Thursday, December 15, 2005

There Are Four Lights

EDIT (16 DEC 05): More at SactoDan Blog, "Tear Down a Wall, and Build a New One- McCain's Torture Amendment". There's also some related material at Logic Times, tangential, yet relevant; and check out this editorial in yesterday's USA Today, of all places - Misguided Morality. When you read this, you should be angry.

tor·ture [ táwrchur ] transitive verb

1. inflict pain on somebody: to inflict extreme pain or physical punishment on somebody

2. cause somebody anguish: to cause somebody mental or physical anguish
"This headache is torturing me."

3. distort something: to twist or distort something into an unnatural form


1. inflicting of pain: infliction of severe physical pain on somebody, e.g. as punishment or to persuade somebody to confess or recant something

2. methods of inflicting pain: the methods used to inflict physical pain on people

3. anguish: mental or physical anguish

What a great day, I mean, for being awake since oh-dark-thirty. It got me thinking about sleep deprivation, however. I've been feeling a bit sleep-deprived lately, but I think it's because I haven't been sleeping well. I have puposely gone nearly 48 hours without sleep before, but the exhaustion was just caving in on me.

Pharmicist's Mate 2nd Class William David Halyburton, Jr.To finish off the day today, we were priviledged to get to talk with Commander Porter A. Halyburton USN, RET (who incidentally is the first cousin of the man for whom my next ship is named) . Professor Halyburton related to us some of his experiences in North Vietnamese POW prisons as they pertain to leadership topics. My jaw was open the whole time. If you ever have the opportunity to discuss with a veteran his or her experiences, I highly recommend you do so. You will never look at your own life the same way again. I'll come back to Prof. Halyburton in a minute.

I have heard a lot of discussion about the McCain Amendment to the 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, here and there in news, and interestingly, my own experiences have coincided neatly with current events again. President Bush has apparently accepted Sen. McCain’s torture policy as stated in SA 1977.

I attempted to find the text of SA 1977, but alas, the Library of Congress tries my patience. Have at it, if you will. I broke down and Googled it. It's not particularly descriptive, nor is most of the related information I can find. I think that alone may possibly be dangerous, for it allows the definition of "torture" to be stretched. By lawyers, I mean. Prosecuting servicemen for doing their jobs.

If anybody can define torture, it is John S. McCain. I've read his book "Faith of my Fathers" (which is absolutely terrific, by the way). McCain suspected he did not receive the worst of the abuse due to his value as a bargaining chip, but he was often trussed up, with his biceps tied together and left all night. Prof. Halyburton called it "the pretzel" and I have heard the method related before. By all accounts, it is excruciating (link goes to a museum simulation of the technique... not very gruesome-looking, but I thought I'd better warn you).

McCain wants no person in United States custody to be "subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation" and discusses his interpretation of that on the U.S. Senate website. He says the Army Field Manual, which states that "use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor. condoned by the US Government." The Field Manual

...recognizes that torture and cruel treatment are ineffective methods, because they induce prisoners to say what their interrogators want to hear, even if it is not true, while bringing discredit upon the United States. It is consistent with our laws and, most importantly, our values. Let us not forget that al-Qaeda sought not just to destroy American lives on September 11, but American values – our way of life and all we cherish.

Fair enough, right? This is a lot of what I got out of Prof. Halyburton's discussion, because the POWs in Vietnam could be broken, but they were as resistant as they possibly could be and did whatever they could to foil the North Vietnamese efforts to use them for intelligence gathering and propaganda. The North Vietnamese eventually learned that physical torture was indeed ineffective.

Some of the more aggressive approaches listed in the Field Manual include throwing things and shouting. Take a look at those and then go watch Law and Order, it's essentially the same thing. You can frighten people, but it doesn't really specify how, aside from the restrictions listed above. On April 28, 2005, Donald Rumsfeld announced that the Army would be revising the manual. The revised manual would have spelled out more clearly which interrogation techniques were prohibited.

Prof. Halyburton opposes the use of torture in interrogation for exactly the reasons stated above; it's cruel and inhumane and contrary to the principles of the United States of America. However, he said, it is how torture is defined that is the problem. The "threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant" treatment part of the Field Manual (recently revised to more clearly define what is and is not "acceptable") is the part that both he and I have a problem with.

Sleep deprivation is not torture. Sensory deprivation is not torture. Firing a weapon near someone's head, degradation, embarrassment, name-calling, flushing Korans down the toilet (if it ever happened, which it hasn't) - these things are not torture. The definition of torture as mandated by the Bush Administration under pressure from a vocal minority is far too broad to allow interrogatiors to be effective in their duties. The UN Convention Against Torture defines it as "

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Torture is what the Viet Cong did to our POWs during the Vietnam War. Torture is not just any pain, but extreme pain. War is not pretty. Normal people who see what war is like should rightly be appalled. Jesse Ventura said, "War isn’t civilized. War is failure. It’s the ultimate result of a breakdown in public policy, and soldiers are the machines that handle that breakdown. In warfare, you’re taught to do whatever you have to, to stay alive. Can you imagine bringing that mind-set into a party?" Getting information out of fanatics who will blow themselves up to kill other people are likely going to take a little more working over than Detective Stabler gives your average TV child molester.

Torture is what is being done to people who are kidnapped by terrorists overseas and beheaded on camera. They, like the Vietnamese understand that they don't have to win against the US. They only have to not lose, using our own free press to wear us down. How's that for torture? They, like the North Vietnamese, don't care what the Geneva Convention says and feel no obligation to abide by it. Anti-war types seem to only want to stop torture or other oppression when the effort is convenient for them (for example, when they think the US is doing it, as opposed to when they ignore China, Chad, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Rwanda, Somalia, Nepal, the former Iraq regime or Cambodia doing it).

Over-generalizing torture, is like the overuse of words like "terrorist", "nazi" or "hero"; it dilutes the meaning of the word. I believe one can't possibly comprehend torture unless you've experienced it; I know I can't. You have no idea what your limits are and what you can endure.

"Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." - Victor Frankel

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Blogger Crazy Politico bloody well said...

I served with Capt. Rod Knutsen for a year, the first chapter of the book POW was about him, and he was a technical advisor on the movie Hanoi Hilton. If I hadn't been on leave I would have been the BMOW on the Carrier at the beginning. Timing is everything.

15 December, 2005 21:53  
Blogger Robosquirrel bloody well said...

Prof. Halyburton's talk was riveting. These guys have so much wisdom to impart, and believe me he had a captive audience. I'm going to get a copy of his book adn Tommy Franks' book (tangent, sorry).

15 December, 2005 21:57  
Blogger Gyrobo bloody well said...

The mindless rabble I had in store is now moot.

But I DO have a new poll up. Roboshrub activate!

15 December, 2005 22:27  
Blogger Robosquirrel bloody well said...

Hey, far be it from me to discourage mindless rabble.

Oh, and "hovercraft".

15 December, 2005 22:31  
Blogger Little Miss Chatterbox bloody well said...

Texas Fred talked about this today too. I'm sorry but I'm for torture and not happy with W if he compromises and gives into McCain on this. I despise McCain.

16 December, 2005 00:11  
Blogger Rebekah bloody well said...

Well, McCain was a POW, which gives him more credibility than most, but... as a POW, he should know what is and isn't torture. Ann Coulter had a hilarious column about all this, including a "It's not torture if..." section.

"It's not torture if:

— The same acts performed on a live stage have been favorably reviewed by Frank Rich of The New York Times;

— It's no worse than the way airlines treat little girls in pigtails flying to see Grandma...
a detainee at Guantanamo says he was "threatened with sexual abuse." (Bonus "Not Torture" rule: If it is similar to the way interns were treated in the Clinton White House.)

Pretty much covers my feelings on it!

16 December, 2005 13:42  
Blogger Uranttilly bloody well said...

I have two things to say:

If hooking Osama's jewels up to a Sears Die-Hard battery will save one Americanlife, Red is positive, black is negative.

16 December, 2005 14:01  
Blogger shoprat bloody well said...

I hadn't thought of that but you are right. We do need a definition of what is torture.

I think some on the left would say "If America does it and it works, it's torture."

16 December, 2005 16:39  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden bloody well said...

12 16 05

Good post Robosquirrel! I love the last quote! My energy for posting was depleted because I responded to something you, Ripama and Big White Hat were discussing. Good night and btw I have been reading your article on oil and thx for the link:)

16 December, 2005 22:33  
Blogger Robosquirrel bloody well said...

Glad you felt up to stopping by, Mahndisa! I appreciate your feedback!

17 December, 2005 10:52  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home