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May 27, 2009

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"And what's even worse is that some of the people being tortured may not actually be "terrorists and murderers" in the first place."

And while we're at it, let's not even acknowledge that the methods used are not even now and definitely were not then considered "torture" by many reasonable people.

That's seems to be Cheney's point - he is objecting to people calling the methods torture - not saying it's OK to torture terrorists. If you want to debate his assertion it's not torture, go ahead.

I used to admire your independence Brendan.

Chait seems to be misrepresenting Cheney's point in a couple of ways:

1. Cheney draws a distinction between waterboarding and other forms of torture. IMHO waterboarding is torture. Nevertheless, it's significantly different from traditional types of torture, such as the rack or pulling out fingernails. Waterboarding, unlike most tradional torture, leaves the victim entirely unharmed.

2. Chait seemed not to notice that Cheney was addressing waterboarding that was necesssary for the purpose of gaining vital information, not torture in general. That's why it's such a difficult moral dilemma. Torturing people is horrible. However, it would also be horrible to permit a massive terrorist attack, if that attack could have been prevented using information that would have been gained by waterboarding some terrrorist leaders.

If I were as nasty as Jon Chait, I would add:

Failure to note these distinctions is a form of illogic that tells you a lot about Chait's style of thought. It's too subtle for him to figure out that different practices which can be classified as "torture" may have enormous differences. For Chait, it's black and white. It's either torture or it isn't. The notion that torure may have different degrees and that it may depend on the purpose for which it's used are ideas too complex for his brain to process. He is a complete moral simpleton.

Let's see the memos that Cheney wants Holder to release, eh? Then we can debate the impermanent duress that is waterboarding.

TMD

Waterboarding, unlike most tradional torture, leaves the victim entirely unharmed.

Try it.

Paul, many US servicemen and women have tried it. Being waterboarded is a standard part of the training for cetain military personnel. We wouldn't waterboard our own people if waterboarding caused lasting harm.

"...he is objecting to people calling the methods torture...not saying its OK to torture terrorists."

Good grief, if you read Cheney's words, he is "objecting to people calling the methods torture" precisely BECAUSE "these methods" were used on terrorists. Sorry, Marty B, Brendan's "independence" remains intact.

"However, it would also be horrible to permit a massive terrorist attack, if that attack could have been prevented using information that would have been gained by waterboarding some terrorist leaders."

Two faulty assumptions here: a. waterboarding is the ONLY method to gain such information and b. waterboarding will automatically lead to the terrorists giving up this information.

Daniel, less harsh methods of questioning were no doubt tried before we resorted to waterboarding. If these had worked, we wouldn't have needed to use waterboarding. AFAIK there is no known method other than waterboarding that would have succeeded on the terrorists we questioned after 9/11.

I do agree with you that there was no certainty that waterboarding would cause the terrorists to talk. Nevertheless, given the horror of the 9/11 attack, I think it was enough that this technique was likely to help prevent another attack. YMMV.

Daniel,

OK. let's read Cheney's words as they appear above:

"to call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives, and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims."

Please explain how this sentence can be construed to mean, as you write, "he is 'objecting to people calling the methods torture' precisely BECAUSE "these methods" were used on terrorists".

Your "Good Grief" seems to indicate these statements are so obviously the same - but what do you know - they aren't even close.

To be frank, I don't even understand your comment - Maybe I am mis-reading but are you saying Cheney believes these methods aren't torture simply because they were used on terrorists? This sounds completely bizarre. If you really think he believes this you are gonna hafta find language beside what is quoted above.

Again, Cheney's point seems clear - he is objecting to people calling the methods torture because he doesn't think they ARE torture - and Chait (and Brendan) don't explain how can he be arguing it was OK to torture terrorists with methods he doesn't believe are torture.

My comment about Brendan's independence relates to his blithely accepting the a-priori conventional assumption that "waterboarding is torture just because I think it is".

Personally, while what I've read about the practice sounds completely nasty, I am not willing to accept my or anyone else's "gut feeling" as a viable definition of whether it constitutes torture.

"...are you saying Cheney believes these methods aren't torture simply because they were used on terrorists."

Yes.

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