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Torturing Terrorists

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Post  Roi on Sat Jan 12, 2013 3:56 pm

After 9/11, America waged the War on Terror and has succeeded in killing (including planned assassinations with drones though that's another topic) and capturing hundreds of Islamic terrorists. The War against Iraq has brought in thousands more prisoners with potential knowledge of upcoming terror attacks.

Captives like Saddam Hussein and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the "CEO of Al Qaeda", had intimate knowledge of operations in Al Qaeda and of locations of terrorist cells around the world. Iraqi prisoners often have knowledge of terrorist attacks planned against American soldiers. Unfortunately, when a capture of this magnitude is publicized, terrorists quickly change locations, plans, and communication methods. Thus, any intelligence we can gather from such captures is only good for a short time. The question becomes, should we torture these captures to obtain the information while it's still good? What constitutes 'torture? In an attempt to prevent another 9/11, should we resort to the gruesome level of torture employed by the Saddam-led or Osama-led organizations themselves?

It's worth noting that most of the high value targets lately have been simply assassinated i.e. Bin Laden and Anwar Al-Awlaki (or whatever his successor's name was).

"Zero Dark Thirty" (which is showing now in Ayala Malls) has made the best picture list for the Oscars, Golden Globes and multiple others. Zero Dark Thirty is the military term for half an hour past midnight and the name of the operation that executed a kill/capture order on Osama Bin Laden.

The story, which is about the 11-year manhunt that lead to Osama bin Laden's death also made hit lists of a different sort. On the day of its Dec. 19 premiere, Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., sent aggrieved letters to the CIA and Sony Pictures objecting to the "clear implication" that intelligence derived from enhanced interrogations eventually led to bin Laden's capture. (

Furthermore, Protesters from groups like Amnesty International turned out at the movie's Washington, D.C., premiere to decry the film as a "Pentagon-sanctioned movie." An Academy voter has also urged fellow members not to cast a best picture vote for the film.

The film's first 45 minutes are brutal interrogation scenes depicting agents waterboarding, beating and caging a suspected terrorist. Where critics—film and political—differ is if "Zero Dark Thirty" buys into the CIA narrative that crucial intel came from those particular tactics.

The film depicts CIA officers repeatedly torturing detainees. The film then credits CIA detainees subjected to coercive interrogation techniques as providing critical lead information on the courier that led to the UBL compound. While this information is incorrect, it is consistent with public statements made by former Director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, Jose Rodriguez, and former CIA Director Michael Hayden. (Dec. 19, 2012, senators' letter to CIA acting director Michael Morell)

The fundamental problem people(such as the senators) have is that people who see Zero Dark Thirty will believe that the events it portrays are facts. The film therefore has the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner."

Was/Is it right to torture terrorists?


1. Timely information is needed to break up cells, capture wanted terrorists, and prevent thousands or millions of deaths; this information can be obtained in a more timely manner by administering torture. If we were able to stop the 9/11 attacks, thousands of lives would have been saved, along with billions of dollars in economic damage. Intelligence agents had information that Osama bin Laden was up to something, but they had nothing specific as to place and time. Today, the FBI and CIA are in the same situation. The next attack could involve a nuclear "dirty" bomb, an anthrax or smallpox bioweapons attack, or a poisonous chemical attack. The 9/11 attacks were bad, but the devastation of a mass destruction weapons attack could be tenfold. Intelligence information is only good for a short time. When Saddam was captured, Al Qaeda and Fedayeen cells scattered. Thus, any intelligence gained after a short initial period was outdated. Torture ensures we get the information on a timely basis. Of course torture is immoral, but we're talking about the lives of thousands, possibly even millions. Even if mass destruction weapons aren't involved, low-level attacks like a homicide bombing could cause the loss of many Americans lives. What is more important--protecting an evil, hateful terrorist from a little pain or saving scores of American lives? You may hear or read "expert" opinions in the media that torture isn't effective for getting information. But use the logical part of your brain. How long would you be able to withhold your secrets if you were deprived of several days sleep, drugged, had limbs broken, given electric shock, etc. There are many reasons NOT to torture someone, but efficacy isn't one of the them. There are far more humane ways to get information than the ones listed, but as we've seen, terrorist apologists, who whine about things like loud music pumped into the cell, will define anything short of country club conditions as "torture".

2. Justice. These specific terrorists deserve a little extra punishment for the death and misery they've caused. Mounir al-Motassadek, who is accused of being a member of a terrorist organization and being an accessory to the deaths of more than 3,000 people on 9/11, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a German court. He's lucky he wasn't convicted of killing 100,000 people; the court may have sentenced him to 20 years! The justice system has become somewhat of a joke in democratic societies. Even in America, where punishment is tougher than mainland Europe, the punishments aren't all that bad. When you contribute to the death of thousands, a punishment of painless death or life in prison just doesn't cut it. We're talking about people that will kill Americans no matter where they are or who they are, and they show no remorse for their actions. Maybe a little torture is fitting for someone like Saddam Hussein. Besides, terrorists aren't a recognized uniform of the geneva convention. So are their tactics.

3. Anything done to captives will still be nothing compared to what they do to Coalition soldiers when captured. i.e. the American POWs in Iraq, or WSJ journalist Daniel Pearl among other examples... it doesn't matter how well we treat prisoners, our soldiers will always be faced with brutal torture or death. Consider the terrorists held in Guantanamo Bay. The prison there holds some of the most evil, hate-filled, venom-spewing men in the world. Yet, they are fed well, given leisure/prayer time and some even say they had better treatment than in their own countries/terrorist groups. Media only focuses on the abuses that some soldiers do. Many in the media speculate we're torturing prisoners whenever we come up with useful information, despite the fact they have no proof (or their "proof" is the statements of the terrorists themselves). Media doesn't appreciate the sacrifice of CIA officers who going through the trouble and brutality of torture so they can save lives.


1. Torture is not effective. It can lead to made-up information as prisoners say anything to stop the pain. People in extreme pain will say anything to stop the pain, whether its true or not. People will confess to crimes they haven't committed and throw out any information that pops in their heads in order to stop the torture. When we have false information, we're led on wide goose chases that waste time and expend resources. Torturing every terrorist you find doesn't mean you find all the terrorist cells. Nobody you capture probably even knows information about other cells. Some can just be grunts who believe that their cause frees their people and don't even know the group's plots. There are also countless cases of innocent people who were tortured by the CIA.

2. Other non-torture methods are better. There are plenty of other methods for extracting good information that don't require physical torture. Mind control drugs, sleep deprivation, good cop-bad cop techniques, and verbal intimidation are only a few. Not only are these methods more humane, but they also can yield better information. We should try our best to stay on the path that creates humane tactics and technologies e.g. aerial surveillance compared to torture which isn't just impractical... it's very difficult and stressful for interrogators. It can even lead people to commit mindless abuse/atrocities which will inevitably be legal since it "protects people". An important subtextual development is how these techniques (enhanced interrogation) are gradually being phased out, which is true given the closure of black list sites and the outlaw of enhanced torture techniques.

3. It lowers us from the moral high ground to the level of the terrorist. We have seen the brutality and utter lack of regard for human life exhibited by the kidnappers of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl, the Saddam Hussein regime, and Osama bin Laden. The things that put us above these monsters are our high value we put on human rights and our Bill of Rights freedoms. We shouldn't lower our moral ideals to the point where we're no better than the terrorists. When we lose the moral high ground, they can actually be the ones who have it now. Leads to number 4.

4. It creates sympathy for people who would otherwise be scorned and shamed. Somehow we've come to a point in history where much of the world calls terrorists who bomb school buses with nail-packed bombs "freedom fighters". Terrorism doesn't work unless you have effective public relations that spin the actions to that of some kind of oppressed underdog, which is exactly what has happened. When you torture prisoners, you blur the distinction between good and evil, right and wrong. Any acts of human brutality inevitably creates sympathy for monsters who would otherwise be scorned or forgotten.

"And most importantly, it serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us, meaning more terrorists willing to do worse tactics." -John McCain

5. In addition to more aggressive attacks on civilians etc., terrorists might also resort to much more brutal forms of torture now for revenge. Imagine you could go back in time and while fighting in a war, you were about to be captured by the Vietcong, the Taliban, or the Saddam Hussein regime. Would you contemplate killing yourself or fighting to the death rather than subject yourself to the unbearable torture that awaits you? If we get a reputation for torturing prisoners, enemies may be less willing to surrender and there's a larger chance that terrorists might choose death over capture more frequently. When enemies fight to the death, more lives are lost since their suicidal tactics may cause further casualties to our brave soldiers and eliminating potential information sources since all the terrorists in the battle are killed. And while we may get little information from a captured enemy combatant, we will get no information from a dead enemy combatant.

6. It leads to a weakening of international law, which could lead to more retaliation from enemies. There are some enemies of ours out there that still have some regard for human life and they wouldn't want to see their prisoners tortured. However, if we make torture a policy, other nations may respond in kind. Thus, those countries that originally may have followed Geneva laws regarding prisoners may decide to resort to torture themselves. It could also widen anti-American sentiment if word of the torture got out. Muslims, Europeans, and others are increasingly anti-American in their views. They look for anything to reinforce their beliefs that Americans are evil, imperialistic, oppressive, etc. Even mild indiscretions like showing an Afghan prisoner with a hood over his head has brought worldwide condemnation. We saw the overblown outrage when a few soldiers did some humiliating things to Iraqi prisoners. Can you imagine the outcry if we actually made torture a policy?



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