Torture thoughts & patience/ laziness is not a virtue

Yesterday, I was working on a fairly big post on torture to refute this City Journal article by Heather Mac Donald. Mickey Kaus describes it as, "[The] best defense of the administration's record on torture that I've read. Heather Mac Donald pretty much destroys the easy, win-win idea that harsher methods don't yield useful information, and she documents the high-level imposition of sometimes absurdly strict rules to protect even prisoners like Mohamed al-Kahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker." As he says, the article does not support the OLC's torture memo or the Abu Gharib abuses. Instead, it ignores all abuses outside Abu Gharib. Further it claims, in contrast to a multitude of reports, that the tactics used against detainees outside of Abu Gharib have been unreasonably delicate.

The primary evidence for Mac Donald's claims comes from her interviews with army interrogators at Guantanamo and elsewhere. She does not rebut the evidence from International Red Cross Report, because she hardly acknowledges it. She does not seriously grapple with the information in the Army's own investigation. She tries to argue that torture has not been systematic because the original OLC memo only covered the effects of one statute. While it is true that military interrogators are controlled by many other statutes outside of the particular torture statute the memo addressed, the memo's suggestions were incorporated into Department of Defense interrogations guidelines. Mac Donald does not mention this. Anyway, I had a lot more to say on this topic, which was going to include links to Greg Djerejian and Andrew Sullivan discussing some the evidence which has come out in the various investigations and which the Mac Donald article doesn't really respond to. Plus, I was planning on finding some way to bring in the best blog post on the topic of torture ever, by Belle Waring.

But today, before I could finish up my piece, Marty Lederman wrote a much better rebuttal than the one I was going to write which says nearly everything I wanted to say and much more. For one thing, I was going to be citing to other people who have read the reports on the topic, while Marty Lederman has actually read them. Plus, he was an attorney at the Office of Legislative Counsel, where the infamous torture memo was written, from 1994 to 2002. While he was there during the writing of the memo, he had no involvement with it. His rebuttal is thorough and devastating. While I have made the original article out to be weak, on an initial read it is persuasive. If you have any interest in understanding the issue of whether or not the techniques authorized by the United States government for use against detainees has reached the level of torture, and if so how prevalent the torture has been, I strongly recommend reading both it and the rebuttal.

One key point which I didn't see Lederman address was Mac Donald's discussion of how the interrogation techniques which are approved under the Geneva Convention and UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) are ineffective against captured militants, insurgents, terrorists, or whichever appellation describes the various people captured in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other counter-terrorist operations. While Mac Donald is stronger on this point, she does not address issues of capturing innocent people and using these techniques against them, nor does she really look at slippery slope problems with the interrogation methods which she supports.