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April 30, 2009


You praise the President for his answer, in which he stated with certainty that "we could have gotten this information in other ways." But you yourself pointed out that such a conclusion is pretty much unknowable and that in the absence of scientific data, both sides are likely to rely on their ideological preconceptions.

That seems to be exactly what the President is doing. His certainty on the point may be politically useful but ought to give pause to a scientifically-oriented analyst like you. Does ideologically driven certainty bother you only when it's expressed by right-wingers?

I wonder if you practice wielding loaded questions in your personal relationships, Rob. You're a pro.

I have no patience with the claim that we could have gotten the same information in other ways. Those who make that claim don't even bother to specify which other ways they assert would have succeded. Suppose someone claimed that Brendan could have gotten his Ph.D without doing so much work, but didn't even say how. That claim would be deservedly ignored.

Furthermore, other questioning methods were tried. Does anyone think that a newly-captured prisoner was waterboarded 183 times before ever being questioned? Of course not. Common sense suggests that our military questioned that prisoner in various other ways before resorting to water-boarding. To claim that the same info could have been gotten by mythical "other methods" is just a way of denying the moral dilemma that warfare poses.

Of course Brendan abhors torture under any circumstances. So do I. I abhor killing and maiming enemy soldiers, who may be draftees with no negative feelings toward us. I abhor bombing enemy targets that may result in death of civilians. I abhor killing enemy sailors and shooting down enemy pilots. I abhor keeping enemy soldiers imprisoned for years. I abhor military actions that destroy the economy of a nation. Virtually every aspect of war is abhorrant.

Nevertheless, some wars muct be fought. In particular, the war (or whatever you call it) against al Qaeda is one we cannot avoid. Winning this war will require the use of abhorrant methods.

If someone feels that we should refrain from certain methods, even though avoiding them will mean more American deaths and a greater chance of defeat, I can respect that position. But, to pretend that there's no cost to aviding these methods is just wishful thinking IMHO.

even though avoiding them will mean more American deaths and a greater chance of defeat

As usual, your absolute belief that torture is not only effective, but is also far more effective than all legal methods of interrogation, is based entirely on gut instinct and not backed up by any evidence.

This country has been quite successful at defending itself without resorting to medieval tactics. The same can't be said for many countries who've taken the opposite course.

Jinchi, I disagree with several of your points.

1. I don't claim that harsh treatment is always more effective than legal methods. I do believe that harsh treatment has often worked after legal methods failed.

2. I provided testimony of several individuals who said that harsh methods had worked against al Qaeda terrorists.

3. You seem to be equating "torture", "medieval tactics," and perhaps "harsh treatment." IMHO "medieval tactics" includes the rack, pulling out fingernails, the thumbscrew, and that sort of thing. Waterboarding was not a medieval tactic.

The word "torture" until recently was synonymous with "medieval tactics". Today, in international law, "torture" would probably include water-boarding and such harsh treatments as sleep deprivation, incarceration in a cold cell, slapping, etc.

4. It's not the case that the country has always defended itself without the use of torture, at least as the word is defined today. Harsh treatments were used in our successful battle against al Qaeda. Harsh treatment was successfully used by the Brits in WW2.

IMHO the difference today isn't that we're treating prisoners worse. It's that we're focusing more on how prisoners are being treated.

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