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August 16, 2006

Torture "Broke" Pakistani-Held SkyBomb Plotter, Unravelling Conspiracy

It's time for liberals to stop dodging the question: What is worse -- for a terrorist to be made to suffer, or for thousands of innocent people, guilty of no more than conspiring to maximize air-miles, should be permitted to be murdered?

Why are the liberals always on the other side?" asks the fictional French military commander Colonel Mathieu when he is challenged, in The Battle for Algiers, for using torture to fight terror. The film suggests that torture works as a tool of immediate necessity, even if the consequences are a blurring of morality and so final defeat. Four decades on, Mathieu's charge against liberal scruples is still being raised, implicit in the defence of the means being used in a modern battle against Islamic terror.


Reports from Pakistan suggest that much of the intelligence that led to the raids came from that country and that some of it may have been obtained in ways entirely unacceptable here. In particular Rashid Rauf, a British citizen said to be a prime source of information leading to last week's arrests, has been held without access to full consular or legal assistance. Disturbing reports in Pakistani papers that he had "broken" under interrogation have been echoed by local human rights bodies. The Guardian has quoted one, Asma Jehangir, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who has no doubt about the meaning of broken. "I don't deduce, I know - torture," she said. "There is simply no doubt about that, no doubt at all."


The defence [of using information gleaned from torture interrogations in foreign countries], to the extent that anything other than evasion has been offered, is no better than the one provided by Colonel Mathieu in Algiers: it works. But does it?

Why yes, as a matter of fact. Yes it does. (Bulk of post copied below the jump for convenience.)

Liberals really ought to stop insisting over and over that torture doesn't work and bother to read an expert's opinion on the matter.

Or ask any of the brave, strong, patriotic men tortured into giving vicious propaganda against America by the North Vietnamese.

Do liberals imagine these fine men said those hateful things simply because they were persuaded by the North Vietnamese's skillful rhetoric? Or their promises of bon-bons and chocolates?

Of course torture works. It always has and it always will.

Liberals repeatedly insist torture never works. If it works sometimes, however, and saves, as seems the case here, 2000-4000 innocent civilians, is it not worth trying with the right monster?

Liberals need torture to never work in order to claim that it is a zero-cost decision to not engage in the practice; that way they can claim we can act perfectly morally with absolutely no compromise in safety. A win-win situation.

Well, there's a thing called nuance liberals should look into. It turns out that in at least one case torture has worked spectacularly well, and, given that it directly led to the survival of 2000-4000 innocent civilians, seems to have been the moral course of action.

I don't know how your moral calculus works, but when I weigh the pain and misery of one creature made a monster by his own decisions versus the very lives of 2000 or more innocent men, woment, and children simply attempting to go on holiday -- well, one side of the scale slams the table pretty damn heavily.

Liberals are citing the "British model" as the one Bush should emulate (but won't, as he's so stupid-- a chimp, you see). Well, what was the British model for cracking the SkyBomb plot?

-- constant email and phone surveillance, assisted by the American NSA

-- bank records monitoring, probably also assisted by America

-- ethnically profiling, focusing only on those likely to be involved in the plot (i.e., Pakistani Muslims and their non-Pakistani Muslim associates)

-- "coercive interrogations" by Pakistan which yielded crucial information with only a short time left before the plot was set into action

Hmmm... pretty much all the techniques they're so agahst about.

And now that you mention it -- why are liberals always on the other side? Could it really be that we've just managed to get so unlucky we've been on the wrong side of things ever single time in history?

Or is there simply some narcissistic malice in the liberal mind that convinces them that is so?

Via Instapundit, who is less jazzed about the practice, but, frankly, he's a law professor. That's the sort of thing they say.

Karol, guest-blogging at Michelle's place (along with a couple of other girls you may have heard of, Mary Katherine Ham and Bryan Preston), agrees.

"Torture Works" post reprinted below the jump.

A Nasty Business

(published in the Atlantic Monthly, January 2002)

Gathering "good intelligence" against terrorists is an inherently brutish enterprise, involving methods a civics class might not condone. Should we care?


I cannot use his real name, so I will call him Thomas. However, I had been told before our meeting, by the mutual friend—a former Sri Lankan intelligence officer who had also long fought the LTTE—who introduced us (and was present at our meeting), that Thomas had another name, one better known to his friends and enemies alike: Terminator. My friend explained how Thomas had acquired his sobriquet; it actually owed less to Arnold Schwarzenegger than to the merciless way in which he discharged his duties as an intelligence officer. This became clear to me during our conversation.

"By going through the process of laws," Thomas patiently explained, as a parent or a teacher might speak to a bright yet uncomprehending child, "you cannot fight terrorism."

Terrorism, he believed, could be fought only by thoroughly "terrorizing" the terrorists—that is, inflicting on them the same pain that they inflict on the innocent.

Thomas had little confidence that I understood what he was saying. I was an academic, he said, with no actual experience of the life-and-death choices and the immense responsibility borne by those charged with protecting society from attack.

Accordingly, he would give me an example of the split-second decisions he was called on to make. At the time, Colombo was on "code red" emergency status, because of intelligence that the LTTE was planning to embark on a campaign of bombing public gathering places and other civilian targets. Thomas's unit had apprehended three terrorists who, it suspected, had recently planted somewhere in the city a bomb that was then ticking away, the minutes counting down to catastrophe.

The three men were brought before Thomas. He asked them where the bomb was. The terrorists—highly dedicated and steeled to resist interrogation—remained silent. Thomas asked the question again, advising them that if they did not tell him what he wanted to know, he would kill them. They were unmoved.

So Thomas took his pistol from his gun belt, pointed it at the forehead of one of them, and shot him dead. The other two, he said, talked immediately; the bomb, which had been placed in a crowded railway station and set to explode during the evening rush hour, was found and defused, and countless lives were saved.

On other occasions, Thomas said, similarly recalcitrant terrorists were brought before him. It was not surprising, he said, that they initially refused to talk; they were schooled to withstand harsh questioning and coercive pressure. No matter: a few drops of gasoline flicked into a plastic bag that is then placed over a terrorist's head and cinched tight around his neck with a web belt very quickly prompts a full explanation of the details of any planned attack.

I don't see this as a difficult choice. I understand that we are doing bad. But I also understand we are doing bad in order to do good. That happens sometimes.

Thomas, you'll note, didn't just torture a terrorist; he actually "murdered" one in cold blood. (I don't know if we can really call this "murder," but I've no doubt as to what the statutes would say about it.)

Did he do wrong?

Should he have just allowed the bomb to detonate?

Would that have been the more moral choice? By what calculus?

Those who say "torture never works" have to address this expert's eyewitness testimony to the contrary.

Or else they're just being disingenuous and intellectually dishonest.

digg this
posted by Ace at 01:24 AM

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