Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Atrios links to Rude Pundit's post about an editorial in the wingnutty Newsmax which states that John McCain's experiences with being tortured proves that torture works:

Sen. John McCain is leading the charge against so-called "torture" techniques allegedly used by U.S. interrogators, insisting that practices like sleep deprivation and withholding medical attention are not only brutal - they simply don't work to persuade terrorist suspects to give accurate information.

Nearly forty years ago, however - when McCain was held captive in a North Vietnamese prison camp - some of the same techniques were used on him. And - as McCain has publicly admitted at least twice - the torture worked!
He described the day Hanoi Hilton guards beat him "from pillar to post, kicking and laughing and scratching. After a few hours of that, ropes were put on me and I sat that night bound with ropes."

"For the next four days, I was beaten every two to three hours by different guards . . . Finally, I reached the lowest point of my 5 1/2 years in North Vietnam. I was at the point of suicide, because I saw that I was reaching the end of my rope."

McCain was taken to an interrogation room and ordered to sign a document confessing to war crimes. "I signed it," he recalled. "It was in their language, and spoke about black crimes, and other generalities."

"I had learned what we all learned over there," McCain said. "Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine."

That McCain broke under torture doesn't make him any less of an American hero. But it does prove he's wrong to claim that harsh interrogation techniques simply don't work.

There are two ongoing conversations about torture; the public one which states that the United States does not torture but reserves the right to define what isn't torture in the interrogation methods it uses, and the real one which is all about how torture was employed in Abu Ghraib, in Guantanamo and in Afghanistan. And probably elsewhere.

Torture has a long history of use among humans. It was employed by the Spanish Inquisition and in the European medieval witchhunts. Rulers routinely tortured most everyone they didn't like. It didn't really matter whether the victims were guilty or not; the idea was that something would always crop up when a person was stretched or chopped or burned or skinned. And something usually did crop up. But whether that something was the truth is much harder to judge. Note that what McCain signed was "generalities". I suspect that most victims of torture will tell a story, any story, to have the pain stop.

Torture has also been used to entertain the masses in the form of rather warped public festivals. Those accused of treason were publicly drawn and quartered, and the torture of animals was common entertainment for the masses. Something similar took place in Iraq when a group of American contractors were killed.

If there is such a thing as true evil in the human beings then this is where it emerges. Osama bin Laden's greatest victory may well be in the fact that articles like the Newsmax one are now being seriously discussed.