Sunday, January 06, 2008

Torture: Stereotyping vs. Analyzing

If you're a liberal, what do you guess would be the position of the John Birch Society on waterboarding as a tool to win the War on Terror? Or the position of Joseph Farah, editor of, described by Wikipedia as a "conservative online news site," by Future of Freedom Foundation as "a conservative website," by Media Matters as a "right-wing website," and as "only slighty below NewsMax on the 'ultra-conservative mouthpieces posing as independent news sites' scale" by someone at, a forum for fans of the New Jersey Devils hockey team.

Stereotyping is dangerous. "All right-wingers support Bush and his use of torture," the left-wing anti-war type stereotypically says.

The answer to the question:

WorldNetDaily: Waterboarding is not torture

The New American: Mukasey a Bad Omen for Liberty and the Rule of Law

Now let's analyze the two sides. Gary Benoit, writing for the John Birch Society, makes an irrefutable case that waterboarding is torture:

Former U.S. Navy instructor Malcolm Nance, who trained U.S. forces to resist harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding, wrote on the Small Wars Journal blog that waterboarding is torture "without doubt." Though waterboarding is often described by the media as simulated drowning, Nance points out that it is "not a simulation" at all but a "controlled drowning." In waterboarding, Nance explains,

the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Nance continues: "Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration — usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death."
. Syndicated columnist Joseph Galloway, coauthor of We Were Soldiers Once … and Young, recently described a waterboarding he had witnessed as a young reporter covering the Vietnam War. (His character is depicted in the movie We Were Soldiers.) According to Galloway: "When you hog-tie a human being, tilt him head down, stuff a rag in his mouth and over his nostrils and pour water onto the rag slowly and steadily to the point where his lungs start to fill with water and he's suffocating and drowning, that is torture."
. The waterboarding witnessed by Galloway was performed by South Vietnamese Army troops against a Viet Cong suspect. "The victim was taken to the edge of death," Galloway recalled. "His body was wracked with spasms as he fought for air. The soldier holding the five-gallon kerosene tin filled with muddy water from a nearby stream kept pouring it slowly onto the rag, and the victim desperately sucking for even a little air kept inhaling that water instead."
. "Did the suspect talk?" Galloway rhetorically asked. "I’m sure he did. I'm sure he told his torturers whatever he thought they wanted to hear, whether it was true or not." Galloway, however, was not present to witness that since one of the American Army advisers attached to that South Vietnamese unit, who had walked away before the waterboarding began, came back to tell Galloway he had to leave.
. Why did he have to leave? Why did the American advisers walk away? "That adviser knew that water torture was torture; he knew that it was outlawed by the Geneva Convention; he knew that he couldn’t be a party to it; and he knew that he didn't want me to witness such brutality," Galloway wrote in his column.
. Evan Wallach, who teaches the law of war at Brooklyn Law School and New York Law School, also knows that waterboarding is torture. In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post entitled "Waterboarding Used to be a Crime," he noted that the U.S. government has in the past "severely punished" those who applied waterboarding, citing as one example the convictions of “several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war” during World War II.

How does WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah respond to this revealing analysis?

He doesn't.

"Let's use our heads for a minute," he says, often a cue to avoid the intellectually sound arguments of the opposition.

. Imagine American law enforcement or military authorities have captured a terrorist mastermind who has knowledge about an imminent nuclear detonation in an unknown American city. He knows the time, the location and the details about the warhead.
. The bomb could be going off at any minute. It could kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
. Would you really want waterboarding to be banned under all circumstances? What alternatives would you suggest for quick results? Should we call in top negotiators from the State Department? Should we play loud rap music? Should we force the prisoner to listen to Hillary Rodham Clinton speeches?
. While I also find those experiences unpleasant, I don't think they would produce the needed results in time to defuse the bomb.

His article does not in any way prove that waterboarding is not torture, only that we should use it anyway because the end justifies the means.

This is not analysis, it's fascist propaganda. Here's Farah's pitch:

Let's not tie the hands of future Jack Bauers who will need to do what they have to do to save lives.

Will Grigg analyzes Farah's propaganda here:

Pro Libertate: "Turbo"-Charged Idiocy About Torture

But some people still might hesitate to rule out torture. "We have to be realistic," they say. "You're just too idealistic." (It's always "too idealistic" to apply things like morality to "real-world" things like politics and foreign policy.) "Sure, torture is normally wrong. It's certainly wrong when they do it to us. But isn't it better to torture one terrorist than allow thousands of innocent people to die?"

"Jack Bauer" analysis will never be overcome by "Jesus Christ" analysis in the minds of those who vote for Huckabee because Chuck Norris says so. The Prince of Peace, who said "Love your enemy," is against violence. "But if we use violence against the terrorist, we will save lives." Jesus says, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52).

Here's why Jesus is correct.

Before we get to the point where Jack Bauer is about to find out where the bomb is by using violence, we have to enact a policy allowing violence. That policy will declare that when we set out to prosecute a "war on terror," torture will be allowed. It is this policy, which reflects a violent mindset, and results in wars costing thousands if not millions of innocent non-combatant policies, which gives terrorst recruiters something to harp on, and an excuse to bomb us.

Suppose instead of spending a trillion dollars bombing Iraq and killing over a million innocent non-combatant children since 1990, we had simply decided to donate a trillion dollars to Iraq, a little at a time, everytime they attend a class on the Constitution and Christianity. Of course, the federal government has for decades held that welfare benefits cannot be conditioned on sitting and listening to a sermon, but let's say we finally admitted with William Rehnquist that "The 'wall of separation between church and State' is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned." Let's suppose also that we re-adopted the foreign policy of America's Founding Fathers: "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none," and no U.S. military bases in over 100 countries.

Would this affect the ability of terrorists to recruit new bombers? Of course it would.

When a man's ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7)

Our national motto is "In God We Trust," but in practice we trust Jack Bauer more than God when it comes to "national security." And God says we will not have security as long as we think and act this way. If we adopt a policy of military occupation to secure our oil, and a policy of torture against those who don't like our smart-bombs, we will never be safe from our enemies, ever-increasing in number.

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