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March 12, 2005

A Talent for Torture

With many thanks to commenter Nick, I finally found that Jim Talent quote, and she's a doozy:

But a Republican panel member, Senator Jim Talent of Missouri, signaled that, as far as he is concerned, little if any blame rests on American shoulders. "If our guys want to poke somebody in the chest to get the name of a bombmaker so they can save the lives of Americans, I'm for it," Talent said, according to The Associated Press. "I don't need an investigation to tell me that there was no comprehensive or systematic use of inhumane tactics by the American military, because those guys and gals just wouldn't do it."

Set aside for a moment the fact that torture is wildly ineffective at procuring information. Set aside that 70-90% of those we tortured were non-combatant civilians. Set aside the fact that Iraqis knew about Abu Ghraib long before we did, and our failure to acknowledge and deal with it seriously only added fuel to the insurgency's fire. And certainly, set aside Talent's gut-wrenching reference to torture as a "poke in the chest," though I bet McCain loved that one.

What absolutely kills me here is this: Of course our military men and women would never institute a systematic program of torture. They wouldn't do it, because they understand that things like the Geneva conventions, and our respect for human rights in general, are what separate us from the enemy by more than a matter of degree. No, Sen. Talent, they'd never do that, but you know who would? The guy who you voted to make our Attorney General! Almost nothing that's gone wrong with this war has been the sole fault of the military. Gen. Shinseki knew we'd need more troops than we did, and we all know how that story goes. The story of our failures in Iraq can be hung on a timeline of civilian war planners putting the actual safety and effectiveness of our troops at Priority M or so. So, Jim, if you really believe in the goodness of our men and women in uniform - as I do - then what say you stop promoting the leaders that slander their good names with their ruthless incompetence? Or would that just be too much darn accountability for you to handle?

Incidentally, during his comments, I remember Talent saying something like, "I think this is what Sen. Lieberman was getting at." Indeed, it was:

A prominent Democrat on the committee, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, agreed with Church's conclusion that the incidents of abuse, however deplorable, were few, at least in terms of statistics. "Seventy cases out of 50,000 detainees is about one-tenth of 1 percent," the senator said.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

- Daniel A. Munz

March 12, 2005 in Iraq | Permalink

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Comments

Just curious but does Lieberman know how much you guys really hate him?

Perhaps a swap could be arranged between him and McCain as Joe seems much more popular on conservative blogs.

Posted by: Boethius | Mar 12, 2005 3:55:01 PM

"Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally." -- Abraham Lincoln

No longer merely spinning in his grave at what his party now argues for; he's simply known up here as Pinwheel Abe.

Posted by: Ghost of Joe Liebling's Dog | Mar 12, 2005 4:07:06 PM

This whole subject leaves me uneasy but let me play Devil's advocate:

A terrorist has been captured in a major city. He knows about the whereabouts of a WMD which will be detonated in a few hours. Would you use tortue or drugs to try to obtain information?

Posted by: Boethius | Mar 12, 2005 4:19:38 PM

Nice try, B, but that scenario's the exception, not the rule. And even if we were to torture him, what's the assurance that we would get the information necessary?

Posted by: Arkhangel | Mar 12, 2005 4:58:22 PM

Glad you found it. I actually heard that on NPR yesterday I think, but didn't put it together when you asked about it.

Posted by: Nick | Mar 12, 2005 5:18:49 PM

Well you would know if it worked on whether you found the WMD in time.

Can you have exceptions though on this subject?

George Bernard Shaw to woman - would you sleep with me for 1000 pounds?
Woman - Yes.
GBS - Would you sleep with me for 10 pounds?
Woman - No way, what sort of a person do you think I am?
GBS - I thought we had already agreed on that, now we're just discussing the price.

Once you allow the use of torture in any situation you have then agreed it is morally acceptable. All you are doing then is deciding at what line the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. No longer a fundamental issue but a mere cost/benefit analysis.

Posted by: Boethius | Mar 12, 2005 5:21:57 PM

"A terrorist has been captured in a major city. He knows about the whereabouts of a WMD which will be detonated in a few hours. Would you use tortue or drugs to try to obtain information?"

Give us an example of soemthing like these facts in the real world--24 doesn't count.

Posted by: rea | Mar 12, 2005 7:09:27 PM

rea

How about if on the evening of 9/10 one of the hijackers had been arrested? He could have boasted that something was shortly to happen whilst knowing that conventional questioning wouldn't make him reveal anything in time.

BTW I don't have an answer to my own scenario. As I said I'm uneasy about the whole issue and am lucky I wont be in the position that I have to make the decision.

Posted by: Boethius | Mar 12, 2005 7:32:14 PM

"No longer a fundamental issue but a mere cost/benefit analysis."

I wonder if the guy who had a light-stick shoved up his ass thought of himself as the victim of "a mere cost/benefit analysis?"

What's happened to people in our society that they can countenance atrocities, defending them from the comfort and safety of their computer keyboards with hypothetical scenarios and the plot points from third-rate Hollywood screenplays? God help them, because they're losing their souls.

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Posted by: peter.w | Sep 15, 2007 5:26:44 AM

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