Notes From Babel

Archive for the ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’ Category

John Yoo for Dummies

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John Yoo gives an excellent explanation of his role in drafting the so-called “torture memos” and the role of the President as commander-in-chief.  This despite the fact that Jon Stewart seemed to lack the mental hardware to keep up with him.  The interview amounts to a great primer for the legally uninitiated as to the difficult issues implicated in Yoo’s and the Bush administration’s unthinkable assignment.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

One of the reasons I really like Jon Stewart is for his comments like the ones he made at the end of this interview.  He remarked that it is too easy to villainize folks like John Yoo, but that, as evidenced from Yoo’s open and thoughtful detailing of the critical legal, moral, and political issues at stake, this was a fundamentally human endeavor characterized by lots of struggling with just what is the lawful and good and proper thing to do in these extraordinary circumstances, and even having to hash out the lines between “lawful” and “good” and “proper,” as they are indeed separate inquiries.  Thus, no matter how you come out on the issues, there’s simply no place for the vitriolic accusations about the Bush administration that we’ve become so accustomed to—sadly, even, from academics.

(Then again, there’s Nan Aron at HuffPo who, undaunted, staggers right on muttering condemnations against Yoo, spinning a paranoid conspiracy theory that Yoo somehow has deviously and unilaterally set the terms of a “political dialogue” concerning “a culture of fear,” and urging more progressivist journalists to do what Stewart failed to do—villainize John Yoo.)

[Edited and revised.]


Written by Tim Kowal

January 16, 2010 at 3:07 am

I Can Deal With Some Psychic Pain

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Jason Kuznicki has this post over at Positive Liberty, on the subject of sleep deprivation as torture.  I posted the below in the comments:

On a similar note, I wonder what others, particularly those who are convinced that waterboarding absolutely is torture, would think about keeping a claustrophobic person in close quarters, or an agoraphobic person in open spaces, or other sorts of “Room 101” scenarios.  The idea is, if we try hard enough, we can find reason to sympathize with any recipient of an interrogation method.  One would hope that a suspect would “crack” under moral compunction, or the threat of life-long prison, or even death.  But the suspicion is that these are the sort of people who have been systematically stripped of all the usual pressure points common of the rest of humanity, and physical pain is the only  currency in which we can deal.  Of course, this is a thoroughly unsavory position to be in, but it is the particular job of our military and executive policy makers to deal with it.  Whatever physical pain is the least objectively reprehensible, the better.  But no course is going to make anyone comfortable.

I always  thought waterboarding was pretty tough to get up in arms about–quite a few steps advanced of the rack and all.  But if so many are convinced that it is torture, and that torture is torture is torture without any degrees of equivocation, then what about putting an obsessive compulsive in a cell with an odd number of bars?  Is the idea of imposing any level of psychic or physical pain tolerable for their ilk?

Written by Tim Kowal

August 25, 2009 at 11:09 pm