Thursday, 11 December 2014


I’ve been too busy to catch up properly with the report on CIA torture that came out this week, but it looks like this is another report that’s been misreported.

From reports of it I’d heard on local media, I’d assumed the report recounted widespread and barbaric torture that was ultimately ineffective in extracting information, and was now very properly being condemned.

Turns out that out of 39 captured terrorists there were precisely three who were waterboarded. Waterboarding is not exactly comfortable, but depending how you classify being forced to listen Neil Diamond then that was really as far as the report says physical torture went.

Were some of the captured terrorists treated roughly? Absolutely. Their lives must have been miserable, and deservedly so. [This was war.]… 
   To me, what is striking is what was not done to the prisoners. While one was threatened with a power drill, it was not in fact used on him. That would have been torture. Similarly, while one detainee was told that his children might be killed, they were not harmed. (If it had been the Russians, they would have been killed.) Al Qaeda has produced a manual on how to torture prisoners; among many other things, it explains how to scoop the prisoner’s eyes out. Nothing like that was done to captured leaders of al Qaeda. The terrorists’ fingernails were not extracted, their testicles were not crushed, their thumbs were not screwed. They weren’t even beaten.
    They were subjected to rough treatment, since a terrorist can’t be made to talk by feeding him tea and cakes. But none of this amounts to torture; not even waterboarding, in my opinion. Waterboarding is best seen as a humane alternative to torture. It lasts only a few minutes and, while unpleasant–that is the point–causes no lasting physical harm. Unlike real torture.
    I don’t know what animus or desire for political gain drove Senate Democrats to produce a vindictive, one-sided report on the CIA’s interrogation techniques (almost all of which, for better or worse, are now history). But if you read between the lines, the picture that emerges is quite different: a civilised nation, determined to protect its people, did the dirty work necessary to learn the secrets of a ruthless, terrorist enemy, acting almost always within legal and moral norms.

To be sure, tt’s the “almost” that some of us still worry about. But if that account of the report  is correct, it looks like the 39 captured terrorists were treated better by the CIA than some American citizens have been treated by their own police force.

Here’s Scott Walker, about genuine torture. (And, yes, it’s supposed to be disturbing.)


  1. Lame Stream Media Faux Moral Outrage!!! Where were they when they shit was going down??? Sticking their gutless heads in the sand that's where!!! A day late and a dollar short as per usual!!! Now they wanna come in and prance around on their moral high horse (Like they got any morals)


    For the record I don't condone torture or indefinite detention - as a tactic it doesn't work and the strategy is sure to backfire, also makes our troops job that much more dangerous.

  2. What cannot be denied is that 10 years ago when captured terrorists were in a sufficiently integrated organisation that they had useful information about each other, there was bipartisan support in the US Congress to be tough on these people in interrogations. They knew exactly what was happening through classified briefings to select committees.

    One of the results of these interrogations is it broke up Al Qaeda as a network. It degraded Al Qaeda as an organisation capable of launching major attacks with key terrorist that the centre with the skills and determination to organise large-scale attacks.

    Because captured terrorist would be interrogated thoroughly, they had to have a far more decentralised and less effective network in order to be impenetrable to captured members informing on them sooner or later.

    In the early days, Al Qaeda was happy to have key people going around lots of information in their head and coordinating everything from the centre because they thought they wouldn't be interrogated thoroughly. That is no longer the case.

  3. Blacksites, rendition, Guantanamo, it's not like this was a state secret. Them lame stream journos looked the other way while a whole generation of kids got thrown under the bus.

    And they're still beating the war drums for the next one. And have the cheek to act all high and mighty.

    Makes me furious!!!

    RIP Brian Haw

  4. Ah the minds of freedummies, inside of which the state can torture people they don't like, but telling people they can't market heroin to children is an abomination.

    "One of the results of these interrogations is it broke up Al Qaeda as a network. It degraded Al Qaeda as an organisation capable of launching major attacks with key terrorist that the centre with the skills and determination to organise large-scale attacks."

    Even if that's true, Jim, and it seems unlikely, why does that make the state torturing people a good thing? Do you have any bottom lines?

  5. I thought this was a libertarian blog. This is a neocon article straight out of the Fox network.

    Arguing that 'mild' torture isn't 'genuine' relative to what Al Qaeda does is a classic example of the moral equivalence fallacy.

    1. Ade, by definition torture is "inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or to force them to do or say something." Severe pain is essential to to justify an accusation of torture.

  6. It isn't true. Just a few weeks back Al Qaeda pledged allegiance with the Islamic State. Hardly what you'd call a broken and degraded organisation.


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