Archive for the ‘Torture’ Category

Citations of Success

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Well, today President Obama continued his campaign against his old foe, George W. Bush. We now learn that Obama is Open to Probe, Prosecutions of Top Officials Over Interrogations. He claims that releasing the memos will make the US safer, although it is difficult to see how the release does not embolden the enemy.

Much has been made of the memos, the Justice Department, and specifically the Office of Legal Counsel. One might get the impression that the memos were written by summer interns, in crayon, on a single sheet of paper, that say something like “Torture is okay”. But what are called “memos” by the media are lengthy legal arguments. For example, the four “secret memos” released on April 16 are, respectively, 18, 46, 20, and 40 pages in length. The memos contain footnotes, case citations, and all the legalese that is expected by a profession with a nice hourly rate. For example, see the memo of May 30, 2005. Included is this brief passage

The “waterboard”, which is the most intense of the CIA interrogation techniques, is subject to additional limits. It may be used on a High Value Detainee only if the CIA has “credible intelligence that a terrorist act is imminent”, “substantial and credible indicators that the subject has actionable intelligence that can prevent, disrupt, or delay this attack”, “and [o]ther interrogation methods have failed to elicit this information [or] CIA has clear indications that other…methods are unlikely to elicit this information within the perceived time limit for prevent the attack.

Sounds reasonable to me. More than reasonable, really. Also in today’s Washington Post is an opinion piece by Marc A. Thiessen that make the case that The CIA’s Questioning Worked (contrary to popular belief). Thiessen points out that the memo of May 30, 2005 cites many instances where attacks were thwarted, including a planned attack on the tallest building in Los Angeles and the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed (mastermind of 9-11 and murder of Daniel Pearl). Thiessen complains that even more citations of successes have been redacted in the memo. For example, a large redacted portion begins

We discuss only a small fraction of the important intelligence CIA interrogators have obtained from KSM.

I look forward to the full disclosure of the lives saved and plots foiled that are attributed to the harsh interrogations. I suspect that Obama will rue the day that he caved to the loony left on this issue.

Keep Paying the Water Bill

Monday, April 20th, 2009

The catharsis continues with the Obama administration’s release of a Bush-era memo revealing that two Al Qaeda leaders had been waterboarded 266 times.

CIA interrogators used waterboarding at least 266 times on two top al Qaeda suspects, according to a Bush-era Justice Department memo released by the Obama administration.

The controversial technique that simulates drowning — and which President Obama calls torture — was used at least 83 times in August 2002 on suspected al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, according to the memo.

Interrogators also waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in March 2003. Mohammed is believed to be the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

For those clamoring for investigations and trials of evil-doers, this is like catnip. But this story reminds me of the macabre joke about a person found dead with dozens of fatal stab wounds and, after the investigation, the death is ruled a suicide. I mean, 183 times? That’s a lot of “severe pain or suffering”. Or maybe it is not. I’m thinking that these large number of incidents actually militate against torture, unless the waterboarding was carried out for purely sadistic pleasure. Maybe Khalid Sheikh Mohammed can share with us his thoughts on whether his interrogators were extracting sadistic pleasure. Mohammed surely understands the concept, what with his murder of journalist Daniel Pearl.

I don’t know. The enhanced interrogation techniques, including the enhanced insect technique, don’t seem so bad to me. We are, after all, trying to extract information from psychopaths that participate in a neural net of jihadist murderers. I say, keep paying the water bill.

Britain Acknowledges Participation in Rendition

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

A recent article in the Washington PostBritain Acknowledges 2 Detainees Are in U.S. Prison in Afghanistan, tells

The British government, after years of denying it had any role in the U.S. policy of “extraordinary rendition,” acknowledged yesterday that two prisoners its military forces turned over to U.S. custody in Iraq five years ago were subsequently sent to a U.S. prison in Afghanistan.

In a statement to Parliament, Defense Secretary John Hutton apologized for what he said was “inaccurate information . . . given to the House by my department” on previous occasions. The transfer, he said, was unknown to his predecessor and came to his attention only in December during an internal investigation in response to parliamentary questions.

Hutton said that the rendition involving two Pakistani men, who have been in custody at Bagram air base in Afghanistan since 2004, violated a U.S.-British memorandum of understanding specifying that “no person captured with assistance” from British forces “will be removed from the territory of Iraq without prior consultation.”

The Pentagon quickly took responsibility for the lapse. “There was a level of formal coordination that should have taken place with respect to a transfer of this nature,” spokesman Bryan Whitman said. “Unfortunately, that did not occur in this case. It was an error.”

I have a little difficulty in interpreting just what Britain is acknowledging. The article UK concedes involvement in rendition in Deutsche Welle makes things a little bit more explicit

Britain’s government has for the first time admitted direct involvement in the controversial US program of extraordinary rendition. Defence Secretary John Hutton told lawmakers that two men, captured in Iraq in 2004, were handed over to US agents who moved them to Afghanistan. Hutton said the men were members of a Pakistani terrorist organisation and that the US told Britain at the time that it lacked the necessary linguists in Iraq to interrogate the men. The minister acknowledged that the admission contradicted earlier government assurances that no prisoners had been handed over for transfer to third countries and apologised for the error. Human rights groups and some lawmakers have demanded a complete government inquiry into the transfer of prisoners. Previous concerns have focussed on the remote British outpost of Diego Garcia to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects.

This article states concerns that Diego Garcia, which is British dependent territory, was used “to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects”, as if Diego Garcia was a destination for CIA extraordinary renditions. According to this article in the Middle East Times, there were concerns over refueling of CIA flights at Diego Garcia

Foreign Secretary David Miliband last year admitted that two rendition flights landed on British territory in 2002, when US planes refuelled on the British dependent territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Rendition, interrogation, refueling? Diego Garcia may be all of the above.

Getting back to the British acknowledgement, it seems likely that Britain was informed that the detainees would be transferred from Iraq at the time that they were turned over. Did Britain knowingly turn detainees over to the CIA? The articles are a little bit vague, because they use terms like “US custody” and “US agents”, almost as if they are trying to avoid using a simpler, more common term (or acronym).

I’m not troubled when the US takes Pakistanis captured on the battlefield in Iraq to Afghanistan. In fact, I would not be troubled if they took them to Diego Garcia. But recently, we have learned that holier-than-thou countries have both participated in detainee transfers and have been observers and participants in interrogations. The next time the bed-wetters take to the streets of a European capital to protest the United States – for interrogation techniques, GTMO, and rendition – some introspection will be in order. For, lacking such introspection, our proper response should be STFU.

Witch Hunt My Arse!

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

An article In this past Friday’s Washington PostInterviews Of Terror Suspects Challenged, tells us a little something about the scope of international participation at Guantanamo. According to the article

The U.S. military has allowed intelligence and law enforcement agents from at least 18 countries to interrogate Guantanamo inmates since the detention center opened in 2002, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based group that provides legal representation to many Guantanamo prisoners.

According to the group, interrogators from Tunisia, Libya, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Jordan verbally threatened citizens of their countries held at Guantanamo, warning them that they would be abused at home if they didn’t cooperate. Other countries that have sent interrogators to Guantanamo include Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain and Morocco, the center says.

I know, there is a big debate going right now over whether there was any good intelligence obtained from detainees. So, the takeaway is that Tunisia, Libya, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain and Morocco – and at least six more countries – all felt that it was worthwhile sending interrogators to GTMO. Why? Because the perceived benefits outweighed the costs. And aren’t many of these countries the same bed-wetters that have blasted the United States for torture? Pot, meet kettle.

Surely, France would not participate in interrogations. I mean, France would never be so base as to commit torture or violate human rights, would they. Opps, sorry. Quel horror! I forgot about the Algerian War of Independence. Never mind.

According to Finnish diplomat and the U.N. special investigator for human rights Martin Scheinin

…foreign agents visiting Guantanamo or secret U.S. jails overseas committed “an internationally wrongful act” even if they merely observed interrogations.

“They were acting in breach of their legal obligations in regard to the prohibition on torture and arbitrary detention,” Scheinin, who is also a law professor at the European University Institute in Florence, said in a telephone interview.

Later in the article, Scheinin is quoted

“We have had a witch hunt for alleged terrorists for the past 7 1/2 years,” he said. “Now I think the witch hunt is over and it is time for the law to step in.”

Scheinin does not appear to have any axe to grind, does he? “Alleged terrorists”? Let’s see, according to this, a total of 218 detainees were from Afghanistan, and 8 were from Iraq (!). The other 70% were from 50 other countries. The leading contributors behind Afghanistan are Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Algeria, China, Morocco, Libya, Kuwait, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Sudan, Syria, and Russia. All of these countries contributed more detainees than Iraq. Are any of these countries known for terrorism or islamic jihadists? What might the citizens of these countries been doing when they were rounded up? Selling Girl Scout cookies?

The United Kingdom has the same number of citizens in GTMO as Iraq. Why might Britain be interested in supplying questions and interrogating the UK detainees? Does Scheinin not recall July 7, 2005? Come on Martin, I don’t expect you bed-wetters to remember 9/11, but isn’t London part of Europe? I’d expect you to remember that. Maybe you are too busy conducting your own witch hunt?

So Counterintuitive As To Be An Absurdity

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I was shocked, I tell you, shocked when I read Richard Cohen’s opinion piece in today’s Washington PostTorture? Prosecute Us, Too. I have taken Richard Cohen to task here before. See Cohen Head. But, to give credit where credit is due, I found Cohen’s piece today to be one of the most thoughtful pieces I have read in a long time. What makes this piece so thoughtful? The realization that there is context to the actions taken by the United States over the past 8 years. Notice that I said “actions” and “United States”. Not “torture” and “Bush”.

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” So goes an aphorism that needs to be applied to the current debate over whether those who authorized and used torture should be prosecuted. In the very different country called Sept. 11, 2001, the answer would be a resounding no.

So begins the piece. And then

Back then, a Post poll gave George W. Bush an approval rating of 92 percent, which meant that almost no one thought he was on the wrong course. At the same time, questions about the viability of torture were very much in the air. Alan Dershowitz was suggesting the creation of torture warrants — permission from a court to, in effect, break some bones.

Dershowitz, mind you, was not in favor of torture but argued that if torture was going to be done, it was best that it be done legally. In a similar vein, the thoughtful Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter mulled the legality, the morality and the efficacy of torture. In the end, Alter ruled it out — although not sodium pentothal (truth serum) or offshoring terrorism suspects “to our less squeamish allies.” In fact, the government was already sending suspects abroad to be interrogated.

Alter’s essay created quite a stir — and to his considerable surprise, a lot of whispered support from liberals. Around the same time, historian Jay Winik wrote about the usefulness of torture, how Philippine agents in 1995 got a certain Abdul Hakim Murad to reveal a plot to blow up 11 American airliners over the Pacific and send yet another plane, this one loaded with nerve gas, into CIA headquarters in Langley. After being beaten nearly to death, Murad was finally broken by the hollow threat to turn him over to Israel’s Mossad.

The Philippine example was widely mentioned at the time, even by those who opposed the use of torture. The conventional wisdom that torture never works — so counterintuitive as to be an absurdity — was not yet doctrine. Neither for that matter was the belief that the coming war in Iraq was a moral and practical absurdity. Congress overwhelmingly voted for war and the American people overwhelmingly supported it.

Please read the remainder of the article. It is worthwhile. Jonathan Alter, no neocon, is quoted by Cohen. I think that Cohen overstates the extent to which Alter “ruled it out”. Here is the beginning of the cited Newsweek article from November 5, 2001.

In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to… torture. OK, not cattle prods or rubber hoses, at least not here in the United States, but something to jump-start the stalled investigation of the greatest crime in American history. Right now, four key hijacking suspects aren’t talking at all.

Couldn’t we at least subject them to psychological torture, like tapes of dying rabbits or high-decibel rap? (The military has done that in Panama and elsewhere.) How about truth serum, administered with a mandatory IV? Or deportation to Saudi Arabia, land of beheadings? (As the frustrated FBI has been threatening.) Some people still argue that we needn’t rethink any of our old assumptions about law enforcement, but they’re hopelessly “Sept. 10”–living in a country that no longer exists.

One sign of how much things have changed is the reaction to the antiterrorism bill, which cleared the Senate last week by a vote of 98-1. While the ACLU felt obliged to quibble with a provision or two, the opposition was tepid, even from staunch civil libertarians. That great quote from the late Chief Justice Robert Jackson–“The Constitution is not a suicide pact”–is getting a good workout lately.

Alter seems very hesitant to conduct what he calls physical torture, though it is unclear whether he would classify something like waterboarding as physical torture. Later, Alter writes

Short of physical torture, there’s always sodium pentothal (“truth serum”). The FBI is eager to try it, and deserves the chance. Unfortunately, truth serum, first used on spies in World War II, makes suspects gabby but not necessarily truthful. The same goes for even the harshest torture. When the subject breaks, he often lies. Prisoners “have only one objective–to end the pain,” says retired Col. Kenneth Allard, who was trained in interrogation. “It’s a huge limitation.”

Some torture clearly works. Jordan broke the most notorious terrorist of the 1980s, Abu Nidal, by threatening his family. Philippine police reportedly helped crack the 1993 World Trade Center bombings (plus a plot to crash 11 U.S. airliners and kill the pope) by convincing a suspect that they were about to turn him over to the Israelis. Then there’s painful Islamic justice, which has the added benefit of greater acceptance among Muslims.

We can’t legalize physical torture; it’s contrary to American values. But even as we continue to speak out against human-rights abuses around the world, we need to keep an open mind about certain measures to fight terrorism, like court-sanctioned psychological interrogation. And we’ll have to think about transferring some suspects to our less squeamish allies, even if that’s hypocritical. Nobody said this was going to be pretty.

I had to reread some of that.

  • Some torture clearly works.
  • …we need to keep an open mind about certain measures to fight terrorism, like court-sanctioned psychological interrogation.
  • …we’ll have to think about transferring some suspects to our less squeamish allies, even if that’s hypocritical. [emphasis added]

Alter (and Cohen today) cited the work by Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz is another person that probably won’t be hunting with Dick Cheney any time soon. Dershowitz is not exactly in favor of torture, but he is pragmatic enough to argue in favor of torture warrants

[The] ticking bomb scenario had long been a staple of legal and political philosophers who love to debate hypothetical cases that test the limit of absolute principles, such as the universal prohibition against the use of torture which has long been codified by international treaties. The ticking bomb case has also been debated, though not as a hypothetical case, in Israel, whose security services long claimed the authority to employ “moderate physical pressure” in order to secure real time intelligence from captured terrorists believed to know about impending terrorist acts. The moderate physical pressure employed by Israel was tougher than it sounds, but not nearly as tough as the brutal methods used by the French in interrogating suspected terrorists during the Algerian uprisings. The Israeli security service would take a suspected terrorist, tie him to a chair in an uncomfortable position for long periods of time with loud music blaring in the background, and then place a smelly sack over his head and shake him violently. Many tongues were loosened by this process and several terrorist acts prevented, without any suspects being seriously injured.

Torture, it turns out, can sometimes produce truthful information. The Israeli experience suggested that information obtained as a result of torture should never be believed, unless it can be independently confirmed, but such information can sometimes be self-proving, as when the subject leads law enforcement to the actual location of the bomb.

Nonetheless, the Israeli Supreme Court outlawed all use of even moderate, non-lethal physical pressure. It responded to the ticking bomb scenario by saying that if a security agent thought it was necessary to use physical pressure in order to prevent many deaths, he could take his chances, be prosecuted, and try to raise a defense of “necessity”. In my book Shouting Fire, I wrote critically of this decision on the ground that it places security officials in an impossible dilemma. It would be better if any such official could seek an advanced ruling from a judge, as to whether physical pressure is warranted under the specific circumstances, in order to avoid being subject to an after the fact risk of imprisonment. Thus was born the proposal for a torture warrant.

The remainder of Dershowitz’s paper is recommended reading.

As we begin 2009, and as new administration comes to power, it seems easy to take a high rhetorical road against anything that might hint of torture and for anything that might sound like prosecution of those responsible. This seems a very poor response to the realities of times immediately after 9/11 and the choices we made.

Balinese Massage and George Winston

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

In today’s Washington Post, so bored was I with Dan Kirk-Davidoff letter to the editor that I slipped into pleasant lassitude reading it.

I cannot fully express the revulsion I felt when I saw the Jan. 10 front-page headline “Obama Under Pressure on Interrogation Policy; Some See Harsh Methods as Essential.”

What on earth is torture if not the infliction of pain to extract information or confessions? When you use gentler language that does not call torture by its name, you participate in the crime. A headline reading “Some See Torture as Essential” would have been far clearer, and far more truthful.

I practically fell into my MacBook Pro just formatting that passage. Yawn. Dan has obviously bought the left’s torture narrative hook, line, and sinker.

Ummm, Dan, we do have some guidance for torture from our courts, and it is along the lines of “intense, lasting, and heinous agony”. As I just mentioned in my last post, the US opted not to accept the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Other Punishment (UNCAT) provisions against CID. So, inflicting pain to extract information from terrorists such as Al-Qaeda , which are not covered by the Geneva Conventions, is NOT TORTURE. Perhaps if Dan feels so bad about the treatment of terrorists, he can offer to give them a Balinese massage or perhaps a sponge bath; maybe put on a little George Winston and light some candles.

In 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorized three categories of interrogation techniques. Refer to this list of techniques available to GTMO interrogators per Secretary of Defense orders. Based on my research, there were more proposed techniques in Category 3 – perhaps including waterboarding – but only the one was approved by Rumsfeld. So, it looks like it is difficult to make a torture case against the Dept. of Defense. Where transgressions have occurred, for example at Abu Ghraib, soldiers have been subjected to courts-martial and have been convicted. Admittedly, two Abu Ghraib detainees died while in custody of the transgressors, but no convictions for these deaths were issued.

The waterboarding that we know of was used by the CIA on three high-value targets such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaida. No complaints from here. As I have asked before, do Dan and the rest of the left believe that these recent few instances of waterboarding are the first actions ever taken by the CIA that make us uncomfortable, or wince? Ever?

Certainly, if Congress would like to outlaw waterboarding on any suspect, including those not covered by the Geneva Conventions, they may. The election is over. Obama is about to take office. Put away the rhetoric and the theatrical revulsion. It is time for Congress to act, if they are so inclined. But it seems clear that as the Democrats sober up to the reality that they have real responsibilities now, and not just to terrorists or European bed wetters, but to US citizens, at least some are beginning to realize that harsh methods may actually be essential. How adult of them.

A Mental Breakdown Is A Sign Of Hope

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Obama is expected to sign executive orders during his first week in office to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. This is an important symbolic gesture for many of those who voted for Obama, and is viewed by these folks as an important first step in restoring the reputation of the United States

In recent days, Obama has adopted a pragmatic tone. For example, on the subject of GTMO, the executive order is not expected to set an actual deadline. National security will still be factored in, thankfully. As the new administration moves ahead with its plans, I am sure it will consider some of the disturbing content of this CNN article Ex-Gitmo detainees resume terror acts.

Since 2002, 61 former detainees have committed or are suspected to have committed attacks after being released from the detention camp, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said at a briefing Tuesday.

The number is up since the Pentagon’s last report in March 2008 when officials said 37 former detainees had been suspected of returning to the battlefield since 2002.

Since 2007, more than 100 detainees were released, significantly more than in previous years, according to Pentagon officials.

According to the statistics, of the 61 former detainees that are believed to have returned to fighting, 18 have been officially confirmed while 43 are suspected, Morrell said.

It is common to see GTMO and “torture” mentioned as if they were one and the same. For example, consider Profile: Guantanamo Bay from BBC News

Allegations of mistreatment emerged from the start.

The International Red Cross is the only organisation that has been granted full access to detainees.

However, the UN says it has evidence that torture has taken place at the prison.

Its allegations include the force-feeding of hunger strikers through nasal tubes and the simultaneous use of interrogation techniques such as prolonged solitary confinement and exposure to extreme temperatures, noise and light.

Hmmm. Forced feeding hunger strikers? Prolonged solitary confinement? Temperatures, noise, and light? THIS IS NOT TORTURE! At its worst, it might be considered cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment is barred by the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). The UNCAT was ratified in 1994, but the United States accepted only the prohibition against torture. The US found the CID provisions as entirely too vague.

And this

The UN also says many of the inmates have had mental breakdowns.

Perhaps a mental breakdown is a healthier mental condition than was enjoyed by the jihadists before their capture. At time of refoulement, let’s be sure to submit a medical bill for the mental health services to the jihadists’ country of origin.

A Mental Breakdown Would Be An Improvement

A Mental Breakdown Would Be An Improvement

We Need Not Give Protection To Terrorist Groups

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Everywhere I turned today, I saw torture. Not in my mind’s eye, mind you. But in print, and on line.

In print, we have an Judge Susan J. Crawford claiming torture in Detainee Tortured, Says U.S. Official in today’s Washington Post. The article begins

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a “life-threatening condition.”

“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution.

“The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge” to call it torture, she said.

For the record, let me state simply

Now let me see if I get this straight. The techniques “were all authorized”, “persistent”, and were “clearly coercive”? Isn’t that the point of interrogation? Yes judge, when I think of torture, I think of “some horrendous physical act done to an individual”. For reference, the Judge might consult this article by Entifadh Qanbar in the New York Sun

I am an Iraqi who has suffered under Saddam’s harsh dictatorship and who actively fought Saddam for many years before the liberation in 2003. In addition, I participated in the reconstruction efforts in the new Iraq after the liberation, and therefore have a unique perspective to offer in understanding the progression of events in modern day Iraq. I had my first taste of Saddam’s brutality when I was imprisoned by Saddam’s Military Security in 1987 along with my brother. In spite of my relatively short stay in a horrifying cell, I witnessed torture and humiliation first hand in what seemed to be an underworld in which pain and degradation have no end.

For Iraqis, these torture chambers and “atrocity sites” are a confirmation of the links between the terror of the Baath regime and that of Al Qaeda. In 1991, during the uprising in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraqis and the outside world were able to see torture cells from the inside and bear witness to the gruesome acts performed within them for the first time.

After the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the world was finally able to obtain an unprecedented glimpse into the Baath torture chambers and the vast security apparatus which served to maintain order and cement Saddam’s power over Iraq.

If you enter a torture house, you would think it is almost identical to a mechanical workshop: it contains drills, blow torches, hammers, and electrical wiring. For Saddam’s agents, these houses of torture contain all the necessary hardware to extract information from the brains of detainees and very creative ways to punish and extract victims. Thus torture cells established by Saddam’s agents were a horrific instrument of spreading terror and maintaining the iron grip of the regime over the country.

This is real torture. Not the trumped up torture of waterboarding or thongs around the head. Pop Quiz: Help me identify a tool of torture.

This?

This?

or This?

or This?

Now, consider this from Ronald Reagan in 1987, in which he explains his opposition to Protocol 1, an addendum to the Geneva Convention. Specifically

I have … concluded that the United States cannot ratify a second agreement on the law of armed conflict negotiated during the same period. I am referring to Protocol I additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which would revise the rules applicable to international armed conflicts.

It is unfortunate that Protocol I must be rejected. We would have preferred to ratify such a convention, which as I said contains certain sound elements. But we cannot allow other nations of the world, however numerous, to impose upon us and our allies and friends an unacceptable and thoroughly distasteful price for joining a convention drawn to advance the laws of war. In fact, we must not, and need not, give recognition and protection to terrorist groups as a price for progress in humanitarian law. [emphasis added]

It turns out that, at that time, the Washington Post and the New York Times were supporters of Reagan’s opposition. I guess the Post and the Times were against terrorists having protection before they were for it.

The Geneva Conventions were established to permit states to opt into a set of rules that create civilized warfare. With terrorists, there are no states. Just a loose confederation of murderers. They are unlawful combatants. The GCIII do not apply.

I wonder if the anti-war left actually thinks that, prior to the Bush administration, no torture has been carried out by the USA? No black sites? No extraordinary rendition?