Sunday, May 24, 2009

War, a Means to Torture in Itself?

There is a whole lot of debate going on these days about the use of torture in a war to gain information. I wouldn’t mind the debate so much if it weren’t so one-sided. If you are going to have rules that can dictate the outcome of any war then the rules need to be applied and enforced upon both parties of that war. There, unfortunately, is the problem.

Wars are not meant to be treated as fun and games. Wars do not recognize any morality. In fact, one could argue that a war is the most immoral act of mankind. Wars by its very nature do not recognize rules. It is a win at all costs decision of any nation. Wars are not only about taking the lives of the enemy; it is also about keeping your men alive. I don’t know of any man who would go into battle if he wasn’t sure that his commanding officer wasn’t doing all that was possible to make sure he came out of battle alive.

It would be awfully hard to believe that a man would say that he preferred to die before he’d allow another man to be tortured to save his life in a situation of war. I would find it even harder to believe that a commanding officer would allow those under his command to die before he’d approve of the use of torture. Lives are at stake here. Since when is the well being of the enemy more important than you own life or the lives of your own men under you?

I have heard the claim that torture is an unreliable method of obtaining information. I have also heard claims that there are methods that are more reliable. I have never seen any evidence of this. To me, such claims defy common sense. If torture were unreliable then it would make no sense to use it as a method of information gathering. Those other supposedly more reliable methods would be used in its stead.

If we are to speak of torture in terms that it is an absolute immorality in a world where there is no absolutes then what is war itself? Wars are declared and waged with the intent of inflicting torturous results upon the enemy. It is fought for the purpose of maiming the body and soul of those we fight against in knowledge that the men we send off to war will suffer the same torture in return.

If we want to know what real torture is then go to that man who went to the battlefield. You will find a man tortured for the rest of his life. You’ll hear stories of the torture he was witness to and in that witness became a part of that torture. Men going to battle in knowledge that he or one of his fellow soldiers will not live through it, not just thinking he may die, as those waterboarded. Men coming home crippled for life either psychologically or bodily and feeling the pain of it day in and day out with no relief.

If you want to know what torture is ask that child who just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time and must live her life without a leg or arm. If you want to know what torture is just ask that wife who fears opening the door when the doorbell rings because of who might be there to tell her that she no longer has a father to her children.

Ask a mother of one of those who died in war and you will hear a tale of her torture through her tears. War, itself, is an act of torture and for some it is a torture that will be felt a lifetime. The fact we call it something other than torture doesn’t change the effects of it.

So, for those who are advocates of a just war but are against the use of torture for the purpose of obtaining information, I say, think again about your priorities in life. You will find no ally in me. The lives of my fellow countryman is too important to me, even those I do not know personally. I might even add that this applies to you also even if you do not consider my life or the lives of your children that important.


BB-Idaho said...

Just respectully disagreeing here:
..over 100,000 'witches' confessed under torture in medieval times, so effective is it. The French applied it in Algeria and the passive population went over to the other side. I gotta go along with General Petreaus,
"Those who engage in cruel or inhuman treatment of prisoners betray the standards of the profession of arms and US laws."
[3-24 Counterinsurgency Field Manual]..professional interogators don't do it, because the info is naturally unreliable. I didn't think much of the Gestapo either...

The Griper said...

your words are always taken respectfully, my friend, and they are always words to be taken sincerely on this blog.

"..over 100,000 'witches' confessed under torture in medieval times..."

torture for the purpose of a "confession" cannot be considered as the same as torture for the purpose of "military information". and the use of the former to prove the unreliability of the latter is misleading. reason, the motives of the two type of prisoners are not the same.
1. the interrigator and the confessor of a crime already knows what he is confessing to and there is no way of verifying that confession.
2. military information is new information to the interrigator and can be verified and if found reliable result in lives saved.
3. based upon our justice system the prosecutor of a crime needs to be right every time in order to declare justice done. obtaining military information does not need that to be declared as effective.

as for it being the law, i have no problem with that. what i do have a problem with is the defining of something as torture after the fact not before the fact. the other problem being that it is a law that cannot be enforced on both sides as laws should be enforced.

my post dealt with the fact that before we judge people in regards to the use of torture we should take a good look at what war is. i tried to put forth an argument that war itself is a systematic act of torture that is approved of.

BB-Idaho said...

Yes, war can be described that way. Perhaps more should read
'Johnny Got His Gun', Trumbo 1940:
"Joe Bonham, a young soldier serving in World War I, awakes in a hospital bed after being caught in the blast of an exploding artillery shell. He gradually realizes that he has lost his arms, legs, and face, but that his mind functions perfectly, leaving him a prisoner in his own body. He tries to die by suffocating himself but he has been given a tracheotomy, which he cannot remove or control. He attempts to communicate with his doctors by banging his head on his pillow in Morse code. His wish is that he may be put in a glass tube and tour the country, to show people the true horrors of war. His wish is never granted, however, and it is implied that he will live the rest of his natural life in this condition" So powerful and frightening were Trumbo's words that he and his publisher were visted by the FBI
to cease any more publication as WWII began.
Torture & hell...the other side of glory....

The Griper said...

for every audie murphy, how many john bonhams are there who live a life not of glory but of tortured results. and that can only be attributed to the war and nothing else.

Shaw Kenawe said...

"Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary."-David H. Petraeus, Commander, U.S. Central Command

I couldn't come up with a better indictment on the lawlessness and inhumanity of torture than what General Petraius says.

It's really disturbing to read your justification for breaking the law and encouraging barbaric behavior that America has always stood squarely against.

War does awful things to people. It is true.

I've just read one of the things it does to people right here on your blog.

Our finest military people do not agree with your arguments.

Thank goodness.

"Cruelty disfigures our national character. It is incompatible with our constitutional order, with our laws, and with our most prized values ...there is no more fundamental right than to be safe from cruel and inhumane treatment. Where cruelty exists, law does not."
-Alberto Mora, former general

Anybody with real combat experience understands that torture is counterproductive."-F. Andy Messing, retired major U.S. Special Forces and director of the National Defense Councilcounsel of the United

"Torture does not work."-Porter Goss, former director of the CIAStates Navy

The Griper said...

apparently you never read my post clearly but i will only respond by saying this,
"there is no more fundamental right than to be safe from cruel and inhumane treatment. Where cruelty exists, law does not."

ok, outlaw wars. there is no crueler or inhumane act man can commit than an act of war upon another. and in war, laws do not exist. if they did exist, they'd be applied to all sides and to everyone but they are not.

Shaw Kenawe said...

"...and in war, laws do not exist..."

Strange as it may seem, there are rules for war. In 1864 in Geneva, Switzerland, a variety of world leaders, statesmen and diplomats came together in order to devise and document a plan that would lessen the suffering and atrocities of combat. Commonly known as the Geneva Convention, the conference was formally titled: "CONVENTION FOR THE AMELIORATION OF THE CONDITION OF THE WOUNDED IN ARMIES IN THE FIELD."
(See for the complete document.)

The document has since been ratified, clarified and expanded, most recently in 1949.

The 1949 Geneva Convention (64 articles in length) sought to, among other goals, modernize the document for the rapidly changing world, particularly in terms of technological advancements. Four years earlier in World War II, the world had seen a global conflict of astonishing proportions that was not only unimaginably bloody and destructive, but also culminated in history's only use of atomic weaponry. To this day, the Convention is referenced in wartime.

We can no more "outlaw" war than we can outlaw human nature.

Human beings will continue to rape, kill, and plunder, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have laws against those human failings.

Human beings make war and act like beasts in so doing. But when the fog of war has cleared, civilized nations punish further those whose acts debase us. Torture is one of those acts, and we should never allow the bestial in our human nature to get away with that inhuman behavior--no excuse exists in civilized men to do so.

The Griper said...

"Torture is one of those acts, and we should never allow the bestial in our human nature to get away with that inhuman behavior..."

fine, shaw, if you wish to believe that you can live in your world of fantacy.

laws are meant to be enforced and enforced at any time they have been broken. if they are not enforced they have no meaning. our own military will try and convict a trooper during war if he commits a criminal act.

now, ask john mccain if he was tortured in viet nam and if anyone was tried and convicted of torture there. show me any n. korean or chinese who was tried and convicted of torture from the korean war.

torture is a tool of war whether we like it or not. even our own military recognizes that. they even prepare our troops for the possibility of capture and torture. that is just a reality of war. so, if you don't like torture then you're gonna need to stop wars from starting in the first place.

i don't condone torture. i don't like the use of torture. i don't approve of torture. i just recognize its reality in the same manner i recognize the reality of war itself.

both constitute the inhumane treatment of man and animal. both are a violation of human rights as we see them. both will leave scars upon those who participate, scars that can never heal. both can leave scars to blacken the very souls of men. both are an inevitability and each has their purpose.

my post is not a defense of the use of torture any more than a defense of the use of war itself to solve problems. it was meant to wake people up as to what war really is and its effects on those who are in it along with the idea that the promotion and advocation of the one means the recognition and reality of the other also.

BB gave us a good link that we both agree on should be read by everyone. read it. i think you'll come away with a far different attitude and see my post in a far different light.

Arthurstone said...

What a trusting soul you are Griper.

"If torture were unreliable then it would make no sense to use it as a method of information gathering. Those other supposedly more reliable methods would be used in its stead."

Imagine, if you will, other reasons for torturing. Punishment and terrorizing the opposition are the first two that come to mind. And both would describe the horrific treatment Abu Zubaydah received at our hands for a pathetically small amount of 'intelligence'.

The Griper said...

he grins and just shakes his head at arthur's words.

my post didn't deal with other reasons for the use of torture, only in its use for information gathering. i can sit here and cite a lot of reasons for torture being used myself, masochism being only one. in fact, i will sit here and acknowlege that torture can be used for any reason the torturer decides on using it for.

as for your source, even it acknowleges that what it reported may not be all the info gathered. it only reported the info pertinent for their study, nothing more. and that info was in regards to something that already happened not in regards to anything that would happen.

so, nice try at misleading my readers, arthur. i will say that this was one of your better attempts to argue a point, far better than i've seen you do on other blogs.

BB-Idaho said...

Sidebar/This Day in History:
Lewis sights the Rocky Mountains..
"The Captains view the Rocky Mountains: " arriving to the summit one of the highest points in the neighbourhood I thought myself well repaid for any labour; as from this point I beheld the Rocky Mountains for the first time… while I viewed these mountains I felt a secret pleasure in finding myself so near the head of the heretofore conceived boundless Missouri…" took them two more months to get to the mountains. No Interstate 90 back then..:)

Arthurstone said...

A little freshman Logic 101 goes a long, long way.

What 'evidence' have you discovered which convinces you of this: "If torture were unreliable then it would make no sense to use it as a method of information gathering. Those other supposedly more reliable methods would be used in its stead?"

'Common sense' won't do. You've made the excellent point that waging war has a host of unintended consequences. The elimination of much common sense being but one.

So what are we left with?

Because Dick Cheney said so? Because 'lives are at stake'?

Because 9/11 hasn't been repeated?

Because N.Vietnamese, Chinese & North Koreans tortured and we really aren't any better than them when all is said and done?

The Griper said...

he grins, like you, a little freshman logic 101 goes a long ways. common sense isn't necessary but useful too.

but you did hit the nail on the head. if you reread my post it points out that lives were at stake, no? thus the info sought is in regards to a future event, not one of the past. thus there is no logic in using an unreliable way of extracting information when there are more reliable methods which is assured to save lives.

and if you reread my comment about those other countries you'll see it was in reference to shaw's comment about international "laws".

as for being no better, any time war is declared and waged you have already lowered yourself to the same level as the enemy. and that level is the lowest level there is. it is war that takes you to that level. war, by itself, violate every human right conceivable.

The Griper said...

he smiles at BB. yes, that always crosses my mind when i hear someone talking about how slow things are today. and i have often thought i was born in the wrong century because i have often thought about what it felt like making these new discoveries back then. i have often wondered if i am brave enough to do the things that they did.

Karen said...

I can't remember who said it, Griper, but war is hell. It's not supposed to be diplomatic or politically correct. It's supposed to be WON.

I don't think waterboarding is torture-- some of our military have to undergo it themselves-- and if we have to make terrorist scumbuckets feel like they're drowning to save American lives, then by all means, do it.

Anonymous said...

Something you said about war has often made me think about something. You said that the debate needs to apply to everyone, both sides. You also said that wars do not recognize any morality. I couldn't agree more. War and moral to me are oximorons. That is why I've always wondered how people can be tried for war crimes. (Although I'm glad they are tried. . . Afterall, raping innocent civilians is wrong, right?)

Okay - I'm going off here. I guess my point is, is that I think war is wrong and immoral in itself.
- Leah

tweetey30 said...

Perfectly said Griper.. War is horrible and I have said it before even at Gayles place is taht I wish they would just quit over there in the East and bring our troops home..

The Griper said...

couldn't agree more. there are only two causes when war is waged, a winning cause and a losing cause. and whether we like it or not, torture is a weapon to be used and is just as devastating as any other weapon of war when it comes to the effects on a human being.

yup, oxymoronic it is as far as i can see also.

once wars are started they need to come to its logical conclusion, peace.

Gayle said...

Griper, I agree with you and truly believe that those who say we shouldn't use waterboarding would change their minds very quickly if it was a matter of saving their own lives or the lives of their families. All of this hullabaloo is simply political grandstanding. If it weren't, those who object would be objecting our use of it while training our own special forces.

Great post!

The Griper said...

does make ya wonder, doesn't it, gayle?

Lista said...

I agree with your post, Griper. In fact, I sort of think of this as a no brainer, yet for some reason there are a lot of others who don't see it that way. I don't think that the effectiveness of something should have to be 100% in order to be worth it. Even if it saves lives only some of the time, this would still be worth it.

I think the point that Arthurstone was making is that since there are other reasons and motives for torture, that would explain why torture might still be done, even though unreliable, yet even so, I'm with you on this. I really don't think that the main purpose for which torture is generally done is anything other than for Information Purposes.

"As for being no better, any time war is declared and waged you have already lowered yourself to the same level as the enemy."

Not if it's Self-Defense. Self-Defense and Murder are two totally separate things. You are talking like a Pacifist, Griper. Is that your position?

Well said, Karen and also Gayle.

The Griper said...

"Not if it's Self-Defense"

wars are not single party events, lista. it takes two to tangle. you don't judge something based on what a single party does. you judge it based on what it is, war. and wars have only two causes, a winning cause or a losing cause. you can participate in a war in "self-defense" but if you lose that war it means nothing. the war between the states is proof of this.

and no, i am not a pacifist. i consider wars a necessary evil just as i do governments.

Lista said...

The same principles that apply to Individuals also apply to Groups. Just as when an Individual kills for the sake of Self-Defense it is not considered Murder, so also when a Country goes to war in the Defense of itself, it is not at all the same as going to war for the sake of taking over the other country.

When it comes to Violence, Griper, the phrase "It takes two to tangle." ceases to make sense. Even in a marriage, if one of the partners beats the other, it is not correct to say "Well, it takes two to tangle.", for this would imply that the beaten and abused partner has done something deserving of and that somehow justifies the abuse, yet there is No Excuse for Physical Abuse; none at all.

And actually, if the Abuse is serious enough and the Abused kills the Abuser because she feels that her life is threatened, she is not even held responsible for the act.

War is similar. If a country is forced to defend itself, it can not be viewed as an equal act to that of the country that has attacked. It's just not that same; not even close.

It is impossible to judge an event (War). Events don't have Motives. People are the ones with the Motives and Reasons. You can only judge Motives and Intentions, not events. You can not judge Inanimate Objects.

I guess it could be said that any war that is lost means nothing, yet having the wrong cause, such as the desire to take over other countries in order to control them is wrong in every way. America has never done this. We are always fighting for the "Self-Defense" of our Freedom and nothing more.

The Argument of Self-Defense, though, is a good one even in relation to the subject of this post, for just as Killing is not considered wrong when done is Self-Defense and War is a "Necessary Evil" when done in Defense of Country and Freedom, so also Torture should not be considered wrong when done in Defense of the lives of those who are fighting in Defense of Country and Freedom.

The Griper said...

you're still taking a one-sided view of war, lista. it takes at least two participants in order for war to exist. if one side is unwilling to participate there is no war.

"The same principles that apply to Individuals also apply to Groups."

i'll grant you this as long as groups are seen as a singular unit which would mean that all that can be said of that individual can be applied to the group.

an individual will fight back in order to prevent his life from being exterminateed from the face of this earth.

wars are not fought for this reason usually. and when it is, it would be considered as an anomoly. wars are fought for the purpose of determining power over a group and expanding or maintaining the realm of a government not for the purpose of exterminating that group.

a very good example of this is our own civil war. by your understanding, it was the south who was fighting in "self defense" but they lost. the U.S. government reasserted its power over the people of the southern states. you'll never hear it presented that way but it is a fact of history when bias is eliminated from its telling.

" You can not judge Inanimate Objects."

war is not an inanimate object, lista. it is an action. and actions can be judged.
if i murder someone i can do so with the best of motives and intent but it still is murder and it will be judged as a murder.

Lista said...

Again you are talking like a Pacifist, as if you feel that there is no Justifiable Reason for anyone to agree to participate in War and anyone who does is somehow evil, yet you also say that "I consider wars a necessary evil just as I do Governments."

If war is a "Necessary Evil", than there must be some Justifiable Reason for someone to agree to go to War. If there is no Justifiable Reason, than perhaps we should just Sacrifice our Freedom and Surrender to those who wish to take over our Country. That is the only way that War would stop, yet the Sacrifice would be Significant.

If, however, there is a Justifiable Reason for War, than there must also be Reasons for War that are not Justifiable and thus we are judged for our Motives and Reasons and they are not equal.

Just as one who kills in Self-Defense is not equal to one who kills in Cold Blood, so also one who goes to War in order to take over someone else's Country is not equal to the one who has to Defend their Country from such an Attack.

"An Individual will fight back in order to prevent his life from being exterminated from the face of this earth."

A Country will fight back in order to prevent all that it believes in and stands for from being "exterminated from the face of this earth."As to the Civil War, that's an interesting example because a big part of what the South believed in was the right to own slaves. I guess it's possible for that which a group of people "believes in and stands for" to be some form of Injustice, rather than Liberty, and therefore, that which we Defend can in fact be an Unjust cause, yet that does not change my main point that there are Just causes and Unjust causes for going to War and the causes are not equal.

"If I murder someone, I can do so with the best of motives and intentions but it still is murder and it will be judged as a murder."

Change the word in that sentence to Kill instead of Murder and if you "do so with the best of motives and intentions" (Self-Defense), than you are not even guilty under the law.

Maybe I shouldn't have called War and "Inanimate Object", yet even as an Action, it is still the Reason behind the Action that matters, just as all my previous points have explained.

I know that what I'm saying makes sense. It's odd that you don't seem to be following my logic.

The Griper said...

of course what you say makes sense, lista. it makes sense because that is the accepted viewpoint of the issue. and i am presenting a viewpoint that goes against the accepted idea. and i acknowlege that the viewpoint would appear to make me sound hypocritical by presenting what appears to be a pacifist argument but say i am not one.

a pacifist would use the principle that "two wrongs do not make a right." this means that the second action only compounds the wrongness of the first act and creates a greater wrong. and in this case they have a good argument because the responding action to the wrong act is an act that can be declared as an act likened unto the first, thus resulting in a retalitory wrongful act.

the motives and intent may differ but the act is the same. it is the same because there is no attempt to determine the actual parties guilty of the first act and restrict any reactions to those persons alone.

a necessary evil on the other hand contradicts the above principle. it declares that there are times when two wrongs result in a right. this would contradict the accepted principle. thus in seeing the rightfulness of the result we define the retalitory act in terms that make it acceptable and in accordance to the principle.

thus we create a principle that declares that "a wrongful act followed up by a necessary evil can result in a right." a pacifist would never accept this argument.

Average American said...

War is a neccessary evil. It always has been and always will be. Americans used to go to war to win, and win they did, until Vietnam. Remember that was the first time war came into the living room of most Americans. Television showed everyday citizens what war could be like, and we soon found out that many Americans just didn't have the stomach for it. If we want to win wars, I submit we have to lock the reporters out.

As for torture, the wimps that gave us the definitions for torture included many things that I and many others do NOT consider torture. Waterboarding is not torture. Most of what went on in gitmo and the abuse at Abu Graid (Sp) was NOT torture. Cutting off heads and dragging our troops bodies down the street and setting people on fire, like the other side does, now that IS torture. Why in Hell do fellow Americans bitch about what we do, but stay absolutely mum about what happens to our people? Another thing, I'll bet most of the pansies that are SO against the so-called torture never even served, so I take their views rather lightly anyway.

Great post Griper. Sorry for the ranting, but it needed saying.

BB-Idaho said...

"Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause... for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country."
- George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775

Lista said...

Hello again,
As I am reading through again the last comment that I left here, I keep seeing parallels between what I've said about War and what is also true of Torture. Just as a Pacifist believes that there is No Justifiable Reason for War. A lot of people also seem to think that there is No Justifiable Reason for Torture, yet both of these ideas are Incorrect.

It is not true that "There is no attempt to determine the actual parties guilty of the first act." We always try to find this information. We do know whose responsible for 9/11, we just don't know where he is.

As to the War in Iraq, it started because of a Perceived Threat. In the Court of Law, all that is needed in order to establish the plea of Self-Defense is a Perceived Threat.The fact that we had trouble later confirming the actually reality of the treat we perceived is actually sort of irrelevant. Sadam Hussein would not cooperate with the inspections and that made him appear all that much more suspicious. People get into really big trouble sometimes simply for Resisting Arrest and this continues to be true whether or not the person is guilty or not.

Sure the actual Motive behind this war is debatable, yet it's not any where close to being a clear cut case. I've always felt that to yell and scream "He lied to us!" was an over reaction of a bunch of angry children who would rather judge and point fingers than to realize and admit how complicated the situation actually is.

Acts are wrong or right based at least in part by the Motive of the one who Acts. The Wrongful Act is done with Wrong Motives and the Necessary Evil (Retaliation) is done for better Motives (Self-Defense).

Lista said...

Average American,
Very good! I agree with you on both of your points.

Go ahead and keep "Ranting". Sounds really good to me.

BB-Idaho said...

...and yet another pansy:
BB-Idaho, 1/Lt US Army 1963-66.

The Griper said...

the only last thing i have to say is this. torture is a part of war. it always has been and probably always will be too. it is an effective and reliable means of information gathering. and every nation has used it. military information is too important not to use it.

as for those politicians or military men who declare they are against it, we must remember one thing. what they say in public is not always what they will say behind closed doors.

i don't believe any man will declare that they are an advocate of torture any more than they are advocates of war and that includes me. the most any man will say is that they will condone it as they do war.

and lista, my argument makes as much sense as yours does. the only difference is that i understand where you are coming from and i said so.

Lista said...

Shaw Kenawe and BB are both right. We really shouldn't go calling those who believe differently than ourselves "Pansies", yet the point that Average American was making is that you can't compare the way we treat prisoners to the way our enemy treats prisoners cause there is just no comparison.

And a point that I've been trying to make is that you can't even compare our motives for going to war to that of the enemy either, for Terrorism is the worse Motive that there is. Or Motives don't even begin to compare.

I can't lie to you. I find a lot of what you say a little hard to follow, yet I agree with the points that you made in your Post and in your most recent Comment. I hope that's enough to satisfy you, cause that's all that I've got.


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