Town Square

Post a New Topic

McNerney Voted to Ban Waterboarding...Which We Now Know Was Instrumental in Capturing OBL

Original post made by Dana on May 3, 2011

McNerney...You owe us an apology. Your leftist ideology weakens our country. If this waterboarding ban had been in effect before we waterboarded KSM, Osama Bin Laden would likely still be alive and other terror plots may have been successful.

You voted in favor of H.R. 2082 which in effect bans the use of waterboarding.

Would you like to just forget your vote and hope your constituents forget as well?
I haven't is a record of your vote on this issue...

>>> Web Link

For more info >>> Web Link

Your constituents will be waiting for your apology.

Comments (59)

Posted by Kelley, a resident of Canyon Meadows
on May 3, 2011 at 7:52 pm

McNerney also voted to cut military spending resulting in broken equipment and helicopter crashes!!

Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 3, 2011 at 8:06 pm

What do you mean we "know" that waterboarding gave evidence instrumental in getting Osama Bin Laden? All I have heard is a suggestion by former vice-President Cheny that waterboarding might have yielded critical information. If you have a link to a news story declaring that it is definitely known that waterboarding led to Bin Laden then please post a link.

Posted by John, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 3, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Dana, are you saying you are in favor of a torture policy? Do you sanctify this treatment for all prisoners as a US policy, it that what you want us to be voting for?

Posted by Andrew, a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on May 3, 2011 at 8:27 pm

I think this says it all:

"Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic."

From Web Link

Posted by Dana, a resident of Amador Estates
on May 3, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Hey Andrew,
Nice try...quoting an opinion from a lefty blogger.

I prefer my source...Democrat and CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Web Link

Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 3, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Dana, I read the article that you linked, but Panetta based on his quotes in this particular article he doesn't sound like he's coming for or against waterboarding. He says a number of techniques including waterboarding were used, but at the same time he says it is an "open question" whether the same information could have been obtained through other methods. Sounds like he's saying "I dunno" to me.

Posted by Andrew, a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on May 3, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Hey Dana,

While I agree getting Panetta to go on the record as to exactly how the info was obtained would be preferred, I was not quoting an opinion from a lefty blogger, but rather an Associated Press article that was linked to from Andrew Sullivan's blog. Now that quote is from a "former official" so it's not exactly ironclad and there's certainly room to doubt its accuracy. That said, I think it's pretty fair to say that nobody except for a few people know the truth about this, so the certainty of your headline is just as weak a statement as any other. The only thing you can say about this story with 100% confidence is that we don't know what happened.

Posted by Dana, a resident of Amador Estates
on May 3, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Andrew, Sam and other doubters...

For your viewing pleasure... Web Link

Posted by John, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 3, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Here we are now getting our news from Dana and Fox news! A day after one of the greatest victories for our military since WWII and all the right can talk about is how THEIR leader (Bush) was responsible, that illegal torture was responsible for the success, that the current Commander in Chief was a minor player in this success.

The right has sunk to a new low of morality- seems to me like a reaction to not wanting President Obama to have success.

Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 3, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Dana, please. I took a quick look at your link but stopped when I saw that your evidence was based on an interview with Donald Rumsfeld. I consider myself open-minded and respect many conservatives, but I have no respect for Donald Rumsfeld. If he were a man of honor, he would have resigned when the scandal about Abu Ghraib broke. Moreover, he showed himself to be inflexible and frequently out-of-touch with events. This is the man who eight retired admirals and generals called to resign in 2006 for abysmal" military planning and lack of strategic competence. I have no interest in listening to any of his delusional, self-serving testimony.

Again, I'm open to any evidence that you might have about the efficacy of waterboarding in relation to the hunt for Bin Laden. But you're going to find a better source to back up your argument than Donald Rumsfeld.

Posted by Andrew, a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on May 3, 2011 at 10:33 pm


I don't know. Just watched the clip and while I heard Rumsfeld say that waterboarding produced evidence about Al Qaeda, I didn't find him terribly specific (and Rumsfeld is just as suspect as any other source here, if not more so).

According to one lefty blogger who really is a lefty: Web Link

"We can conclude that either KSM shielded the courier's identity entirely until close to 2007, or he told his interrogators that there was a courier who might be protecting bin Laden early in his detention but they were never able to force him to give the courier's true name or his location, at least not until three or four years after the waterboarding of KSM ended. That's either a sign of the rank incompetence of KSM's interrogators (that is, that they missed the significance of a courier protecting OBL), or a sign he was able to withstand whatever treatment they used with him."

So I'll grant you that it's possible that torture produced the evidence that a courier existed. But based on the available data out there, that's about it.

To paraphrase another "lefty blogger": It's a horrifying fact that someone, seeking to score some ownership of this triumph, would look to torture as their contribution.

Nighty night all.

Posted by an american, a resident of Downtown
on May 3, 2011 at 11:03 pm

From the different accounts I've read, waterboarding was not the key. It was listening in on the countless phone calls and the details derived from these actions.

Posted by Night Owl, a resident of Birdland
on May 3, 2011 at 11:03 pm

It is important to keep in mind that waterboarding was developed in Asia as a means to procure false confessions. Anyone subjected to waterboarding will say whatever he/she thinks the torturer wants to be said. Communist China developed the torture technique to get innocent prisoners to confess to 'crimes against the state'. As such, the technique is notoriously unreliable as a means of eliciting truthful information from the victim. Waterboarding was not ever used to procure truth from its victims, only false confessions. See Orwell's 1984 for a chilling (fictional) account of various torture devices used to make political prisoners confess to crimes they did not commit. For something even more real, see also Elaine Scarry's extraordinary book, Body in Pain, which details in excruciating detail what torture does to a victim.

I want my kids growing up to know that torture is a technique used by the 'bad guys' - the Stalinists, and Maoists, and Nazis, and Viet Cong, and Allende-ists. I do not want my kids thinking that the nation they belong to and claim as their own engages in such inhumanity. Of course, I want my kids to live in a society free of racism, too. Which only is to state that there is a lot of ignorance and hatred out there that must be overcome.

Posted by SteveP, a resident of Parkside
on May 4, 2011 at 10:17 am

SteveP is a registered user.

Night owl-every post you make brings up race. Why are so pre-occupied with race? Chip on your shoulder or some other agenda? Ever consider people based on their individual merits or is it always black or white for you? How can we ever hope to overcome racial divisiveness with your approach?

Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 4, 2011 at 10:31 am

Here's an article in the New York Times about the waterboarding issue (Web Link):

"But a closer look at prisoner interrogations suggests that the harsh techniques played a small role at most in identifying Bin Laden's trusted courier and exposing his hide-out. One detainee who apparently was subjected to some tough treatment provided a crucial description of the courier, according to current and former officials briefed on the interrogations. But two prisoners who underwent some of the harshest treatment — including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times — repeatedly misled their interrogators about the courier's identity."

"Glenn L. Carle, a retired C.I.A. officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002, said in a phone interview Tuesday, that coercive techniques "didn't provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information." He said that while some of his colleagues defended the measures, "everyone was deeply concerned and most felt it was un-American and did not work."

Posted by Dana, a resident of Amador Estates
on May 4, 2011 at 10:47 am

Ohhh pleeease...
So you are referencing the most leftist newspaper in America (yes, even more to the left of the Pleasanton Weekly, if that is possible) and believe it is going to say it has been wrong all along?

Posted by White Collared UNemployed, a resident of Parkside
on May 4, 2011 at 11:22 am

I think Nightie-Night Nite Owl and Sammy boy have a problem with being patriotic to are great US of A.

Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 4, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Dana, yes I know how you feel about the NYT. But this isn't an op-ed piece. And the person quoted in the article, Glenn L. Carle, is a retired CIA officer, not a NYT employee.

Posted by White Collared UNemployed, a resident of Parkside
on May 4, 2011 at 1:41 pm


All lefty newspapers take squotes out of context. Not TO BE trusted. Maybe thats your problem. Get your head out of the socialistic propaganda. And dont bother CALLING me names.

Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Still waiting for an intelligent response.....

Posted by War Warrior , a resident of Birdland
on May 4, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Sam, its like this. Torture is bad, but loosing is worse. We have to show the world and that guy Al Quida we're as bad as he is and even worse. You should watch 24 Hours. It will take you from liberal fantasy land into the real world.

Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 4, 2011 at 6:31 pm

"You should watch 24 Hours. It will take you from liberal fantasy land into the real world."

I should watch the fictional TV action drama show "24 Hours" starring Kiefer Sutherland because it will take me away from fantasy land and into the "real world"?


Posted by Arroyo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 4, 2011 at 7:29 pm

I truly believe there are people on this board who would deny that waterboarding assisted in gaining the info required, even if Mr. Obama acknowledged it in a speech or press conference.

I will give Mr. Obama credit for the courage in taking the political gamble to get OBL in the manner undertaken. A failed attempt with loss of Navy Seals lives would have sent him the way of Jimmy Carter.

Posted by War Warrior, a resident of Birdland
on May 4, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Sam sometimes the real is unreal and the fiction is realer than the real. Welcome to the 20th century. Lots of t.v. shows are realer then life. Like Arroyo said, even the guy you kool aid kids voted into the "White" House gave a speech saying waterboarding was needed. Hello? Thanks for not really responding to what I said erlier.

Posted by Liberty FOR All, a resident of Happy Valley
on May 5, 2011 at 2:28 am

Last time I looked there weren't anything in the USS Constitution about stopped torture. Other countries do it. When we went into Iran they cut off thier heads and burned them from bridges. WE tortured Al Quaida and it saved our lives. The stronger survives. DONT TREAD ON THE US Of A.

Posted by Reality Speaks, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 5, 2011 at 9:25 am

Stay strong Liberty and War. We're not pussy footing around. All the leftie commie rags like New YOrk (Moscow) Times and Los Angeles (Havana) Times saying waterbording didn't do the trick. They have agendas. Point is they MIGHT Have done a trick. We need to show the whole world that we're the worst guy out there. I don't want the Frenchies or the Egyptions think they can just run planes into our buildings wheneveer they want.

Posted by War Warrior, a resident of Birdland
on May 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Hi Sam

Still waiting for youre intelligent response. Whats the matter. Cat caught you tongue? :)

Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on May 5, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Thought experiment:

Your child is kidnapped. The kidnapper is caught but your child is nowhere to be found. The kidnapper has said that the child is alive, but will die if not found within a few hours.

You have a choice: 1. You can try a interrogate the kidnapper and see if he gives in. 2. You can waterboard him/her and see if he cracks 3. you can torture and see if that does the trick.

I have put this same question to numerous parents, you can guess what their responses were.

I would ask anyone to look a child (or anyone you are close to) and tell them that you would not go through heaven and earth to ensure their safe return.

There are people roaming this earth right now that would not hesitate for one moment to massacre as many people as they can. We should use any and all means at our disposal in finding these people, and neutralizing them.

Common sense.

Posted by War Warrior, a resident of Birdland
on May 5, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Your so right Dan. Your analysis is engenius. Why stop at torture. If theres' a killer standing in a rooom with 1000 people, I say kill all 1000 because if we dont the killer might kill my kid. Thats why its best if we just nuke Pakistan and Iran. Because their harbering known terrorists and bombing is on the table. I think Vick Cheney said something like that. Just kill all of them over there and then our kids would be perfectly safe. I no most parents would agree with us. Thats why i never liked court rooms accept on T.v. The laws only protect the perpetators, not the kids. That makes us all suffer for the greatest goods. Its time to show the world whose boss.

Posted by chuck, a resident of Rosewood
on May 5, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Dan is right I'd go through heaven and earth for my kids. Even if that means torturing others peoples kids? You bet. Because if we dont' thier likely to grow up to be terrorists to. Prsident Bush knew this and thats why he didnnot got to Ground Zero. DThere is still a lot of torturing to be done. Obamby is a pussy footer. All he does was say YES. Anybody could do that. We need to thank the brave militias and torturess.

Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm

"War Warrior" said: "Hi Sam. Still waiting for youre intelligent response. Whats the matter. Cat caught you tongue? :)"

I said that I was still waiting. BTW, it's "your", not "youre" or "you're".

Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 5, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Dan said:"Thought experiment:..."

OK, Dan, good point. I think that a better example, though, is suppose a terrorist knows where a nuclear bomb is hidden in a major American city and the clock is ticking. Do you use relatively "gentle" interrogation techniques or do you resort to torture? Sound good?

Here's my take: For a scenario of this magnitude with the clock ticking, anything goes. I would approve anything and everything that would get him to talk without any moral qualms whatsoever.

But this is an extreme case, isn't it? Would you resort to torture to get anyone associated with a terrorist to talk under any circumstances? How about Bin Laden's wife, the one who was shot in the leg? Do you think the SEALs should have taken her back to base and waterboarded and tortured her to see how much information they could get out of her? How about Bin Laden's 12-year old daughter, the one who was also at the compound? She probably know something based on her years of living at the same compound. Should she have been nabbed and waterboarded and tortured as well? If you were the one to set the rules, under precisely what circumstances and conditions would you allow or deny the use of torture to extract information?

Posted by War Warrior, a resident of Birdland
on May 6, 2011 at 1:43 am

Sam thanks for the spelling tip. Your right about the terrorists and that every thing goes. Problem that we dont know WHEN. Are rules off the tables! Secratary Rice said today Al Qaida is going after trains. BOMBING tracks. He must be stopped. We stopped another Al Capone. We can stop Al Q 2. I say torture his kids and wifes. Their in bed with a terrorist for crying out loud. And apples dont fall very far from apple trees. Torture the kids to spare the world. Welcome abroad.

Theirs another way to looking at it. Thier was the NAZIS in Germeny and Pathet Maoists in Laotia. We were beaten back by the Caanadians in the Olympics last year. We cant afforde to be beaten by the Pathet Maoists and Al Q. We have to be numero uno. Show us the world we mean business. The trains might be bombed anyday now.

Posted by Call Me Nuts, a resident of Birdland
on May 6, 2011 at 2:46 am

If I'm in charge over the SUSPECTED terrorist, and it involves my child, I step down. I wouldn't trust my heated passions not to screw up the questioning. I'd hand over authority to my very best questioner, and then I'd leave the room and hope for the best.

For me, no torturing permitted under any circumstances. No exceptions, ever. It violates the Geneva Convention which expresses a sophisticated world consensus that reacted morally against the kinds of heinous practice conducted by inhumane regimes; and besides agreeing with the view, I think the consensus offers a glimmer of hope for a rational world order some day in the future (probably, admittedly, well after I've checked out of here).

We have rules and laws and treaties for good reason. We only can legitimate violating them if we can offer good reasons. I don't think the Bush administration offered good reasons at all. Instead of owning up honestly to the practice in all its cruelty, they defined it as enhanced interrogation tactics. To hear Rumsfeld and Woo talk about it made me nauseous and wanting desperately to live in another country. (Hold the comments everyone ... I'm working on it, believe me, as I do hope to be buried on foreign soil. Go ahead, cast the barbs. Twice in the past year I've almost closed on a house overseas. Hold your applause.)

American exceptionalism is no excuse. I'm surprised Sam would so readily consent to such barbarism ... but maybe not. Very disappointed though. We have laws in this country against convicting and punishing and physically hurting someone before they have had a trial. I realize some (not all) terrorists are foreigners. (See the infamous case of the citizen -- hispanic sounding name but he wasn't hispanic -- we held incommunicado for years, not charging him, shifting him from prison to prison on American soil. He was eventually found guilty on a trivial non-terrorist charge, but he couldn't appreciate the verdict because conditions of his internment had rendered him a human vegetable.) But the laws we have in this country to protect citizens are meant to protect citizens as human beings. The laws are grounded in a moral view that distinguishes us from the bad guys. To forfeit that view for the sake of expediency is very unfortunate and, in my judgment, reflects how we've become intellectually sloppy in our thought. The poorly reasoned 'what if' scenario offered by Dan, and the agreement with it by big head scientist Sam, are cases in point. We don't accept that rationale when fathers seek to kill a rapist of their child, though we all I think -- no, reading these posts I can't say 'all', but 'some of us' I think can sympathize and empathize with the father. Yet the law and the moral sentiment upon which it is founded must prevail over the fathers' passion. So too with our well-founded, historically entrenched prohibitions against torture of persons, under any circumstances.

Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 6, 2011 at 6:22 am

So, "Call me Nuts", you would refrain from using every available option, including torture, to extract information from a terrorist even if he knew the location of a nuclear bomb in a major American city (and he's not even saying which one)? We're talking about, say, over 100,000 lives here. Imagine every man, woman, and child in the city of Pleasanton (population around 60,000?) being killed. You would still refrain from using every conceivable interrogation technique even in this case? You would weigh the "rights" of this one very guilty terrorist over the lives of every man, woman, and child - including every baby - in Pleasanton?

Posted by Tennessee Jed, a resident of Jensen Tract
on May 6, 2011 at 8:14 am

Sam's got it exactly right!

Posted by Call Me Nuts, a resident of Birdland
on May 6, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Yep. I would not resort to torture under any circumstance. What exacty are YOUR criteria, Sam? 100,000 lives? 50,000? 5? 1? A parcel of property? The need to keep political opponents out of the public arena? I've stated where my line in the sand is drawn. My line stops with the rights of the individual person. I'm not sure where your line begins or ends.

We can look at how torture has been applied throughout history. Usually, it is not applied to gain access to truth but rather to elicit a false confession. Any and all info extracted from the terrorized torture victim is likely to be so unreliable as truly to make the idea of beating a ticking clock to save a populace a bit absurd. Face it, the Jeds and Clems and Steves and WWs and Chucks and other hicks above just relish the idea of inflicting torture in order to punish our perceived enemies. I assume you can agree my list of names above are not standing up for some kind of higher principle. They'd be first in line to help nazis or viet cong or stalinists or peronists et al inflict their terror upon suspected victims were the conditions favorable for them to do so.

But what about you, Sam? Is torture acceptable whenever it 'might' save a human life? Save a soon to be aborted fetus? No? How about two aborted fetuses? How about 'maybe' saving a life? And just how far might you be willing to go? Cut off private parts of victim? Cut off private parts of his daughter while he watches? You do realize don't you that virtually all countries that have resorted to torture have refused to impose any ceiling on brutality. I would imagine this includes the U.S. under Bush (and perhaps) Obama admins. Many CIA and other military interrogators have stated unequivocably that torture under Bush did not elicit one single thread of reliable information. But you seem willing to go down that road nevertheless. I'd like to know whether you'd impose any ceiling, any limits, as you attempt to 'save the nation' from criminals/terrorists? As you must realize, it would take a pretty convincing set of reasoned limits to override my suspicions and distrust of torture, torturers, and their true motives.

Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on May 6, 2011 at 9:12 pm

War warrior,

Are you serious? I have no patience for your type of silliness.


I am blown away with your responses. I'll skip over the strawman arguments regarding fetuses.

I'm wondering if you have any kids? If you do, here is another thought experiment for you and that genius, War warrior: Look your kids in the eye and say "I will not go through heaven and earth for you because I respect the life of the person who put yours at risk."

I am surprised that there really ARE people who would not move heaven and earth to find their children. Apparently our town has at least 2.



Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on May 6, 2011 at 9:22 pm


My point maybe was a little too nuanced.

I was making the case for enhanced interrogation and/or torture, period. Obviously there should be judgement when making the decision to use these techniques, but to rule them out is ludicrous.

Is there a need to use these techniques on every situation you indicated? I doubt it, but I'm not the person who has the information so I don't know.

Again...I would go though heaven and earth to protect my family...the perpetrator deserves NOTHING.


Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 6, 2011 at 10:40 pm

"Call Me Nuts" said "Yep. I would not resort to torture under any circumstance. What exacty are YOUR criteria, Sam? 100,000 lives? 50,000? 5? 1? A parcel of property? The need to keep political opponents out of the public arena? I've stated where my line in the sand is drawn. My line stops with the rights of the individual person. I'm not sure where your line begins or ends."

You may be surprised to hear this, but I'm not sure either. But the fact that I have difficulty drawing a clear line between circumstances where torture is and is not acceptable does not undermine my position. There are many questions in life where it is difficult to precisely draw a dividing line. For example, when does life begin? I'm going to guess that you are a "pro-choice" advocate. If so, does the fact that you have no clear, hard dividing line or date between when abortion is and is not acceptable disturb you? The "pro-lifers" can claim that their dividing line is quite clear: Life begins at conception. Period. Does the fact that "pro-choicers" have no similar sharp dividing line undermine their position? I'm sure that you can think of many other cases in life where there is no sharp dividing line. How about questions about medical care near one's end-of-life? When to pull the plug? When to let go of someone in a deep coma?

I have to say that I'm as surprised at your position as you are at mine. Imagine you have a terrorist in your custody before you. He knows the location of a nuclear bomb in a major city. It's programmed to explode in a few hours BUT he can tell you its location and how to disarm it. He refuses. 100,000 people will die. And you decline to use every possible option (including torture) to get him to talk??? You surprise me. Remember, in this scenario I raised the man before you is not innocent. His aim is to commit mass murder on the grandest of scales. And he can immediately end any further interrogation and any discomfort to himself by doing one simple and morally correct thing: Tell you the location of the bomb. Is that so hard? You are not asking him to renounce his religion, betray his mother or father, or commit some monstrous evil. Quite the opposite! You are asking him to help save 100,000 lives. He refuses. He wants them to die.

Perhaps you still cling to your original views after pondering this over some more, but I have to tell you that you are nearly alone in your views. BTW, you raised some points about the efficacy of torture in your post. Note, however, that I have made no statements claiming that I believe that torture is a reliable or efficient means of extracting truthful information. I've simply said that I would be willing to try any and all options, including torture.

Posted by Call Me Nuts, a resident of Birdland
on May 6, 2011 at 11:29 pm

I think you are quite wrong about me being alone in my conviction, Sam. I think most of the civilized world agrees with me. I'm more than half-serious when I suggest maybe you've been hanging on these PW sites a bit too much. Most of the posters on PW Forum would not sign nor abide by the Geneva Convention. When you say I am a minority of one, I think you may inadvertantly be reflecting the biases of a community of posters who, by and large, I think you'll agree, aren't really readers. They have opinions, but rarely are books cited, or philosophical positions staked out; rather, its my opinion vs. your opinion without much substance.

Yes, I am surprised, almost astonished, that you'd seem to be siding with Dan, WW and so many other of the yokels who hang out on these sites. Just to be clear. I am a parent. I would attempt to move heaven and earth to protect my family. But that precludes murdering someone in cold blood, and it precludes torture. I understand the sentiment. But that's why we have laws and treaties that advance reason and right over sentiment.

I don't want to trivialize your argument. But you don't seem to offer much beyond the same scenario you presented a few posts ago. When I hear your argument, which isn't far from Dan's and the others, I think of Tony Soprano, or Scarface, or the Godfather. What is so interesting about the Sicilian-mafia movies (and nonfictional accounts as well) is their uncompromising willingness to protect their families. They will kill, maim, torture, all for the sake of their families. This is a deeply rooted human sentiment; it also is a sentiment that forms a cornerstone of fascist ideology. Surely you don't deny that most of the right-wingers on these posts are fascists, voicing fascist sentiments, under the protections of democracy? Were we not in 21st century America, say instead Apartheid S. Africa, they'd be tripping all over themselves volunteering to torture innocents or intimidate the frail and weak. They can barely contain themselves in their glee at the prospects of America becoming a torturing nation.

Forgive my analogy; I suspect you will chafe at it. I am not calling you a fascist. But the arguement you are advancing is the very argument Nazis used to rationalize their heinous practices; so too South Africans felt they had to torture ANC members in order to protect their families, to protect their (white) citizenry.

The hallmark of modern liberal thought -- Mill, Rawls, Habermas -- at its very best, takes us beyond family or state as 'highest' principle. Rather, it is the sanctity of the individual that 'trumps' family or 'the collective'. We ALL have sentiments, like the American fascist-mafia Tony Soprano, to do whatever it takes to protect one's family; but we have come to realize that there are higher principles. There can be no justification for intentionally harming a SUSPECTED terrorist. And after he's found guilty, we have laws -- good laws -- against cruel and unusual punishment. In the movies, of course, the bad guy is the bad guy and the vigilantes -- whether Batman or Arnold S or Clint Eastwood -- are always right and don't need to obey the law. In real life, however, we MUST abide by the law: arrest for suspicion, read rights, respect right of habeus corpus, grand jury, defense attorneys, jury by peers, etc. These kinds of laws, rights and reasoning are what distinguishes us from the fascists. When we turn to 'well-intentioned' vigilante justice and its practices such as torture, we cannot claim to be better than the fascists.

I love my family more than anything. But my rational faculties tell me torture in inhuman. I will not go down that path to fascism.

Posted by Call Me Nuts, a resident of Birdland
on May 7, 2011 at 1:02 am

Late night readers who are interested in this topic might Google the name Jose Padilla. He is the American citizen accused of being a 'dirty bomber'. He was held by the Bush admin for three years, in isolation and usually in sensory deprivation (ear muffs, blindfolds, etc); he wasn't permitted to speak with defense attorneys. He wasn't charged with any specific crimes, and in order to escape judicial scrutiny, the Bushies moved him from one state to the next while subjecting him to an array of harsh interrogation techniques. After three+ years, Padilla was found guilty of plotting to commit terror on foreign soil -- a far cry from what the Bushies originally claimed he was guilty of. During his trial and sentencing, it was apparent to all that Padilla, as a result of 'enhanced interrogation' techniques, had become essentially brain dead.

Night Owl has recommended Elaine Scarry's harrowing account of torture: "The Body in Pain" I second her recommendation. The book is a classic, as Scarry, for approx 60 pages, requires readers to place themselves in the skin of someone being tortured. It is one of the most extraordinary accounts of human bestiality one could ever imagine reading. Whatever viewpoint you currently hold, I can pretty well guarantee you will think differently about torture after reading the book. Liberals will find it gut-wrenching; fascists will likely find it utterly fascinating how human beings can be systematically destroyed through a simple set of torturous interrogation techniques.

Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on May 7, 2011 at 10:04 am


Yokel, eh? "...aren't really readers", fascists and liberals? Nice debating skills...

Let me give you my "philosophy": I don't need to read someone else's version of "philosophy" to be able to demonstrate a point.

You read books...I read life. (I read books too, but not to form the basis of my opinions) You live through the prism of thought exercises, I prefer to live through experience.

The animals that beheaded Daniel Pearl were probably not thinking of Mill, Rawls and Habermas as they were viciously slicing off his head. Here's a news flash for you genius: People who do these sorts of things don't give one rats petute about peaceful co-existence "philosophy".

Nope! These animals are into the "philosophy" of VIOLENCE, and they mean to inflict as much of it as possible on a population. No amount of talking will dissuade them.

Some people are Just. Plain. Bad.

How anyone can intellectualize that they respect the value of an animals life over their own kids is vomit-inducing.


Posted by Forest, a resident of Oak Tree Acres
on May 7, 2011 at 10:49 am


When I read you and War Warrior I'm never sure whether you're being serious or auditioning for a comedy act. Your posts give me a good belly laugh. If however I thought for even a moment that you were serious and not trying to be a comedienne I wouldn't laugh, I'd cry.

Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 7, 2011 at 10:58 am

Yes, I was going to call you out on the "yokel" comment, too, but Dan beat me to it. The basic problem in your way of reasoning, "Call Me Nuts", is that you try to pigeon-hole everything, including people, into rigid categories. There are no shades of gray in your thinking. People are either enlightened liberals like yourself, or they are "fascists", or "nazis", or "fascist-mafia" or - if they're not there yet - then they are heading "down that path to fascism." Your thinking is every bit as rigid and inflexible as any conservative extremist I've encountered on this site.

What concerns me about your response to my scenario is that you gave no hint that you gave a moment of thought to the other 100,000 lives involved. The focus of your thinking was entirely on your "principles" and "the law" and possible harm done to the terrorist, with not an iota of thought given to all those possible victims. I'm not saying that torture is not an evil. It is evil. BUT, in the scenario I raised it is by far the LESSER of the two evils, a point that you entirely missed. As far as I'm concerned, if you have the means to prevent an act of mass murder but you decline to use it then you are an accomplice to that act. After the act of mass murder, I would hold both you and the terrorist equally responsible: Either one of you could have acted to prevent the mass murder but you both decided to sit on your hands and do nothing.

Posted by Call Me Nuts, a resident of Birdland
on May 7, 2011 at 11:27 am

I didn't call you a fascist, Sam, and you know it. Nor have I pidgeon-holed you, your personality, or even your argument. Nor do I think I deserved your unflattering remarks in the middle of what I thought to be a serious exchange.

I do not trust you or any body of agents to decide if or when torture is necessary. We saw, in a very short period of time, what happened in an atmosphere where torture was permitted during the Bush administration; suddenly the 'permissive' atmosphere gave 'invite' to inflict any and every kind of inhumane treatment upon prisoners.

Again, I have no doubt in my rigid mindset that many/most torturers in fascist regimes believed themselves to be protecting state, family or motherland from those who are evil in the world. The problem is that once this particular form of evil is unleashed, there is no way to put the lid back on it. I think this is an important point, especially in light of your (and my) inability to fix criteria to help us navigate ourselves through the complex greys of human affairs.

You go on to say: "As far as I'm concerned, if you have the means to prevent an act of mass murder but you decline to use it then you are an accomplice to that act. After the act of mass murder, I would hold both you and the terrorist equally responsible: Either one of you could have acted to prevent the mass murder but you both decided to sit on your hands and do nothing."

But given your reasoning, Sam, it would SEEM to follow that conscientious objectors to war-time service must be accomplices to the murders committed by the other side. It's an interesting argument you're posing, which I have never heard before. (I'll withhold comment about how you perhaps think too that the C-O must be oblivious to or unperturbed by the murderous acts of war.) Conscientious objectors guilty of murder for sitting on their hands?

I can assure you I care probably as deeply as anyone else for the 100,000 hypotheticals you raise. But, again, what you raise IS hypothetical, so forgive me for not showing my concern in a way that meets with your approval. But how about reality: Can you provide me with a single piece of historical evidence where the application of torture saved ANYONE's life (let alone 100,000)? It is not a rhetorical question.

Finally, I am not the liberal you've pidgeon-holed me as being. Sorry about that. In this particular context that involves torture, I find the liberal argument more compelling than all others I've read and thought about. But I personally am not and never have been a liberal, though I do very much respect the liberal ideas of Mill, Rawls and Habermas.

Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on May 7, 2011 at 1:40 pm


Of course you would cry...

I assure you I am not a comedian. Just someone who recognizes that, sometimes, bad men do bad things to innocents. Call it fair play, call it justice, it whatever you want. My child goes missing, the kidnapper lives with the most excruciating punishment until I get child back.

I guess to you, that's just so darned funny.

To know that there roams in this city, me and women who could look their child in the eye and say "you're not worth saving because of my core principles" is just vomit-inducing.

Have a good laugh at that, Forest.


Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on May 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm

oops...should have read " and women..."

Posted by Call Me Nuts, a resident of Birdland
on May 7, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Okay, Dan. If you can deal with your nausea long enough, perhaps you'd be kind enough to answer some questions I have. You condemn me because I cannot avow torture under any circumstance. I'm wondering, though, whether you advocate it under ANY circumstance.

Would you torture a SUSPECTED terrorist if you thought it might mean saving your family?

Would you torture a SUSPECTED terrorist's young children if you thought it might mean saving your family?

Would you torture an innocent person on the belief that he/she MIGHT just possibly be a terrorist who is out to kill your family?

Would you torture an innocent person's young children on the belief that doing so MIGHT (but probably wouldn't) save your family?

How would you feel if in all of the above you were in fact wrong about the suspect?

Is there anything you would NOT do in order to save your family? If so what might it be? What are your limits in this regard, or do you have none?

I'm curious to know.

Posted by John, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 7, 2011 at 9:55 pm

"Call Me Nuts",

Those are very good questions, and I agree with you, it is a slippery slope that we don't want to get on. However, it is not always easy to define torture.

Posted by Call Me Nuts, a resident of Birdland
on May 8, 2011 at 4:02 am


I think the Geneva Convention is pretty clear about what constitutes torture. Those practices re-defined as 'enhanced interrogation' by the Bushies, I think, clearly constitute torture by any reasonable standard. Or do you disagree?

Also, I'm wondering. Do you think, along with me, that Sam's apparent inability to produce a single instance in human history where torture saved lives is a pretty telling matter?

And, finally, for Sam, Dan or you, John. The Viet Cong used torture on US soldiers, as did the Japanese in WWII. The United States did not. Do any of you think that the US NOT resorting to torture in these cases was a bad thing? If so, why?

And specifically, for Dan. Does the fact that the United States from end of WWII until the GWBush admin decidedly refrained from resort to torture make you nauseous?

Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on May 8, 2011 at 8:28 am


In order:

1. Yes
2. Tough one, but if it meant potentially saving my family, yes. No doubt.
3. No. If innocent, why would any method be necessary? Maybe I'm reading this wrong.
4. Same as 3
5. No, there is not anything I would not do. They're my family and they're all I have. You obviously don't feel the same way.

You and I don't know that the US did not torture (or use enhanced interrogation techniques) on any POW during the Vietnam war.

The fact is, there are things that our government must do in complete secrecy because of people like you and John. You refuse to accept that there are REALLY BAD PEOPLE out there that you cannot reason with no matter how much you philosophize.

If there is reason to believe they know of mass destruction potentially being carried out on innocents, then I support any and all means at extracting that information. You, by your own admission, would not. You would allow the killing of innocents, period.

Thank God there are grown-ups in our government who understand this and help protect us against these individuals.


Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on May 8, 2011 at 8:47 am

Augh!!!! "...'from' these individuals"!!

I hate when I do that...


Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on May 8, 2011 at 8:50 am

"Call Me Nuts" said: "Also, I'm wondering. Do you think, along with me, that Sam's apparent inability to produce a single instance in human history where torture saved lives is a pretty telling matter?"

Do you really want to base your position on your claim that there has not been "a single instance in human history where torture saved lives"? Think hard now. If I or anyone here produces a single case where it is fairly well established and agreed that, yes, extraction of information by torture did indeed save lives, then are you saying that you will concede your position?

Posted by Call Me Nuts, a resident of Birdland
on May 9, 2011 at 2:27 am


I'm puzzled by your response. Let's be clear. By torturing someone, it likely will entail destroying part of their being; they will never be the same again; they may be physically maimed or emotionally so scarred as to never again function as a normal human being. You seem willing to torture the suspected terrorist, and his sons and daughters, on the STRONG POSSIBILITY that it will help save your family; but of course you MIGHT be wrong. This doesn't seem to bother you, unless I've misread you. Then you state an unwillingness to torture a suspected terrorist, and his sons and daughters, because there is only a WEAK POSSIBILITY that it will help save your family; but you MIGHT be wrong here too. I'm wondering what would be the line that separates the first from the second for you. 90% vs. 10%? So, for example, you'd torture the guy you think is 90% likely to be guilty but not the guy you think is only 10%? See why I'm confused? I think the question I raise is pretty important because since you or I won't be in the interrogation room, it is important that our standards (your standard) be used to guide the torturers. So, when is it permissible and when not? Is it a matter of percent likelihood of guilt? Or is it some nonquantifiable criterion?

John, thanks again for the slippery slope reminder. I personally believe that the United States, for all its shortcomings -- e.g., slavery, eradication of Native Americans, incarceration of Japanese Americans, treatment of illegal immigrants, imperialist expansionism and unjust wars, social class exploitation and control -- has created something magnificently extraordinary that is ongoing: A concept of democracy founded on an abstract idea of human liberty. For all its shortcomings, there is still this. It separates us from most, perhaps all, other democratic experiments. Ours is not a form of democracy founded on folk, or geist, or folkgeist, or race, or religion; rather, it is founded on the idea of the free individual who is guaranteed inalienable rights. I personally believe, and I think I have much support -- perhaps more so from NYTimes readers than PW readers (admitting some overlap) -- that the idea of the free individual with inalienable rights precludes such things as being assumed and treated guilty without trial, and/or being tortured, or wiretapped without a warrant, or being extraordinarily renditioned, to name but a few. If we take these rights away, I fear there is nothing left of America beyond a large number of t.v. sets per capita and a lot of Howard Johnsons and McDonalds to patronize. I believe inalienable rights is worth fighting and dying for. And on an "abstract level," (see below) I place it higher than the survival of my family or yours. I believe this value -- the one I've just expressed -- has been embraced by all signatories of the Geneva Convention. It was not at all a hollow excercise; which is why the U.S. is one of the few countries NOT to sign the Declaration of Human Rights which came a few years later. A nation does not decide lightly to enter into treaties or conventions that hold its citizens and future citizens to standards of action and behavior.

Qualifier: 'abstract level'. But what about the concrete -- not the hypothetical 'whether to torture because in 20 minutes 100,000 people are going to die', but rather real cases? I asked Sam about concrete instances because of course I thought he'd have a difficult time finding any. (Dan, I think there have been enough whistleblowers over the decades such that WERE the U.S. to have engaged in torture pre-GW Bush, we'd have heard about it. I agree, however, that the practice isn't something a nation would want to boast about. I think you know why.) Beyond the question of morality, I think we've developed better ways of interrogating than that of torture, which is notoriously unreliable as a means of eliciting information. Again, its uses through history have been primarily -- almost exclusively -- to extract FALSE confessions from political prisoners. I think the guy we nabbed in Pakistan and who we waterboarded 84 times is a case in point. It's possible the torture SLOWED DOWN the interrogation. Because the victim of torture is so utterly beaten down, that he's in a poor situation to tell truth from falsity. He is far more likely to state what the torturer wants him to state than to state the truth. That is way, not surprisingly, it seems the guy gave out an inadvertant CLUE well after the waterboardings, as a result of careful, methodical, discursive questioning.

The hypothetical originally posed contains flaws. First, the scenario itself is very highly unlikely. But even were it to present itself, my strong hunch is that whatever 'information' extracted from the tortured victim would NOT be enough to save the 100,000. Further, I believe, sincerely, that the best chance of getting the sought after 100,000-saving piece of information would come not from torture but from skillful interrogation. Again, the hypothetical is so unlikely as to be almost preposterous; but even were it to be, there are BETTER, more EFFECTIVE MEANS that would not involve violating an individual's inalienable rights. [posting without re-reading -- time constraints, sorry]

Posted by Call Me Nuts, a resident of Birdland
on May 9, 2011 at 3:03 am


I've been thinking about your harsh assessment of my argumentative style. Well taken. It gave me pause, and made me reflect on the interesting kind(s) of communication that take(s) place on these threads.

First, I don't think there are many people posting here that are bowing to communication-in-order-to-produce-knowledge-and/or-consensus. I'm referring to dialogue, say, between scientists or philosophers, or even between professor and students. In these, the presumption is that both parties enter the enter for purposes of broadening, deepening, refining, or even changing their positions. I ask you about the results of your experiment not to play "got ya" or to "one-up ya" but because your experiment's results may well determine how I assess/believe in my own experiment's results. The aim is to collaborate in order to gain shared (scientific) knowledge or understanding. We assume, to cite another example, that students ask questions not to trip up a teacher but because they are desirous of knowledge.

I don't think consensus-producing dialogue is what usually occurs on these posts. I liken it more to forensic communication. People stake out sides and then attempt to rhetorically embellish their own side (by means of reasoned argument and validity claims, or by lies, exaggerations, and other forms of deception). Part of defending one's turf may involve tearing down the credibility of one's 'witness' or one's 'legal' opponent. I've noticed very little effort to learn, but only to convince others ... and quite unlike the scientists who are in pursuit of truth, anything seems to go. (That is why I so disrespect Dr. Bill Watenberg on KGO: he is a (former)scientist and he should know better; but instead he routinely lies and deceives as part of a systematic disinformation agenda that serves his political purposes.)

I plead 'guilty' to having stepped into these 'forensic' pits, where one would seem to have little chance of finding serious engagement with reasonable interlocutors. The norm, rather, is that of strategic victory by means of cleverness, deceit, discrediting of other, etc.

When you ask me whether you being able to produce evidence of the effectiveness of torture would change my thinking on this matter, I think you were implying that I was incapable of engaging in consensus-oriented dialogue. Combined with your harsh assessment of my 'rigid' ways of thinking, I'm thinking perhaps those comments indicate that you too have difficulty engaging in consensus-oriented discourse -- at least on these posts, and perhaps not as much as me.

Speaking for myself, I'm a novice to the kind of communicative embattlement that takes place here. It has lead to much confusion, reflection, and trying out of various rhetorical strategems in hopes of learning more about some of the issues, myself, and discourse in its varied forms and shades. Trained in dialectical thought, I've attempted to pose arguments in black/white terms; the rigidity you mention, I would like to believe, is less my standard way of thinking about things and more my attempt to apply it within an environment where 'stylistic' and immediate battlefield victories begin to seem more important than the overall war itself. (I'm not real happy with this analogy, but I'll let it suffice.)

So, you weren't able to think of any examples where torture saved lives? In answer to your question, I think were you to present one or more, it certainly would make my position less tenable and, minimally, I'd have to go back to the drawing board. But isn't that what consensus-oriented dialogue is meant to do? I'm spending time arguing this matter, in this way, because I hope I can change your thinking; but also to change my own, and mine already has, though probably not in a way that brings me closer to your position. I'd like to believe that were you to present a strong set of arguments that I'm capable of changing my mind.

Posted by Dan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on May 9, 2011 at 10:42 am


I'm not sure why my answers seemed puzzling to you when they were essentially yes/no. And as I clearly noted, I was confused by 2 of your questions but still answered them. Maybe if you could clarify?

And of course you have to use extreme examples to try and make a point. No sir, not biting.

Go back to my kidnapper scenario I drew out earlier in this thread. If you have any doubt as to where my opinion lies after reading that then I don't know what to tell you.

Regarding the use of harsh interrogation and/or torture outside of my family scenario, I let those who have to make the hard decisions account for their reasons. I support their use of these techniques if it means keeping the population - including you and your family - safe.

Common sense.

You feel differently, even to the extent that you would allow those closest to you to perish because of your core principles.

We are very different...


Posted by Call Me Nuts, a resident of Birdland
on May 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Okay, Dan, you're right about the lack of clarity in the questions I posed. What I was getting at was probably 'simpler' than all my questions conveyed. I was merely seeking to know whether you had a limit with respect to who 'deserved' to be tortured. Hence, would you torture if you were 90% sure the accused was guilty and might have critical information ... what about if you were only 10% sure. And on it goes.

But your response was clear enough. You seem content to give those who torture on 'your behalf' quite a bit of free play to make their own decisions. It's a matter of common sense, you say. And you trust them.

It's a bit unusual reading people on here who are willing to give the expert torturers some free license to do the 'right' thing when so many posters, in contrast, state an unwillingness to, say, allow school boards or administrators to make the right decisions on teacher raises based upon their own expertise. I'm not attempting to 'get you' by saying that, but only mean to suggest that I wonder whether most conservatives on these posts would go along with you in deferring to the better judgment of the state to assess its own torture practices, its limits (if any), and so forth.

Your reliance on common sense makes me a bit uneasy, though this isn't to say that it should make YOU uneasy. My view is that common sense works pretty well most of the time, but does have some serious shortcomings. That's why we have science, for example. It is a mode of reasoning about things that takes us beyond what common sense would ordinarily tell us. So, too, philosophy. Sometimes our common sense can get blinded by, say, ideology or prejudice or passions. Not you, necessarily. But historically speaking, we've seen instances where common sense has steered itself seriously off course.

Many if not most slave holders in that 'curious institution' that was American slavery, thought themselves to be righteous in the application of their common sense. It was common sense, in their view, to whip slaves who didn't work hard enough or who attempted to escape. Common sense told them, after all, that slaves were not humans but brutes to be treated like domestic animals. Perhaps even those who formed lynch mobs in the 20th centure might also have been operating with common sense. Did they not, after all, see their lynchings as common sense solutions to the problem of having 'free blacks' living in their midst? Or, you've probably heard of the Tuskeegee Experiment, run under the auspices of our government, and its horrific results. The list goes on.... I think you see my point, and why I might be uncomfortable with common sense -- either yours or mine -- as the standard by which to judge torture, whether it can be executed morally, and its limits.

Lastly, I imagine you are aware that people have lived and died defending or advancing principles such as freedom or equality, and at times have subjected their families to harm's way in the course of their struggles. I mention this only to emphasize that I may not be so alone in my placing of American-based abstract ideas of human and civil rights above the abstract idea of myself or my family. At least I would like to believe such. In other words, what makes me an American is not so much my desire to protect my family, which is a very strong desire indeed; for my guess is that such a desire is basic to most humans in most nations or tribes or clans. But to be an American is to hold some truths to be self evident; that we have and can expect to have and will defend our inalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I guess I'm just uncomfortable with the thought that some govt agency might feel they can override these rights by coming into my home, arresting me and/or my family members, and torturing us because their common sense tells them they ought to do so.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

This has got to be one of the most ironic threads on this site ever!

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Jim Kohnen Post Office Signed into Law
By Roz Rogoff | 5 comments | 857 views

Never Say Never -- the Perry Indictment
By Tom Cushing | 5 comments | 639 views

Patience and very deep pockets can pay off
By Tim Hunt | 0 comments | 474 views

CPRA: Balancing privacy, public's right to know
By Gina Channell-Allen | 3 comments | 461 views