Small Wars Journal

Waterboarding is Torture... Period (Links Updated # 9)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:30pm
I'd like to digress from my usual analysis of insurgent strategy and tactics to speak out on an issue of grave importance to Small Wars Journal readers. We, as a nation, are having a crisis of honor.

Last week the Attorney General nominee Judge Michael Mukasey refused to define waterboarding terror suspects as torture. On the same day MSNBC television pundit and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough quickly spoke out in its favor. On his morning television broadcast, he asserted, without any basis in fact, that the efficacy of the waterboard a viable tool to be used on Al Qaeda suspects.

Scarborough said, "For those who don't know, waterboarding is what we did to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is the Al Qaeda number two guy that planned 9/11. And he talked ..." He then speculated that "If you ask Americans whether they think it's okay for us to waterboard in a controlled environment ... 90% of Americans will say 'yes.'" Sensing that what he was saying sounded extreme, he then claimed he did not support torture but that waterboarding was debatable as a technique: "You know, that's the debate. Is waterboarding torture? ... I don't want the United States to engage in the type of torture that [Senator] John McCain had to endure."

In fact, waterboarding is just the type of torture then Lt. Commander John McCain had to endure at the hands of the North Vietnamese. As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school's interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques used by the US army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What was not mentioned in most articles was that SERE was designed to show how an evil totalitarian, enemy would use torture at the slightest whim. If this is the case, then waterboarding is unquestionably being used as torture technique.

The carnival-like he-said, she-said of the legality of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques has become a form of doublespeak worthy of Catch-22. Having been subjected to them all, I know these techniques, if in fact they are actually being used, are not dangerous when applied in training for short periods. However, when performed with even moderate intensity over an extended time on an unsuspecting prisoner -- it is torture, without doubt. Couple that with waterboarding and the entire medley not only "shock the conscience" as the statute forbids -it would terrify you. Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred. It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American.

We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like "24", are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks. Having been a rescuer in one of those incidents and personally affected by both attacks, I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor. Who we have become? Because at this juncture, after Abu Ghraieb and other undignified exposed incidents of murder and torture, we appear to have become no better than our opponents.

With regards to the waterboard, I want to set the record straight so the apologists can finally embrace the fact that they condone and encourage torture.

History's Lessons Ignored

Before arriving for my assignment at SERE, I traveled to Cambodia to visit the torture camps of the Khmer Rouge. The country had just opened for tourism and the effect of the genocide was still heavy in the air. I wanted to know how real torturers and terror camp guards would behave and learn how to resist them from survivors of such horrors. I had previously visited the Nazi death camps Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. I had met and interviewed survivors of Buchenwald, Auschwitz and Magdeburg when I visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. However, it was in the S-21 death camp known as Tuol Sleng, in downtown Phnom Penh, where I found a perfectly intact inclined waterboard. Next to it was the painting on how it was used. It was cruder than ours mainly because they used metal shackles to strap the victim down, and a tin flower pot sprinkler to regulate the water flow rate, but it was the same device I would be subjected to a few weeks later.

On a Mekong River trip, I met a 60-year-old man, happy to be alive and a cheerful travel companion, who survived the genocide and torture ... he spoke openly about it and gave me a valuable lesson: "If you want to survive, you must learn that 'walking through a low door means you have to be able to bow.'" He told his interrogators everything they wanted to know including the truth. They rarely stopped. In torture, he confessed to being a hermaphrodite, a CIA spy, a Buddhist Monk, a Catholic Bishop and the son of the king of Cambodia. He was actually just a school teacher whose crime was that he once spoke French. He remembered "the Barrel" version of waterboarding quite well. Head first until the water filled the lungs, then you talk.

Once at SERE and tasked to rewrite the Navy SERE program for the first time since the Vietnam War, we incorporated interrogation and torture techniques from the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia into the curriculum. In the process, I studied hundreds of classified written reports, dozens of personal memoirs of American captives from the French-Indian Wars and the American Revolution to the Argentinean 'Dirty War' and Bosnia. There were endless hours of videotaped debriefings from World War Two, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War POWs and interrogators. I devoured the hundreds of pages of debriefs and video reports including those of then Commander John McCain, Colonel Nick Rowe, Lt. Dieter Dengler and Admiral James Stockdale, the former Senior Ranking Officer of the Hanoi Hilton. All of them had been tortured by the Vietnamese, Pathet Lao or Cambodians. The minutiae of North Vietnamese torture techniques was discussed with our staff advisor and former Hanoi Hilton POW Doug Hegdahl as well as discussions with Admiral Stockdale himself. The waterboard was clearly one of the tools dictators and totalitarian regimes preferred.

There is No Debate Except for Torture Apologists

1. Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one's duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim's face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration --usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

Call it "Chinese Water Torture," "the Barrel," or "the Waterfall," it is all the same. Whether the victim is allowed to comply or not is usually left up to the interrogator. Many waterboard team members, even in training, enjoy the sadistic power of making the victim suffer and often ask questions as an after thought. These people are dangerous and predictable and when left unshackled, unsupervised or undetected they bring us the murderous abuses seen at Abu Ghraieb, Baghram and Guantanamo. No doubt, to avoid human factors like fear and guilt someone has created a one-button version that probably looks like an MRI machine with high intensity waterjets.

3. If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives. The Small Wars Council had a spirited discussion about this earlier in the year, especially when former Marine Generals Krulak and Hoar rejected all arguments for torture.

Evan Wallach wrote a brilliant history of the use of waterboarding as a war crime and the open acceptance of it by the administration in an article for Columbia Journal for Transnational Law. In it he describes how the ideological Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo validated the current dilemma we find ourselves in by asserting that the President had powers above and beyond the Constitution and the Congress:

"Congress doesn't have the power to tie the President's hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique....It's the core of the Commander-in-Chief function. They can't prevent the President from ordering torture."

That is an astounding assertion. It reflects a basic disregard for the law of the United States, the Constitution and basic moral decency.

Another MSNBC commentator defended the administration and stated that waterboarding is "not a new phenomenon" and that it had "been pinned on President Bush ... but this has been part of interrogation for years and years and years." He is correct, but only partially. The Washington Post reported in 2006 that it was mainly America's enemies that used it as a principal interrogation method. After World War 2, Japanese waterboard team members were tried for war crimes. In Vietnam, service members were placed under investigation when a photo of a field-expedient waterboarding became publicly known.

Torture in captivity simulation training reveals there are ways an enemy can inflict punishment which will render the subject wholly helpless and which will generally overcome his willpower. The torturer will trigger within the subject a survival instinct, in this case the ability to breathe, which makes the victim instantly pliable and ready to comply. It is purely and simply a tool by which to deprive a human being of his ability to resist through physical humiliation. The very concept of an American Torturer is an anathema to our values.

I concur strongly with the opinions of professional interrogators like Colonel Stewart Herrington, and victims of torture like Senator John McCain. If you want consistent, accurate and reliable intelligence, be inquisitive, analytical, patient but most of all professional, amiable and compassionate.

Who will complain about the new world-wide embrace of torture? America has justified it legally at the highest levels of government. Even worse, the administration has selectively leaked supposed successes of the water board such as the alleged Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessions. However, in the same breath the CIA sources for the Washington Post noted that in Mohammed's case they got information but "not all of it reliable." Of course, when you waterboard you get all the magic answers you want -because remember, the subject will talk. They all talk! Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop. Torture. Does. Not. Work.

According to the President, this is not a torture, so future torturers in other countries now have an American legal basis to perform the acts. Every hostile intelligence agency and terrorist in the world will consider it a viable tool, which can be used with impunity. It has been turned into perfectly acceptable behavior for information finding.

A torture victim can be made to say anything by an evil nation that does not abide by humanity, morality, treaties or rule of law. Today we are on the verge of becoming that nation. Is it possible that September 11 hurt us so much that we have decided to gladly adopt the tools of KGB, the Khmer Rouge, the Nazi Gestapo, the North Vietnamese, the North Koreans and the Burmese Junta?

What next if the waterboarding on a critical the captive doesn't work and you have a timetable to stop the "ticking bomb" scenario? Electric shock to the genitals? Taking a pregnant woman and electrocuting the fetus inside her? Executing a captive's children in front of him? Dropping live people from an airplane over the ocean? It has all been done by governments seeking information. All claimed the same need to stop the ticking bomb. It is not a far leap from torture to murder, especially if the subject is defiant. Are we —to trade our nation's soul for tactical intelligence?

Is There a Place for the Waterboard?

Yes. The waterboard must go back to the realm of SERE training our operators, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. We must now double our efforts to prepare for its inevitable and uncontrolled use of by our future enemies.

Until recently, only a few countries considered it effective. Now American use of the waterboard as an interrogation tool has assuredly guaranteed that our service members and agents who are captured or detained by future enemies will be subject to it as part of the most routine interrogations. Forget threats, poor food, the occasional face slap and sexual assaults. This was not a dignified 'taking off the gloves'; this was descending to the level of our opposition in an equally brutish and ugly way. Waterboarding will be one our future enemy's go-to techniques because we took the gloves off to brutal interrogation. Now our enemies will take the gloves off and thank us for it.

There may never again be a chance that Americans will benefit from the shield of outrage and public opinion when our future enemy uses of torture. Brutal interrogation, flash murder and extreme humiliation of American citizens, agents and members of the armed forces may now be guaranteed because we have mindlessly, but happily, broken the seal on the Pandora's box of indignity, cruelty and hatred in the name of protecting America. To defeat Bin Laden many in this administration have openly embraced the methods of by Hitler, Pinochet, Pol Pot, Galtieri and Saddam Hussein.

Not A Fair Trade for America's Honor

I have stated publicly and repeatedly that I would personally cut Bin Laden's heart out with a plastic MRE spoon if we per chance meet on the battlefield. Yet, once captive I believe that the better angels of our nature and our nation's core values would eventually convince any terrorist that they indeed have erred in their murderous ways. Once convicted in a fair, public tribunal, they would have the rest of their lives, however short the law makes it, to come to terms with their God and their acts.

This is not enough for our President. He apparently secretly ordered the core American values of fairness and justice to be thrown away in the name of security from terrorists. He somehow determined that the honor the military, the CIA and the nation itself was an acceptable trade for the superficial knowledge of the machinations of approximately 2,000 terrorists, most of whom are being decimated in Iraq or martyring themselves in Afghanistan. It is a short sighted and politically motivated trade that is simply disgraceful. There is no honor here.

It is outrageous that American officials, including the Attorney General and a legion of minions of lower rank have not only embraced this torture but have actually justified it, redefined it to a misdemeanor, brought it down to the level of a college prank and then bragged about it. The echo chamber that is the American media now views torture as a heroic and macho.

Torture advocates hide behind the argument that an open discussion about specific American interrogation techniques will aid the enemy. Yet, convicted Al Qaeda members and innocent captives who were released to their host nations have already debriefed the world through hundreds of interviews, movies and documentaries on exactly what methods they were subjected to and how they endured. In essence, our own missteps have created a cadre of highly experienced lecturers for Al Qaeda's own virtual SERE school for terrorists.

Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle need to stand up for American values and clearly specify that coercive interrogation using the waterboard is torture and, except for limited examples of training our service members and intelligence officers, it should be stopped completely and finally --oh, and this time without a Presidential signing statement reinterpreting the law.


Updates by SWJ Editors


Drowning in Questions - Newsweek Magazine

Voice of Experience: It's Torture -

Waterboarding Not Deemed Torture by US - Australian News

'Waterboarding' Not Deemed Torture - AFP

Expert Sheds Light on Waterboarding - Audio of NPR Interview with Malcolm Nance

Is Waterboarding Torture? - Audio of WNYC Interview with Malcolm Nance

I Know Waterboarding is Torture - Because I did it Myself - New York Daily News

Waterboarding is Torture - I Did It Myself - The Independent

Regarding Media - Los Angeles Times

On Torture, 2 Messages and a High Political Cost - New York Times

The Mukasey Test - Washington Times

A Crisis of Honor - The Daily Dish (The Atlantic)

Ace Interrogator: "Waterboarding is Torture... Period." - Passport (Foreign Policy)

Tortured Logic - New York Daily News

The Mukasey Test -- Washington Times

Target Mukasey - New York Post

Mukasey's Confirmation: A Vote about Torture -- Los Angeles Times

There's No Avoiding the Waterboarding Issue - Kansas City Star

Links with Comments

Malcolm Nance - Díºnedain of the Week - Stonekettle Station

Ex-Navy Instructor Promises to Hit Back If Attacked on Torture - TPM Muckraker

Waterboarding is Torture - Abu Muqawama

Waterboarding is Torture... Period - MountainRunner

Waterboarding is Torture... Period -- The Belmont Club

Politics - Tip-Toeing Around Torture - The AG (Time)

Tortured Answer - Slate

Target: Jamal al-Badawi - The Captain's Journal

We Legitimized Waterboarding - Swampland (Time)

On the Virtue of Waterboarding and Secret Prisons -- Blackfive

Waterboarding is Torture... Period - Mother Jones

Former Navy SEAL Instructor Offers Waterboarding Primer - TPM Muckraker

SERE Instructor: Waterboarding is Torture - Captain's Quarters

My Opinion is Fact, Period: On Rhetoric, Waterboarding, and Torture - tdaxp

10 Questions on Torture - tdaxp

Waterboarding is Torture - Outside the Beltway

Troubled Waters - Wizbang

Slow Motion Suffocation - Headline Junky

A Bluf that Needs to be Called, Part Two - Power Line

Waterboarding is Torture - Interact

Waterboarding the Senate - PrairiePundit

Defending Democracy Using of Khmer Rouge Techniques - The American Prospect

Barbaric - Total Information Awareness

SEAL on Waterboarding - Winds of Change

If You Read One Post About Waterboarding - The Plank (The New Republic)

McCain on Rudy on Torture. (Updated) - Comonweal

Waterboarding is Torture - The Raw Story

Waterboarding - Obsidian Wings

Meanwhile, Back in the Real World - Catholic and Enjoying It

Come for the Beaches, Stay for the Waterboarding -- MetaFilter

The Water Cooler - Inside Indiana Message Boards

Impressive Article on Waterboarding - Gun Broker Discussion Board

Waterboarding is Torture - Space Battles Discussion Board


Small Wars Council


SFAFan (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:33pm…

Money quote:

<i>"We did it with a certain amount of respect and justice," said John Gunther Dean, 81, who became a career Foreign Service officer and ambassador to Denmark.</i>

<i>The interrogators had standards that remain a source of pride and honor.</i>

<i>"During the many interrogations, I never laid hands on anyone," said George Frenkel, 87, of Kensington. "We extracted information in a battle of the wits. I'm proud to say I never compromised my humanity."</i>

If we didn't stoop to the level of the Nazis, why should we stoop to that of a bunch of criminals?

AX (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 9:53pm

Nuzzo, No Americans accept Al Qaida's propaganda, or any version of it. Rejecting the Authoritarian Conservative pro-torture pro-waterboarding propagand of You, Bush, Cheney, Thompson, Giuliani, Romney, and other Republicans, IS NOT equivalent to accepting Al Qaida's propaganda in any way. Besides, your comments were addressed to a SERE instructor, who certainly does not embrace ANY VERSION of Al Qaida propaganda whatsoever.

Jared Nuzzolillo (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 9:06pm

Ax, in almost every single section you quoted, I provided two possibilities -- that the article was a terrible mistake due to faulty logic or lack of due caution, or that it was to irresponsible to the point of being morally negligent. Not once did I claim that it was likely Mr Nance had set out to aid our enemies; in fact, I said that the opposite was most likely. The point was not that he was plotting to aid al Qaeda by writing this sort of article, but instead that in accusing the men and women of our intelligence agencies of gross evil, he may (accidentally) contribute to the growing movement in our nation that struggles to create a sense of moral equivalence between al Qaeda and our military. I am sick of the sloganeering and demagoguery surrounding this important issue.

The fact of the matter is this: when addressing Western audiences, al Qaeda is terribly fond of making the argument that they are David acting _only_ in self-defense, against a brutal, greedy and sadistic Goliath. Many among us (ie, Americans) accept this argument or some version of it, and any argument which supports it is potentially dangerous -- not necessarily immoral, but potentially dangerous nonetheless.

Beyond that, I think it is wrong to make a blanket assumption regarding the moral character of anyone, especially people who choose to serve and protect our nation.

As I already admitted in a response to Master of All Knowledge Protevi (now _that_ is a snide honorific, taken directly from Mr Protevi's writings), "[I was angry when writing my first post, and one can see in some places that] anger often leads one to abandon logical and reasonable argument for emotional appeals and pseudo-logic". But my arguments still stand, aside from their unfortunate or irresponsible initial delivery.

Former jihadists have admitted that they are served when Americans accuse their government of evil conduct. This is likely compounded when the accuser is a man of stature or part of that government. This does not render the accusations false, or even suggest that one should not make such accusations if they are in fact true. But it does imply that one should tread very carefully should they decide to make such an accusation, and that it should be done calmly and without resort to demagoguery.

Best wishes.

Jared Nuzzolillo (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 8:38pm

This is amusing in that supremely annoying, silly sort of way; like how a petulant child's courage and recalcitrance can be at once both endearing and terribly miserable.

You accuse me of faulty logic and deploy fallacious argument after fallacious argument in an attempt to convince others that my arguments are incorrect.

You accuse me of bluster, yet have submitted the most blustery, vacuous comments found in the entire thread. Do you even know the meaning of the word "bluster"?

Believe me, I am not trolling. I feel very strongly that it is of the utmost importance to have a _consistent_ moral basis upon which to discern the proper application of force and that our moral system does not restrain us in the defense of innocents beyond that which is necessary, according to reason and conscience.

But now that you mention it, I wonder if _you_ are trolling... In all seriousness, you have contributed nothing but name-calling, rants and faulty logic. If indeed you are a professional philosopher (and at this stage I would probably be wholly convinced otherwise if you hadn't also posted to your long-established blog), you should hope that your students do not stumble across this truly sad demonstration of the powers and procedures of "professional philosophy".

AX (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 8:34pm

Jared Nuzzo, in his very first comment, wrote:

"How sad. You (Malcom Nance of SERE) have the audacity to designate the brave men and women of our armed service -- who perform their duty by water-boarding men of admittedly unspeakable evil -- to be morally comparable to their enemies. You arguments are demagogic and specious."

Any basis for a cerebral, respectful discussion? Accusing a SERE instructor of aiding
Al Qaida - just because the SERE instructor won't go along with your Authoritarian, pro-torture philosophy?

Jared Nuzzo, continued in his very first comment:

Nuzzo: "This is at the least irresponsible and wrongheaded, or worse -- in accusing honorable men of profound evil -- morally negligent. You sir and your ilk are enabling the criminals of al Qaeda to employ the argument of moral justice -- bin Laden's favorite when addressing the West"

AGAIN, accusing the SERE instructor of aiding Al Qaida - just because he doesn't go along with your Conservative, Republican, Authoritarian support for torture. The SERE instructor put the uniform on, served his country - and you spit on him, accusing him of helping the enemy.

Nuzzo: "By comparing our brave men and women to the denizens of Hitler, Stalin, Saddam and Pol Pot, you invoke images of pure hell and sadism"

AGAIN, stooping to dishonesty and smearing the SERE instructor. The SERE instructor didn't compare our "brave" men and women to evil people, he compared our "cowardly" men and women, who are willing to carry out illegal and sadistic orders for expediency, and that is exactly 100% the truth - though you may not like it. The "brave", patriotic Americans are the men like Malcom Nance, who stand up for what is right.

Nuzzo: "In conclusion, your piece is interesting, but at worst vile and at best terribly misguided. I am almost entirely certain that in your case it is the latter. Sadly, that is not the case when our most dangerous enemies employ almost the exact same arguments"

AGAIN, accusing a patriotic American of collaborating with the enemy, just because he doesn't go along with your Authoritarian, Conservative, Republican views in favor of torture.

WHERE, is the basis for a cerebral discussion? CAN there be a basis for discussion, when you immediately accuse a patriot of helping the enemy, in typical Republican Authoritarian fashion?

Jeremy Jet and others, why do you think comments like those of Nuzzolillo are worth refuting? The position he defends is morally depraved and engaging with it lends it a respectability it doesn't deserve. We have on the one hand, Malcolm Nance, who is "former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California," a man of honor, integrity, and experience. On the other, we have Jared Nuzzolillo, who has the temerity to try to tell Nance, who actually knows what he's talking about, that his (Nuzzolillo's) speculations about torture have something to add to the discussion.

Look guys, Nuzzolillo is running an old internet troll scam on you all: play the tough guy and propose depraved and obnoxious positions at extraordinary length and blown up with half-understood jargon, but do it with false "civility," as with his "sir" and "Mr." and so on. Then when someone calls him on the depravity and obnoxiousness of his positions, he can always play the civility card, or when they refuse to treat him with a seriousness he doesn't deserve, he can play the wounded, misunderstood intellectual card.

The bottom line: dealing with Nuzzolillo and other torture apologists is a litmus test. If you can't recognize the empty shell of his bluster, the pathetic rationalizations of his masturbatory fantasies, the essential depravity of his writing, then shame on you all. It would be shameful to engage him as if he deserved anything other than the scorn of decent people, and I refuse to give him any more than that, and neither should you.

corkie30 (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 7:27pm

Thanks to everyone for making this one of the most cerebral internet discussions Ive participated in for a long time. Im equally impressed with the general level of intelligence and general level of civility on this web page.

AX, youre somewhat of an exception to this, but youre still ok. :)

AX (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 5:45pm

America is supposed to be the good guys. America does not torture. Torture is against the US Constitution, Torture is against the Bill of Rights, Torture is against Christianity, and Waterboarding is torture.

Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, Brownback - just like Mukasey and Cheney and Bush, have stained America's virtues.

America needs our honor and integrity RESTORED. Republicans are trying to drag America into an Authoritarian Hell, where people can be detained and tortured on orders from the Commander in Chief.

Waterboarding is controlled drowning - filling a helpless prisoner's lungs with water. It does cause defecation - as the guy was asking earlier - yes - and it can easily cause death.

Conservatives want to have it every which way. We don't torture - but waterboarding may or may not be torture. We don't torture - but guilty terrorists should be tortured. If waterboarding isn't torture, then it isn't illegal to say "George Bush should be waterboarded". If waterboarding isn't torture, then how long till some little kid waterboards his younger brother?

Conservatives are up to their necks in responsibility for promoting torture. Once torture is okay for "guilty" terrorists, pretty soon its okay for "guilty" criminals. After all, some ridiculous hypothetical flim-flam argument or excuse can be thrown together in support of it.

Conservatism = Big Brother Running Wild.

Where are the moral, ethical, decent, patriotic Conservative Americans willing to stand up for what is right. ?

Marcus Stanley (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 5:25pm

Nuzzolillo's argument is wrong even on its own terms (which are flawed as well). It is obviously possible for torture to be worse than death. Otherwise it would be pointless to use it on people like suicide bombers or even front-line soldiers, who are perfectly willing to die for their beliefs but cannot withstand torture. The whole point of torture is that it is a deeper insult to the human spirit and human dignity than simple death is.

There is therefore no logical contradiction at all between seeking the death of one's enemies and refusing to torture them. A decision that the evil of torture outweighs any possible good that might theoretically come from it is morally perfectly coherent and consistent.

There's a ton of other reasons Nuzzolillo's arguments are wrong -- scarily wrong -- but that's one of the obvious ones.

borodatiy (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 5:11pm

I have to admit that reading this article made me rethink a few things. I always considered waterboarding as something relatively painless... I guess I was wrong.

Texan (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 5:02pm


It's arguments like yours that really scare me the most. You said:

"At some point we are going to have to examine what is really transpiring in the shadows of our white hats. Holding the moral high ground and having fat war budgets is not going to get it done."

If all this country and its history amounts to for you is a vehicle for your own personal safety and prosperity, then this argument makes sense. If that is the case, then we should surely do whatever is necessary to protect ourselves, to the point of kidnapping, torturing, and killing anyone whom we perceive to be a threat.

If, however, it is our "white hats" that set us apart, if this idea of America as a "beacon of freedom" is to be more than an election year slogan, then the shadows must remain the refuge of our enemies - even at our own peril.

jeremy jet (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 5:00pm

Two points:

While I vehemently disagree with Jared Nuzzolillo's position(s), I must say that even if Mr Protevi is correct in his broad assertions, it would be far more effective for him to "decimate" the actual arguments, rather than asserting superior knowledge and expecting the readers to accept his judgments at face value. Very disappointing.

Secondly, as others attempted to point out, the most serious and disturbing flaw in Nuzzolillo's argument is the notion that "good" and "evil" can somehow be identified with precision, and that someone in the government would be empowered to make such a decision. That is not just wrong, but outrageously so, and if the government is allowed to torture people, the one absolutely CERTAIN result will be that, just like the death penalty, innocent people will suffer as a result.

Seek Wisdom (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:43pm

corkie30: Are you Mr. Nance? Or another poster? I am assuming Mr. Nance would know the answer. But perhaps no one ever asked this before.

I'm glad your question is only a joke. And no, of course, I am not suggesting that we have a "degradation scale" - just a question, given the effects of expecting death on Jews in Nazi Germany. And an interest in things psychological and the effects of trauma. Torture, of course, being one of the worst sorts of trauma.

Thanks, by the way, for your comment.

all I know for certain is that our enemies who readily employ torture seem to be hanging in with us in just about all theatres of conflict despite the mental energy being consumed on this matter. They are winning the IO war by all practical accounts using a torture mindset as a cornerstone of their message(s). At some point we are going to have to examine what is really transpiring in the shadows of our white hats. Holding the moral high ground and having fat war budgets is not going to get it done. This debate has no direct bearing on the development of nuclear weapons in Iran, the growing strength of the taliban in Afghanistan and the serious potential for real instability in Pakistan. This ongoing morality play is strategically stifling at best.

joehines (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 4:15pm

I'd like to go back to Jared Nuzzolillo's post in which he describes a scenario in which his 2-year old daughter is being held by pornographers.

If you watch many police procedural/forensic shows on TV (Law and Order, NCIS, Bones, The Unit, the CSI shows, etc.), you'll know that we are constantly under attack from terrorists. It's a major source of scripts. (I love these shows, but they are FANTASY). Mr. Nuzzolillo's scenario is similar to one on a recent L&O: SVU in which an attorney, played by Steven Weber, says that, as a cop, he prevented something similar by torturing the perp. If anybody has any credible evidence that anything like that has ever happened, I'd love to hear about it. (The irony is, based on blog posts of his that I've seen, Mr. Weber isn't likely to agree with his character's actions.)

Alan Dershowitz uses such a hypothetical situation as a teaching technique. He's written a book about it. (Don't remember the name.) My comment to Prof. Dershowitz is the same. Has this scenario ever happened and is even possible? It seems more a matter for Talmudic scholars than for serious security professionals.

I am not a fan of the war on terror. If terrorists really wanted to wreak havoc on the United States, a few simultaneous C4 attacks (or even one) on tanker cars carrying liquid chlorine in urban areas would more than do the trick. The Washington Post reported this just after 9/11. Frankly, I believe that the lack of terrorist attacks here since 9/11 has very little to do with the war on terror and much to do with the fact that Bin Laden accomplished everything he set out to do.

Franklin Roosevelt was so right when he said, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, blind unreasoning terror."

Seek Wisdom (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 4:09pm

While I'm thinking about this, if someone is experiencing "torture" as "part of training," I can't help but question whether anyone can truly understand the absolute sense of isolation and total helplessness induced by being detained for long periods in a situation where there is no end in sight, no context of training surrounding the experience, and one feels the utter despair, degradation, humiliation - that must be part of any detention and interrogation "for real."

MaltWit (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:29pm

The last time we had people in Western history explicitly argue that they had a legal and moral right to apply torture to extract information it was called the Spanish Inquisition.

This should give us pause. The worst aspects of Spanish Empire's religious intolerance - slavery, torture, forced conversion were themselves mirror image reflections of Moorish dynasties like the Almohads and Almovids.

We have no interest in becoming like the people we fight.

zvelf (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:29pm


Im only speculating since I have no personal experience with waterboarding someone else, so take this as you will, but the reason I cant see the standards of waterboarding an American trainee working the same way as waterboarding an enemy combatant for information is that the mindsets of the person doing the waterboarding would be completely different due to their goals being different. First, Id be surprised that American trainees are waterboarded to the point where theyd feel like their will is utterly broken or they are near traumatized. Wouldnt something approximating that be necessary to get an enemy combatant with significant knowledge (meaning youre not waterboarding Joe Schmoe) to talk? Im not an optimist when it comes to human behavior and if waterboarding is the worst kind of torture weve condoned and it doesnt get the job done in 5 minutes, I can easily see the torturer or his superior be tempted to "bend the rules" and just try another minute and then another and then another. This is the kind of thing Im talking about between theory and practice.

corkie30 (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:09pm

Seek Wisdom,

Thats a very interesting question. Unfortunately, I dont know the answer to it.

May I ask (only half jokingly) if you are implying that a "defecation" test be used to determine whether or not a technique should be considered excessively degrading physically and psychologically?

corkie30 (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:02pm


You obviously understand Jared Nuzzolillos argument. Therefore, my comment was not directed at you. Overall, I agree with your other comments. However;

1. As I stated in #1, you obviously understand why the killing argument was presented. You wrote,

"I personally believe that no one should intentionally kill another person outside of self-defense (wars can be considered self-defense)."

I assume that I could rephrase this and state that you believe it is ok for an agent of government to be entrusted to intentionally kill another person or wage war in certain circumstances.

2. You stated, in response to my question regarding whether you believed water boarding would be ok if it was equally controlled and equal in duration to the water boarding used to train Americans,

"No, I would not be okay with it as this is a theoretical that would prove impossible to realize in actual practice."

Wouldnt that be like saying that we should NOT allow the military to drop bombs because any constraints on the use of the bombs would be theoretical and would prove impossible to realize in actual practice.

The military and agencies of the government conduct training and operations which are highly regulated and carefully controlled every day. Believe me when I say that the government is really, really good with bureaucracy. I dont think its unrealistic at all to think that restrictions on water boarding would be strictly followed.

Otherwise, why should we bother having these conversations? If the military and government agencies are disregarding guidelines, then it doesnt matter what the guidelines state anyway.

If I misunderstood your point, then I apologize.

Seek Wisdom (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 2:56pm

I hope to have this question answered by you.

It is well known that the "fear of death" literally can cause a person to shit their pants. This was described, for example, related to Jews waiting for executed in the Shoah (see film series by that name).

My question: Does waterboarding, which can lead to death if not ended in time, and which leads to the sensation that one is going to die, result in defecation?

This may seem like a small question. But something like that happening might help folks understand the gravity - the physical and psychological degradation - of this process.

Thank you for a response.

Mr. Protevi,

You have used your so-called "professional status" as a talking point above. Note here that while I have watched this discussion thread with interest, I am NOT weighing in on either the merits of the original article or any of the points or counterpoints made in said thread.

However, if you are who you claim to be, you have no doubt pounced on one or more of your students for making the same mistake you did above. Your "professional status" is quite irrelevant and of absolutely no value whatsoever to the validity or the truth value of your argument(s), be they immediate inference, syllogism, defeater arguments, or whatever. "Professional" philosophers beg the question, have unstated axioms and presuppositions, make non sequitur arguments, etc., just like everyone else does. The truth value of an argument is no respecter of persons.

Referring to who you are as a "professional" is to commit the genetic fallacy, and again, no doubt you have flunked a student or two for making it. I certainly learned it in my philosophical studies. You're better off simply to avoid the indignation and hostilities and focus on the logic. Lay your case out for people to assess, your detractor can rebut, and so on. This is how good debate is done.

Jared Nuzzolillo (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 2:48pm


Thanks for providing a cogent argument. I actually enjoy responding to such posts.

I am not suggesting that circumstances could ever turn an evil act into a good one. Instead I am suggesting that many (most?) violent actions are amoral per se, and the surrounding context must be known to determine if they are immoral or moral. See my example regarding Paul and Angelina above*. Is it such a leap to presume that the same logic that applies to murder/killing, stealing/capturing, kidnapping/imprisonment, etc can apply to torture/enhanced interrogation? Maybe, but I cannot see why.


Jared Nuzzolillo (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 2:35pm

*zvelf, others*,

I am not interested in establishing and defending a basis for moral objectivity in this thread. It'd never end. That is why I mentioned that the argument as a whole is only valid should you accept the existence of moral objectivity as a premise.

Ah *Mr Protevi*,

You said, "I'm offended that your ability to ape philosophical discourse might deceive some here as to *your essential childishness*". That statement and its ilk are at worst ad hominem, at best demagoguery at its worst. The fact that you keep referring to such things as "essential childishness" and the "poverty of [my] intellect" demonstrates the truth of my claim. Had you spent half the words actually attacking my arguments that you've spent puffing up, attacking me, bragging about it, and then defending the whole silly adventure, we might be having a more civil -- and perhaps even somewhat useful -- discussion right now.

Your "pulling rank" _instead_ of addressing the arguments at hand is probably the clearest example of an argument from authority in actual use that I have ever seen. Maybe you can use this as a (surprisingly) realistic example in your next textbook :-p.

And I think you might just want to poll your colleagues (since polling is _always_ a good measure of truth ;-] ) and ask them if you have here provided an honorable and potent display of your "noble" tradition (which I agree _is_ noble, but found it ironic that you here demonstrated so little that is noble of it to date). Ask them first if they find my conversational argument valid, and then ask them if your conversational argument was valid [My prediction: somewhere near 0 to 0 ;-)].

I don't doubt that you are a perfectly intelligent and well-qualified philosopher. I _was_ just playing about the French Studies thing since we were having a discussion in part about moral squeamishness. In any case, it seems that you were enraged, and anger often leads one to abandon logical and reasonable argument for emotional appeals and pseudo-logic. You can see the same thing happening in my first post in a couple of places.


I did intend to stay away (and by that I mean cease commenting, since I am spending too much time on it and don't feel like working late again to make up for it), but I wouldn't want any of the readers to think that the arguments I made had been addressed in any serious manner by Mr Protevi. It would be a real shame for even a single reader, due to lack of focus, indigestion or faulty reasoning, to leave with the sense that if a philosopher says an argument is invalid, it must be so. Maybe I will abstain now but please do not take my absence for acceptance. Perhaps I will answer only in the evenings or on the weekend should he persist (though more likely it would light a fire under me to respond immediately :-/).

In any case, I don't think there is must more to say regarding my central position.

Happy Halloween to all, including Mr Protevi (seriously, I am sure you are a fine gentleman. I wish we had 'met' on other terms).

corkie30 (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 2:32pm


Thanks for your answer. Its interesting that you believe that, "moderate sleep deprivation, exposure to constant white noise, and using GABAergic drugs" SHOULD be used in interrogations.

Im not sure how I feel about exposing someone to constant white noise, etc. I suppose that some would include these methods in the torture category

*BTW, I hope everyone would admit that theres a difference between attempting to get a confession and attempting to generate useful intelligence.

corkie30 (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 2:24pm

John Protevi,

Do you have an opinion regarding the matter being debated? Or are you content to merely assert that Jared Nuzzolillo is a lousy philosopher?

mlaw230 (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:50pm

Jared Nuzzolillo: I am not sure who is technically correct as to Prof. Protevi's claims, but I am sure that a blanket dismissal of your arguments is of little value in the debate.

Substantively, I think that you are confusing "the lesser of evils" concept with morality. In a "Lesser of evils" argument literally anything can be justified- boiling a baby alive for example is always going to be less evil, and by your analysis therefore "moral" when compared to boiling two babies alive.

Morality suggests that there are some things that are not done, come what may. Morality suggest that these things are not done even if, or perhaps especially if, they are effective.

Torture is not forbidden because it isn't effective, it may not be effective for gathering intelligence but it is certainly effective in gaining obedience and obtaining confessions.

Torture is prohibited because it is poison, it will destroy the torturer as surely as the tortured. It will erode the systems of government and the souls of its people.

Worse you are proposing that the power to torture reside in one man, the torturer- or perhaps in one branch of government, the executive. This is a recipe for disaster, avoiding it is worth risking the annihilation of a City.

From long experience we have learned that whatever short term gain may be attained from the rack, the thumb screw, or the waterboard much greater things are sacrificed. We learned this lesson long ago, apparently we are about to relearn it.

freetobeyouandme (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:24pm


You ask for an interrogation method that is acceptable to me - the below information is an interesting read on how police interrogations / interviews are conducted.…

Here is the Wikipedia definition of interrogation:

Interrogation Techniques

There are multiple possible methods of interrogation including deception, torture, increasing suggestibility, and using mind-altering drugs.

[edit] Suggestibility

The methods used to increase suggestibility are moderate sleep deprivation, exposure to constant white noise, and using GABAergic drugs such as sodium amytal.

[edit] Reid

Main article: Reid Technique

One notable interrogation technique is the Reid technique. However, the Reid technique (which requires interrogators to watch the body language of suspects to detect deceit) has been criticized [1] for being too difficult to apply across cultures and is impracticable for many law enforcement officers.

[edit] Deception

Deception can form an important part of effective interrogation. In the U.S., there is no law or regulation that forbids the interrogator from lying, from making misleading statements or from implying that the interviewee has already been implicated in the crime by someone else.

[edit] Torture

Main article: Torture

Interrogations may involve torture, which is judged to be ineffective at producing accurate information[citation needed] but is effective in getting false confessions which might be useful for political reasons for the officer and organization in question by raising the number of successful investigations.

I believe that all methods short of torture should be used in interrogations.

Jared Nuzzolillo, your invocation of "ad hominem" and "argument from authority" makes my point for me: you've ingested some jargon from who knows where and spit it out without understanding it.

First of all, I didn't make an ad hominem, which in its fallacious use is to deny the truth of an assertion or the validity of an argument by appeal to the character of the speaker. Instead, I made a professional judgment as to the quality of your arguments. So it's not an "ad hominem" because nothing in my comment was addressed to your character; it was addressed to the poverty of your intellect as it is displayed here, which I am perfectly qualified to judge as a result of my professional status. This is in a sense an appeal to authority, but not all such appeals are fallacious. It's not a fallacy to accept the judgment of an expert; no one considers it fallacious to accept the judgment of an experienced physician as to the quality of the diagnoses of an medical student.

To test my judgment in this case, find 100 professional philosophers and point them to this thread. 50 will laugh at your pretense; 50 will be saddened by your ability to fool others with ill-understood jargon. I just happen to fall in the latter half.

zvelf (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:50pm

Mr. Nuzzolillo:

"As I said, those among you who do not believe in objective morals will not understand this argument. But if you do not, it would be foolish for you to even participate in the argument above that level. You can try to convince the sane (just playing ;-)) among us that morals are subjective, but there is literally no reason for you to argue against torture."

You keep saying this, but youre wrong. For example, one can believe in the subjectivity of morality and be a pragmatist about it - encouraging rules in society that protect individuals, but specifically so that you yourself are protected. You might not want to call this morality because youre trying to define objective morality as the only real morality, but then this just becomes a matter of semantics.

"But it really doesn't matter if the US is right and al qaeda is wrong for my abstract argument to be valid."

Im not dealing with your abstract argument but with the specific case at hand. Arguing on your grounds, whether the U.S. is right is paramount according to your "surrounding ethical context." But whether the U.S. is right is a pretty gray area. Was the U.S. right to invade Iraq, which was not really much of a threat? Is the U.S. right in every single action its taken, and if not, at what point is the U.S. wrong? If the Iraq War was wrong, then how does that affect the moral standing of torture performed by the U.S. on combatants in Iraq who may otherwise never have been there?

Again, all you are saying is torture is okay because its being done by us (because were the good guys), but its not okay when its done by them (because theyre the bad guys). And in your theater of the absurd, who gets to decide whos bad and whos good? Us. Dont you understand how ridiculous that sounds to any one who disagrees with you?


"Are some of you people making a deliberate attempt to not understand Nuzzolillos argument, or is his argument actually escaping you?"

Not escaping, but it is nonsensical. The internal logic is there, its the premises that are faulty.

"Is killing another human amoral? Are there ever justified circumstances (beyond self defense) for killing another human? Is it ok to empower our government officials to make this decision?"

Im one of the subjectivists that Nuzzolillo complains about, but without going into how subjective morality is quite possible, I personally believe that no one should intentionally kill another person outside of self-defense (wars can be considered self-defense). Police officers killing someone can be considered self-defense in that they are charged by society to protect all of us. Also, I dont agree with the death penalty.

"Why do some of you assume that SERE School type water boarding is conducted in a more controlled environment than water boarding during an actual interrogation? If training and actual water boarding were equally controlled and equal in duration would you be ok with it?"

After arguing that context matters (and I agree), are you actually implying that context doesnt matter in this instance? No, I would not be okay with it as this is a theoretical that would prove impossible to realize in actual practice.

"For others, what data exists to indicate that water boarding doesnt render reliable (or actionable) intelligence?"

I am no expert on this matter and have no opinion on it, but the pragmatic trade-off between our reputation/moral high-ground and what would likely be gained through actionable intelligence the vast majority of the time is not worth it in my opinion. Apparently, you agree.

"My fear is that some of you are against winning. I hope Im wrong."

I think you are very wrong on this. Wanting to win in a way different from Bush/Cheney is not being against winning, although "winning" is probably the wrong word since one is as likely to win a final victory in a war against terror as one is a war against drugs.

Finally, great points, freetobe. Mr. Nuzzolillo makes arguments that sound logical in theory but are exceedingly messy in practice.

corkie30 (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:46pm


"Where do you draw the line so that the actions you are doing do not turn you into the monster that you are trying to stop?"

I think youre asking the right question. A line needs to be drawn.

I think you would agree that we are currently debating whether or not water boarding should be within or without the line. The good news is that most of us are not debating whether or not more brutal interrogation tactics should be included within the line.

Personally, I believe that water boarding should be considered out of bounds. However, I respect that others may believe that water boarding is acceptable (even if only marginally).

It seems that you believe that water boarding should be restricted and should be considered torture. What else do you consider torture? Is it torture to tell someone that if they dont cooperate that they will spend the rest of their life in prison? Is it torture to keep someone awake for 16 hours straight? 18 hours straight? 20 hours straight? Is it torture to use an open hand slap?

I assume that you do approve of some level of interrogation. If so, then please provide me with one example of an interrogation technique which you could approve. Ideally, Id like to have an example of something which you believe to be acceptable, yet borderline.

Please dont think that Im going to disrespect your answers. Everyone cant possibly agree on this difficult issue.

freetobeyouandme (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:07pm

I have heard a lot of discussion over the objective or subjective nature of the situations whereby someone would be killed/tortured. And one of the arguments has been that even if the WRONG person (i.e. Innocent) was tortured/killed that is acceptable because the greater good is at stake.
(Ticking time bomb scenario / in process rape)

If the argument is that MORALLY we have the obligation to torture someone if there is expected harm then why would you put any limits on the torture? Would it be acceptable to rape and kill the persons family in front of them? How about using those power drills like the insurgents do in Iraq? Mutilation?

Where do you draw the line so that the actions you are doing do not turn you into the monster that you are trying to stop?

And I still haven't heard how you can know with any degree of certainty that the person you are torturing has ACTIONABLE information.

Do we really want to be the country that tortures anyone we "think" is a threat to us? There would need to be an entire industry created to facilitate the torture...has this administration already created that infrastructure with their Blackwaters et al?

corkie30 (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:07pm


I'm sorry. I should have checked. Thanks for your great reply.

Texan (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:57am

To Corkie30,

It's easy to confuse who wrote what here, so I understand your mistake, but it wasn't I that originally suggested the administration is guilty of war crimes. I was merely adding a bit of information to the question of what defines a POW. I'm not a lawyer and have very little knowledge in this area, so I pulled the definition from the Geneva Conventions and thought it over.

I have no idea how the four criteria I mentioned have been interpreted by governments and the international court over time, but I do think they should be revisited to address whether our present enemy should be granted the rights of POWs. Though we might not care how Iraqi insurgents are treated, what of countries where we do support insurgents and guerrillas fighting against dictatorial regimes (no, I'm not defining the US in such a way)? Would we not want those governments held accountable for their treatment of prisoners? Again, this is a new line of thought for me, but it's what seems right at first glance.

As for your questions about the death penalty being carried out, I personally think execution is a spineless, barbaric act. Since I'm sure no one wants to get into that argument, I will address your questions hypothetically and say that I do believe in the rule of law. Since America is a nation of laws, no one in the US should be above the law. If Rumsfeld were found guilty of crimes for which the punishment is death, is there an argument that he is any less responsible for his crimes than, say, the soldiers found guilty for abuses at Abu Ghraib?

And, yes, the same would go for detainees (Gitmo or elsewhere) with the very important caveat that I have serious concerns about where and how their cases are being "heard".

AX (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:37am

Republican Conservative Authoritarians are dying to torture people. They say, "we gotta torture, we gotta torture, oh please don't stand up for what's right".

You don't have logical discussions with barbarians. Republican Conservative Authoritarians want to see these torture techniques such as waterboarding used on Americans - and in their Hellish Authoritarian version of America you would have Liberals, Conservatives, Moderates - all getting sucked up and disappearing into their system, nobody would be safe and nobody would be free.

Americans do not torture, look it up - The Bill of Rights, the US Constitution, and the anti-torture laws America respects.

Notice it is only these sick, evil, Conservative Republicans who are WRONG about Torture. Liberals are RIGHT. Notice how much Liberals have been right - about Bush, about Iraq, and about Torture - while it is only some Conservative Republicans who are absolutely WRONG.

corkie30 (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:34am


"Republicans are bad people. They do indeed want to use waterboarding against patriotic Americans who don't go along with their Conservative Authoritarian views."

Your most recent post makes me suspect that you're actually a conservative that's trying to cast liberals in a bad light. Either way, youve lowered the level of discourse in this debate.

"Republicans want to use waterboarding against patriotic Americans... " I doubt youre going to find anyone here on either side of this debate to support that crazy statement.

Texan (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:20am

Mr. Nuzzilillo,

Leaving? Let's be clear: I didn't call you a condescending prick. I said your rhetoric makes you sound like a condescending prick. You actually reaffirmed that in your "Dear John" post:

"For those of among the readership who might take something away from what I have written, take only this: before you condemn the men and women in the difficult position of deciding when or when not to escalate force; before you decide once and for all that some category of action is always immoral and off limits; before you tie the hands of the government that is ostensibly here to protect us, be sure you have given this subject grave and careful thought, for it is of the utmost importance."

The condescension comes in the way you assume we haven't given the subject "grave and careful thought". The prickishness comes from your general tone.

<B>You didn't respond to my request to find out where your objective morals take their root - where these "moral facts" come from - so this is me asking again. </B>

Oh, and I'm curious why you were so selective in your truth telling of the Professor's background: You made light of the fact Mr. Proveti teaches in the Department of French Studies. You may have been "just playing", but you failed to mention that his PhD is in Philosophy from Loyola. Interesting choice.

corkie30 (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:11am


Your comment,

"What the torture apologists are missing is that US and Allied forces gathered valuable intelligence from POWs in WWII by simply being themselves"

has already been addressed several times. It wasn't missed.

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Before we paralyzed outselves with multiculturalism and political correctness summary execution was the customary fate of unlawful combatants, UNLESS their continued existance was deemed useful in some way.

These are non-state actors, brigands and pirates. They have no rights. No right to not be tortured, no right to live. Keep them alive if it suits our purpose, at our convenience, for what they are worth to us, and when their continued survival no longer serves our purpose, execute them.

We didn't used to be this squeamish.

Jared Nuzzolillo (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:48am

(Ok, so I will try to stay away... I just wanted to point out that Mr Protevi is from the Department of French Studies and teaches Women's
& Gender Studies... :-p Just playing Mr Protevi. That doesn't actually affect your argument. Here is a link to his "obscure" web site ... Seriously tho, I am just playing.)

Jared Nuzzolillo (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:42am

In any case, this thread has taken up far too much of my time. I have been called a "condescending prick", "weak", a "barbarian" and worse, all without the pathetic invective spewed from my most recent interlocutor, who has brought new meaning to the phrase "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" (note that his post amounted to nothing more than 'na na na na na poo poo head').

For those of among the readership who might take something away from what I have written, take only this: before you condemn the men and women in the difficult position of deciding when or when not to escalate force; before you decide once and for all that some category of action is always immoral and off limits; before you tie the hands of the government that is ostensibly here to protect us, be sure you have given this subject grave and careful thought, for it is of the utmost importance.


Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:38am

I see Mr Nuzzolillo beat me to the punch. Quickly written sir! Just out of curiosity, what are your moral grounds for morality? The Bible, Torah, Natural Law etc.


Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:34am

John Protevi

Nuzzolillo has offered a logical argument (granted his presuppositions) for why torture may be morally acceptable in some circumstances. I would really appreciate it if you as a "professional philosopher" would not engage in such an obvious logical fallacy as an argument from authority. I can think of many things which I consider morally abominable that were sanctioned by a particular philosopher/s (Marquis de Sade or Nietzsche anyone?).

To All,

While I have a visceral reaction to the idea of torturing another human being, I have the same reaction to the idea of killing another human being (an action I consider to be moral in some circumstances). I have to admit that his logic is convincing, granted the limiting factors and restrictions that he himself admits to (i.e. his references to situations where killing another human being is justifiable). Does anyone have an actual LOGICAL response to Nuzzilillo's argument. Note, this does not include legal or practical arguments (while they do have their place in other aspects of this debate). Thanks

Jared Nuzzolillo (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:34am

Mr John Protevi,

As a professional philosopher, I wonder if you have ever been introduced to an argument ad hominem? What about an argument from authority? I am sure you have. So you are purposefully engaging in fallacious demagoguery? Oh, ok. If you're comfortable with that, I'll let you wallow in it.

What strikes me as disturbing in this thread is the penchant for movie plot threats: LA being blown up, a woman being raped, etc. These are cheap ways to get an emotional response, rather than a logical one. There's continual references to "morals" but they are cloaked in spectacle and drama. I don't think you can evaluate the morality of this while you envision a Hollywood blockbuster.

What the torture apologists are missing is that US and Allied forces gathered valuable intelligence from POWs in WWII by simply being themselves -- representatives of a great democracy. Prisoners were treated fairly and as a result, lost their mistrust and became useful assets. You can look it up. If you don't think those prisoners were a greater threat than Al Queda, you have a warped understanding of history.

This is countered by what I can only see as a mass-entertainment-fueled lust for vengeance, as typified by 24 and those who think intel work is all about gunfights and races against time as explosions rip up the scenery.

I have no confidence that torture or mistreatment has yielded any actionable intelligence. If it had, where are the results? The endless chain of Al Queda number 3s? That's the payoff for trashing America's reputation? Five years into this and still no sign of Osama bin Forgotten. We have his driver, though.

I thank Mr Nance for taking up this argument.

Texan (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 2:52am


I am not a philosopher, so explain something: Where do your moral facts come from (the ones used to make your "objective moral conclusions")?

Harvard Anti-T… (not verified)

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:14am

Please join us in protest.

This is the end of the line. When a nominee for Attorney General does not concede that waterboarding is illegal explicitly in order to protect waterboarders from criminal liability, there is nothing left but shame and mourning.

We call upon others to join us in our symbolic protest at by posting in silent, drowning black.

AX (not verified)

Tue, 10/30/2007 - 10:52pm

Republicans: WRONG about Torture

Republicans are bad people. They do indeed want to use waterboarding against patriotic Americans who don't go along with their Conservative Authoritarian views.

I feel that the real reason why George Bush and his Conservative Authoritarian Republicans are promoting torture, is because torture makes monsters of those who carry it out - or apprehend prisoners with knowledge that they will be tortured.

George Bush is using torture to train monsters. An American who comes out of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines would probably not carry out orders to use force against Americans. BlackWater, and these other un-patriotic people - they would.

The interrogators and those who feed them victims by going on raids and bringing victims back to be tortured, have no souls. They don't have any rights. They don't have any morality. Even better for the Authoritarian Conservative Republicans, is that if enough Americans go along with their Torture, then Americans will have lost their soul. Stripped of our moral high ground, we have no defense against the Authoritarians. Torture is an assault on America's honor and integrity.

Waterboarding promoters are sick, evil, disgusting, un-patriotic people.