The Torture Mentality, Part 3

Still trying to keep up with the messages I receive from torture apologists. Recently I received one from a gentleman named James R. Hostert on my Amazon blog. Mr. Hostert’s opinions in favor of torture are depressingly common and therefore worth addressing in spite of his equally common refusal or inability to support any of these opinions with facts. In addition to the absence of evidence for any of these pro-torture assertions, note as ever the refusal to address the glaringly obvious point that *torture is illegal.*

Mr. Hostert’s points in quotes below; my thoughts interpolated.

“Well, Barry, I don’t think we’ll ever see eye to eye on this.”

James, that’s the first accurate thing you’ve said in this thread.

“I don’t understand how you can oppose torture to save lives.”

Perhaps you don’t understand my point because you’re misconstruing it.

First, torture doesn’t save lives. Torture costs lives, and indeed has cost thousands of American lives. I’m not asking you to accept my opinion on this point as a substitute for facts (note that your own opinions might be more persuasive to others if you would bolster them with evidence). Matthew Alexander, an Air Force interrogator in Iraq, himself claims that:

“What I saw in Iraq still rattles me — both because it betrays our traditions and because it just doesn’t work… I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.”

And Alexander isn’t the only one:

“Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists are taught to expect Americans to abuse them. They are recruited based on false propaganda that says the United States is out to destroy Islam. Treating detainees harshly only reinforces that distorted view, increases resistance to cooperation, and creates new enemies. In fact, the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States” cited “pervasive anti U.S. sentiment among most Muslims” as an underlying factor fueling the spread of the global jihadist movement. Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 2008 that “there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq – as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat – are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.””

And here’s a Washington Post article from March this year. Headline: “Detainee’s Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots.”

Are you starting to understand now? Why don’t you do me and anyone else who’s reading this a favor: read the articles linked above, and rebut Alexander’s, Mora’s, and the Washington Post authors’ points based on your own experience with torture and interrogation. I’m not asking you to repeat your opinions. I’m asking you for a refutation based on facts (this is Question #1).

While you’re at it, please answer this question: is saving lives the only, or even the highest value?” (Question #2) Was Patrick Henry wrong when he said, “Give me liberty or give me death?” (Question #3)

“Obviously, we don’t begin by torturing someone.”

Not that it matters whether we torture someone in the morning or later in the day, but in fact, like all the other unsupported opinions you’ve been offering up here, this one is wrong as a matter of fact. Torture was ordered and was used not just during interrogations, but to “soften up” prisoners before interrogations. Such softening up is the whole point of sleep deprivation, stress positions, manacling prisoners to the ceiling for days at a time, etc.

“We attempt to get the required information by other means.”

Again, not that it matters, but so what if we also use other means? Are you saying torture is legal as long as we ask nicely first? (Question #4)

“However, I believe that if it comes down to it, torture is a viable tool to get information that can save lives.”

Why do you keep repeating what you believe without offering any evidence at all for that belief? Do you expect to persuade people by repeating your opinions and without any evidence to bolster those opinions? (Question #5)

Here’s a quote from General David Petraeus from May 2007:

“What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight… is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings.”

Please explain why Petraeus is wrong. (Question #6)

“So, you’re telling me that you wouldn’t allow a “bad guy” to be tortured to save your wife/child? Really? You’d actually allow them to die. I find THAT depressing.”

Not as depressing as I find our failure to teach basic civics in high school, I’m sure.

Anyway, probably in extremis I’d resort to extremes. But James, wouldn’t it be more productive — and polite — to answer the questions I’ve already asked you, before repeating ones I’ve already answered? (Question #7)

I have to say, it is continually fascinating to encounter people who are confident in their opinions despite a complete absence of any supporting evidence and in the presence of so much contradictory evidence. May I ask: since you are formulating and repeating these opinions without any regard at all to facts, what do you think is actually motivating you? (Question #8)

If you want me to respond to you again, please first do me the courtesy of answering each of the questions above. For your convenience, I’ve numbered them for you — #1 – #8.