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Should we use torture to stop terrorism?
TownHall.com ^ | Thursday, November 1, 2001 | Steve Chapman

Posted on 10/31/2001 9:16:12 PM PST by JohnHuang2

TownHall.com: Conservative Columnists: Steve Chapman
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Steve Chapman (back to story)

November 1, 2001

Should we use torture to stop terrorism?

It's the sort of question that, way back in spring semester, would have made for a good late-night bull session in a college dorm room: If an atomic bomb were about to be detonated in Manhattan, would police be justified in torturing the terrorist who planted it to learn its location and save the city? But today, the debates are starting up in the higher reaches of the federal government. And this time, the answers really matter.

Last week, The Washington Post reported great frustration in the FBI and Justice Department over the stubborn silence of four suspected terrorists arrested after Sept. 11, including one who wanted lessons in steering a commercial aircraft but had no interest in taking off or landing. Unless they can administer truth serum or torture, law enforcement officials fear, they may never get information about planned attacks that are still in the works. American lives could therefore be lost.

The question posed above is easy to answer. No one could possibly justify sacrificing millions of lives to spare a murderous psychopath a brief spell of intense pain, which he can end by his own choice. When the threat is so gigantic and the solution so simple, we are all in the camp of the Shakespeare character who said, "There is no virtue like necessity."

This indulgence of reality requires no great rethinking of fundamental principles. Rules that suffice for normal circumstances often have to be suspended for emergencies. We have laws against burglary and theft, and for good reason: Society couldn't function if homes and property had no protection. But if a starving plane-crash victim stranded in the wild broke into a locked cabin to get food, he wouldn't be sent to prison.

The complications of the torture issue arise once you move from the extreme hypothetical case to the messiness and uncertainty of the real world. Almost everyone would agree it's permissible to use forcible interrogation methods to prevent nuclear holocaust. But it's impossible to write a law that restricts the use of torture to cases where 1) a considerable number of lives are in peril, and 2) police are sure they have a guilty party who can provide the information needed to avert the catastrophe. The brutal techniques are therefore likely to spread.

We know that from experience. Most states that employ torture do it pretty much anytime it suits their law enforcement purposes. And Israel, the rare government to attempt to impose clear standards and limits on the use of coercion, found that the exception threatened to swallow the rule.

With an eye to the "ticking bomb" scenario, Israel authorized the use of "moderate physical pressure" to persuade suspected terrorists to talk -- including shaking them, covering their heads with foul-smelling hoods, putting them in cold showers, depriving them of sleep for days on end, forcing them to crouch in awkward positions, and the like. These were needed, the government said, because of the constant threat of Palestinian attacks on civilian and military targets. And, besides, they weren't really torture.

But this option quickly expanded beyond the cases where it might be excused. An Israeli human-rights group that successfully challenged these methods in court said that 85 percent of Arabs arrested by the General Security Service each year -- including many never charged with a crime -- were subjected to such abuse. That works out to thousands of victims over the years.

Israel found its carefully controlled approach escaping control in two ways. First, the brutal techniques were soon used in routine cases, not just extreme ones. Second, "moderate" pressure sometimes became immoderate: An estimated 10 detainees died from their mistreatment.

The problem is not with Israel but with human nature. To a man with a hammer, said Mark Twain, everything looks like a nail. Give police and security agents in any country a tool, and they'll want to use it, and even overuse it. If the government were to torture the suspects arrested after Sept. 11, it might find they don't know anything important.

There are, of course, other options for inducing cooperation from suspected lawbreakers, including carrots (light sentences, money, relocation with a new identity) and sticks (long sentences, extradition to countries known for harsh punishments). That strategy has worked on other terrorists, like the one caught trying to sneak explosives into the U.S. for a millennium attack.

So it would not be wise to formally authorize the use of torture to combat terrorism. And what if the cops someday have to try it to save New York City from a nuclear blast? I trust they'll do what they have to do, and forgiveness will follow.

Contact Steve Chapman

©2001 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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1 posted on 10/31/2001 9:16:12 PM PST by JohnHuang2
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To: JohnHuang2
I am being completely serious about this. Anyone who's had children knows that sleep deprivation is torture. I think sleep deprivation of terrorism suspects is an acceptable tool for extracting intelligence that will save American lives.
2 posted on 10/31/2001 9:24:44 PM PST by Havisham
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To: JohnHuang2
hmm, does the possibility of stopping another 9/11 by using extreme measures on those who may have knowledge of such acts before they occur justify such measures?
In my mind's eye, I see the lady at the WTC holding her baby out the window, trying to keep it away from the heat and smoke? I'm not sure what she'd say, and she can't speak for herself since she's dead.
3 posted on 10/31/2001 9:33:22 PM PST by sockmonkey
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To: JohnHuang2
This torture debate raises a flag for me. We already do what's 'necessary' to extract information during interrogations. I think this mental exercise is merely to get the public used to the idea of torture being neccessary to extract life-saving information from terrorists while giving the impression torture isn't used in the United States. (Pls see An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control at http://cryptome.org/stoa-atpc.htm)

For me, this debate is akin to the death penalty issue. For now I'm sitting on the fence.

4 posted on 10/31/2001 9:40:00 PM PST by JusticeLives
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To: JohnHuang2
This torture debate raises a flag for me. We already do what's 'necessary' to extract information during interrogations. I think this mental exercise is merely to get the public used to the idea of torture being neccessary to extract life-saving information from terrorists while giving the impression torture isn't used in the United States. (Pls see An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control at http://cryptome.org/stoa-atpc.htm)

For me, this debate is akin to the death penalty issue. For now I'm sitting on the fence.

5 posted on 10/31/2001 9:40:46 PM PST by JusticeLives
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To: JohnHuang2
If we know it will save American lives for sure, why not?

We can make them listen to Cher while looking at Hillary pictures.

6 posted on 10/31/2001 9:41:44 PM PST by A CA Guy
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: A CA Guy
Or listen to Yoko Ono in full self-satisfaction mode looking at semi-nude J. Reno photos.

I think that is explicitly not allowed in the Geneva Convention update of 2001

8 posted on 10/31/2001 10:31:16 PM PST by Aztech
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To: Cavalry
....the 5th amendment exist precisely as a deterrent to coerced confessions...

Then the answer is simple, reclassify all terrorists to prisoners of war and turn them over to the military for "interrogation" with the implicit threat that they are combatants without uniform and subject to execution as spies. This IS NOT a law enforcement issue, this is a military action directed at our own soil and people.

9 posted on 10/31/2001 10:40:36 PM PST by Texasforever
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To: JohnHuang2
What will the Terrorists do ?

Will they Honor Your Daughters ?

10 posted on 10/31/2001 10:51:03 PM PST by Stopspin
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To: Cavalry
In the early 90s the Philippinos found an apartment in Manila full of bombs, terrorist plans etc. They cought one fellow. They were very rough, and in a few weeks he became talkative.

The plan he divulged was Ramsi Youseff's plot to blow up 12 American 747s and DC-10s over the Pacific on the same day. More arrests followed, and the plot was broken up. The bombs were kept off the planes, several thousand people, mostly Americans, didn't die. The roughly treated prisoner is fine today.

Tell me that you wish he had been spared the month of rough treatment, and the jumbo jets had been blown up instead, maybe with your family aboard.

This is a WAR, and the rules are not the same as during PEACE.

11 posted on 10/31/2001 11:02:42 PM PST by Travis McGee
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To: Texasforever
Ding ding! You get the grand prize. Put them under the UCMJ and treat them like POW's. Furthermore, tell them that after we kill them, we'll chop them into chunks and have the remains fed to hogs (and keep a pen of them closeby as visual reinforcement).
12 posted on 10/31/2001 11:10:42 PM PST by Free Vulcan
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To: Free Vulcan
I fear that we are losing focus here. This is NOT a civil matter. Many say that we have not declared war BUT war has been declared on us and we have NO obligation to reciprocate and place ourselves under the Geneva Convention that such a declaration would entail. There is no reason for us to provide combatants constitutional protections just because they committed their acts while in this country.
13 posted on 10/31/2001 11:15:48 PM PST by Texasforever
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To: JohnHuang2

Absolutely not!!!

NO!

We should not use torture just to get information from terrorists. Torture them because they deserve it.
14 posted on 10/31/2001 11:22:36 PM PST by JoeA
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To: JohnHuang2
I liked the original idea of taking the captured terrorists on vacation to Guatemala.

Torture can never be "officially" permitted. (Uh, remember that occasionally US servicemen are captured.) However, if certain elements in that haven of human rights Guatemala want to persuade information out of some scumbag terrorists, well, what are we to do? Understand also that those terrorists could never be left alive. Dead men tell no tales.

15 posted on 10/31/2001 11:33:02 PM PST by Lancey Howard
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To: JohnHuang2
By the way, didn't the Bush administration recently get confirmed a UN representative who handled
certain "information gathering" groups down there in Central America somewhere? I forget his name,
but I understand he is knowledgeable about electricity and "smothering" techniques.
16 posted on 10/31/2001 11:37:39 PM PST by Lancey Howard
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Comment #17 Removed by Moderator

To: JohnHuang2
Why is this even a debate? Have we Americans lost our common sense? Of course we must use EVERY means at our disposal to prevent these human swine from ever doing this to us again. Water torture if necessary!

If we must be 'civil' to the barbarians, hows about we flood their jail cells with sodium pentathol gas and then stick 'em under the hot lights for a few hours of grilling.

18 posted on 10/31/2001 11:44:42 PM PST by cartoonistx
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To: JohnHuang2
Why is this even a debate? Have we Americans lost our common sense? Of course we must use EVERY means at our disposal to prevent these human swine from ever doing this to us again. Water torture if necessary!

If we must be 'civil' to the barbarians, hows about we flood their jail cells with sodium pentathol gas and then stick 'em under the hot lights for a few hours of grilling.

19 posted on 10/31/2001 11:44:43 PM PST by cartoonistx
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To: JA
I am all for a formal declaration of war. But what we are engaged in is war whether it is formally declared or not.
20 posted on 10/31/2001 11:44:54 PM PST by Travis McGee
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To: JA
If its war, let them declare it.

War has been declared. It was declared at about 8:30 AM on Sept 11, 2001. There is no need for the US to declare a war that we did NOT start. To do so, places us under innumerable international treaties on conduct of war. I am sick of this hand wring from you phony "constitutional patriots" that take every semantic issue and use it as a way to criticize the action under way.

21 posted on 10/31/2001 11:48:49 PM PST by Texasforever
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To: JohnHuang2
Scopalamine and versed,when are we going to stop coddling these people??
22 posted on 10/31/2001 11:49:09 PM PST by cardinal4
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To: Havisham
I think that wiring their gonads to Con-Edison's main power grid and turning up the juice would be better and faster.

ZAP! OUCH!

23 posted on 11/01/2001 2:34:11 AM PST by Jimmy Valentine
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To: JohnHuang2
no
24 posted on 11/01/2001 2:35:50 AM PST by The Wizard
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To: Havisham
I think sleep deprivation of terrorism suspects is an acceptable tool for extracting intelligence that will save American lives

Never works that way, though. Once they can use torture, they will use it routinely.

25 posted on 11/01/2001 2:45:10 AM PST by Ada Coddington
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To: JohnHuang2
I underwent S.E.R.E. training while in Recondo school at Ft. Bragg. We were blinfolded and trucked to a "POW" camp. There, we were subjected to various forms of interogation techniques. Also to sleep deprivation. They played this horrible music(?) at full volume. I can tell you, sleep deprivation is hard on you, but not what I would classify as torture. It does lower your guard, though. I say whatever it takes to get the desired results.
26 posted on 11/01/2001 3:03:49 AM PST by airborne
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To: JohnHuang2
These people have families in their home countries.

Arrange for our friends in foreign intelligence to put their Mommies on the telephone.

The foreign intelligence people 'convince' Mommy to persuade Sonny to cooperate. (Use your imagination.)

Our hands remain clean.

27 posted on 11/01/2001 7:28:53 AM PST by aculeus
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