Saturday, January 27, 2007

An opposing view worthy of front page discussion

Two days ago I passed another milestone as a blogger: somebody left a comment in disagreement with my post on this blog, but smart, articulate and definitely worthy of debate. Since that post is rather old, I decided to reply to that comment on the front page.
To re-cap, the post was about an article by Vladimir Bukovsky on the subject of torture. Acknowledging some good points Bukovsky was making in his article, I commented that, unlike Stalin's "interrogators", our counter-terrorism operatives are trying to get some useful information, rather than false "confessions". Thus, they probably know that real physical torture is counter-productive for the most part. So, here is the comment by Anonymous:

Then how can you explain extraordinary rendition? Your argument is that we can trust "our" guys to be given free reign in interrogation. The problem is, once we take free reign, so will everyone else, and exonerate themselves with a finger pointed directly at us.

I truly don't understand why that person would not sign this comment. But, aside from that, here is my answer:
First of all, why would you think that it matters to our enemies what we do? Do you really think that whoever they capture would treated humanly, if we treat terrorists humanly? There is only one reason to treat those in our captivity humanly: for our own sanity.
Second, nobody is given a "free reign": those not employing productive methods of interrogation will not get results. Thus, useless torture will be and is punished.
Finally, please provide some evidence of those "extraordinary renditions". I've heard a lot of talk about it, but so far I don't know of any detainee transfered to someone like Jordanians or Egyptians, just so that they could do the dirty work for us. Those captured by us, but wanted in Jordan or Egypt, if there are any, don't count: why would you not extradite those wanted people to the countries they are wanted in?
the rumors of those renditions persist because of 3 reasons:
1. They might be true;
2. They are invention of the Left;
3. They are (the rumors) a useful interrogation tool. Why? Because mind games are probably much more productive than physical torture.
For example, let's say our guys captured 2 terrorists. One is very hard core, very strong personality. He won't talk, no matter what our guys do. The second is weaker. So, our guys determine which is not likely to talk, and in front of the weaker guy announce that the guy that is not talking is being transfer to Jordanians, for example. They will make him talk. And then he led away. At this point it is not necessary to actually transfer the stronger guy to Jordanians: the threat of such transfer will make the other guy talk. But in order for this threat to be convincing, you and I also have to believe that such transfers are practiced. The Left has to scream about it. Otherwise nobody would believe it.
The bottom line, an Al Qaeda terrorist will never all of a sudden see the error of his ways and spill the beans. You have to trick him into doing that. The mind games, including the threat of torture and bad hard rock music, are necessary for that.

1 comment:

Michael said...

You've made some very good points about torture. For some of the reasons you've given, I actually do believe that, at least in some cases, there has been extraordinary rendition. It tends to make the rumors more believable if it has happened at least once or twice.

Have you ever read the book "Darkness at Noon," by Arthur Koestler? It is a novel set in Stalin's purges, and one of the underlying themes is the efficacy of torture, both physical and psychological.

The book's main character is subjected to deep psychological pressures, which eventually break him, but his captors never physically touch him.

You are right about treating prisoners humanely for our own sanity. However, I agree with you that there is no reason to avoid subjecting prisoners to psychological pressure (torture, if you will), if that can yield information that can improve the safety of American and allied peoples.