Tag Archives: Torture

Mathematical Malpractice Watch: Torture Edition

You know, I’d drafted an entire post about why the Red Cross’ poll showing that young people support torture was bullshit. And then one of Sully’s readers beat me to it. The only thing he left out is that RC poll has no longitudinal information to support the conclusions many commenters have thrown at it. That is, it has no read on whether support for torture has waxed or waned to back up the contention that some sort of post-9/11 PTSD is causing young people to support torture today.

I would add that the results is unsurprising. Being pro-torture is instinctive to human beings. Indeed, that’s why we place such generous boundaries around acceptable behavior — to avoid people falling into the bottomless dark well that lies in all human hearts. Being anti-torture is a much more difficult position to get to. It requires knowing how intelligence work is done in real life — as opposed to how it is done in movies. It requires a more complex morality than hurting those who’ve hurt you. Those attitudes are not created by age and life experience, but are often strengthened by them. It’s why soldiers and intelligence experts oppose torture.

Honestly, I’d be surprised if a poll showed anything else.


Well the Right is overjoyed. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is confessing to everything under the sun after his water-boarding. See, torture works!


  • To me, this shows not the usefulness but the uselessness of torture. KSM seems to have confessed to anything and everything, even wild fantasies about killing popes and blowing up buildings. I’m sure if he’d been tortured longer, he would have confessed to the Simpson murders, the Kennedy Assassination and the cancellation of Star Trek. That he screamed out a confession while being water-boarded does not help us. In fact, it may hurt. By seeing every terror act from Bali to Richard Reid as part of a vast conspiracy, we become blind to small groups and crazed individuals.
  • Will anyone believe his confession? KSM’s waterboarding casts into doubt anything and everything he has said, particularly in the view of the Rest of the World. Yeah, I know. Who cares what those foreigners think? All that matters is America. Well, you try invading Iraq without the support of the Saudis; or responding to Russian aggression without Europe; or China without Japan. Or stabilizing Iraq without anyone.

    When we tried and excuted the Nazis at Nurenberg, no one questioned our justice. Rent Judgement at Nuremberg sometime and see the great pains we took to be fair and just to the people who created the Holocaust. When the Israelis tried Eichmann, they gave him a fair trial. They didn’t torture him. And thus his conviction and execution had a legitimacy.

    But if we now convict and execute KSM, no one in the world will believe our moral authority. This will look like a frame-up job no matter how guilty he is. And we will be seen as monsters, not arbiters of jsutice.

    Had we just gone with case we had, we would have been bringing justice. Now we’re a lynch mob. Thanks, Attorney General.

  • So we sacrificed justice, honor and morality. What did we gain by it? We already knew that KSM plotted 9/11, so that wasn’t intelligence we gained. He had these “plots” to kill presidents, popes and buidlings. But were these plots in the same way the Sears Tower plot was a plot? Was he just sitting around saying, “yeah, I’d like to get that pope”. Has he given us anything useful like the identies of other terrorist or details of future plots or the location of Osama bin Laden?
  • One of things to watch is how this illuminates the pro-torture Right. A lot of them are now crowing about the torture and saying, “Gee, I don’t feel sorry for torturing him”. It reinforces Orwell’s point that the point of torture is torture. Listen to what these people are saying. Whatever intelligence may or may not have been gained, what this about is KSM shrieking in pain and suffering. Just remember that when they babble about the “Culture of Life” and the “Party of Death”. They are drawing satisfaction from the needless and pointless suffering of another human being. Yeah, KSM’s scum. He’s still got 46 chromosomes. What do you want out of the War on Terror? Victory? Or revenge?
  • And to respond to Rush in particular — no one is doubting the guilt of KSM. You know better than to impute that. What we are doubting is the moral quagmire we have sunk into in obtaining this useless information. We already knew and could prove he did 9/11. We already knew he was involved in the first WTC plot. But by waterboarding, sleep-depriving and stress-positioning him, we have destroyed what would have been an airtight case. We turned what could have been a Nurenberg triumph of justice into a travesty that will weaken our moral power in the world.

    And what would you think if this were done to an American citizen? Conservatives used to scorn the show trials and “confessions” that defined the Soviet legal system. Conservatives opposed the ICC because of valid concerns over civil liberties. Yet they now think it’s just fine to turn the wheel on someone else, just because he happens to be the scum of the Earth. Our justice system takes pride in how it treats the worst criminals; our nation takes pride in how it treats our enemies.

    Or at least it used to. It used to have George Washington demanding humane treatment of savage Hessians. Or Lincoln treating Confederate soldiers humanely in the wake of Andersonville. Or MacArthur insisting on humane treatment while the Japanese butchered our men. Or fair justice for the Nazis who murdered tens of millions.

    You have sold us out, George Bush, Rush Limbaugh and all you so-called conservatives. For the satisfaction of hearing KSM scream, you’ve sold out our honor, our sense of justice and our moral soul.