, "Do you have any plans to commit terrorist acts, specifically, to kill or otherwise harm anyone, anywhere, at any time; and, if so, what, specifically, are these plans?" is torture. Oh, I forgot to add, "Pretty please, with baklava smothered in syrup."

Hugh Hewitt makes a relevant point about the most heinous of these torturous acts:

As the commentators show their feathers to each other, see if any of them cite a single vote by the Senate or the House to define waterboarding as torture throughout the years when the Congress was fully aware of the practice. The DOJ legal analysis was the best effort of front-line lawyers in the aftermath of a massive attack on the United States. Their Congressional critics of today who did not demand a defining vote on what constituted torture are the worst sort of hypocrites. They are the lawmakers, and chose --even when House and Senate were controlled by Democrats from January 2007 to the present-- to avoid passing a law bringing clarity to the very gray areas of the law of interrogation.
When it comes to statutory provisions, the more specific the law the better; and the easier it is to prosecute violators. As it is, there is too much subjectivity in the law against torture. Heck, teenagers think, and act like, they're tortured if you take away their iPods, cell phones, or (God forbid) ground them.

We are, as many have observed, witnessing an attempt to criminalize dissent, specifically: dissent from leftist interpretations of the laws, or even just leftism itself. And to think, they accused the Bush administration of doing so. What's bad for the goose is good for the gander, I suppose.

P.S.

The relevant statutory provisions (which are cited in the memos) are as follows:

As used in this chapter—
(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
(3) “United States” means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States. 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2340.

(a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy.— A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy. 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2340A.

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James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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