karl_lembke (karl_lembke) wrote,

We disagree.

Note: This response is being posted as a main post in my LJ because the logical place for it is no longer available to me. Comments from my account in Terry Karney's LJ are no longer allowed. So, instead of being buried thirteen pages down in a comment chain only four people are still following, I'll post my response here.

For the past several years, Terry Karney has been accusing George W. Bush of war crimes. Why? Because he advocates "torture".

"Torture", in this case, is all of the enhanced interrogation techniques that have been used in the war on terror, up to and including waterboarding. (Oh, he goes into fits over waterboarding.)

His latest tirade, he writes:
George Bush admitted to more crimes.

Specifically he said he'd had Khalid Sheik Mohammad tortured, and would do it again.

And in conclusion, he advocates:
Ok, so what does this mean? It ought to mean we try him, haul the evils he caused to happen into the harsh light of day, and (in a just world) sentence him to live the rest of his (I'd hope very long) life in prison.

If not, we can hope he is foolish enough to accept an invitation to Spain.

For really poetic justice someone might, while he's visiting Poppy in Kennebunkport, decide to invoke the "Noriega Doctrine" his father created, and swoop in and kidnap him to the Hague.

None of those, sadly, are going to happen. Therefore I shan't buy the champagne just yet, but a person can dream.

Well, in all fairness, I figured I'd point out there's another side to the argument. In particular, now that the techniques in use have been made public, Marc Thiessen has written a book explaining what came from using those methods. One of the things revealed was that, according to the religious beliefs of the Islamists, Allah will triumph over everything, no matter what. Therefore, a warrior is required only to resist to the best of his ability, and after that, all restrictions go away – no more resistance is required.

If we're going to call these techniques "torture", it would seem they work.

Now Terry has been arguing all along that "torture doesn't work", and has defined "torture" as "any physical or mental coercion – any". About this point, there's very little I feel the need to add to my open letter from three years ago. About the only thing to note is he has finally responded to my criticisms of this definition. He offered a source.
Nonsense. You ignore that I keep citing the source of my definition: The Geneva Conventions of 1948 [a ratified treaty, therefore in equal stature with the Constitution; supported by the International Convention Against Torture [signed by Reagan, ratified; and so also of equal standing} and the War Crimes Act of 1996 {passed by a Republican Congress} US Code TITLE 18 PART I CHAPTER 118 > § 2441)

OK, so I followed the link to the US Code title he referenced. Of particular interest:
(d) Common Article 3 Violations.—
(1) Prohibited conduct.— In subsection (c)(3), the term “grave breach of common Article 3” means any conduct (such conduct constituting a grave breach of common Article 3 of the international conventions done at Geneva August 12, 1949), as follows:

(A) Torture.— The act of a person who commits, or conspires or attempts to commit, an act specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation, coercion, or any reason based on discrimination of any kind.

Note: Torture is not "any physical or mental coercion" – it is the infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering.

After reading his linked citation, I remarked that comments in the thread about the importance of reading comprehension "deeply ironic". Karney's response:
That's it.

You admit the lack of citation you refer isn't an actual lack, but rather a rhetorical trope (unless you decided at this remove, after year of citation that this time it was worth your time).

I'm not willing to continue allowing you to be a dishonest actor.

So, not because I am incapable of dealing with dissent (certainly years of forbearance here ought to prevent such a charge from having traction), but rather because you admit to dishonesty in your practice, I'm putting paid to your account and closing the book on you.

Actually, I "admit" no such thing. I "admit" the citation doesn't say what he thinks it does, and offers no support to his definition. Thus, the irony of his and his followers' insistence on the importance of "reading comprehension".

The section of Title 18 he linked does not support his definition. Not at all, not even approximately. His definition remains his own, made up by him, and unworkable. As I've mentioned, even the act of keeping detainees detained is coercive, and by Karney's definition must be counted as "torture". I had thought as much, when he first offered his definition. Now, it's plain his definition is made up – it's what he wants the law to say.

The Geneva Conventions are referred to in the US Code. If the definition of torture is in any inconsistent with the Convention referenced, there is no indication. And I don't see any place in the text of Article three where torture is actually defined. Commentary at the ICRC site notes that such a definition is not easy to come by:
The word torture has different acceptations. It is used sometimes even in the sense of purely moral suffering, but in view of the other expressions which follow (i.e. inhuman treatment including biological experiments and suffering, etc.) it seems that it must be given here its, so to speak, legal meaning -- i.e., the infliction of suffering on a person to obtain from that person, or from another person, confessions or information.

When terms like "severe pain or suffering" or even, for that matter, "suffering" come up, we wind up having to draw lines. How much pain is "severe" pain? At what point does pain or even discomfort become "suffering"? Someone has to draw a line somewhere.
One line, also from Karney's comments, seems to be, "are you willing to endure it?"
If you are willing to have it done to yourself, or your loved ones, if they are suspected/accused, then, just maybe, you have a morally defensible (though disgusting) position.

I offered my response, and a professional logician offered his in the comments to my open letter. I see no need to add to it.
For legal purposes, since Terry's preferred definition is silly and unworkable, someone has to draw a reasonable line somewhere. One attempt to determine on which side of the line various interrogation methods might lie was offered by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, but Karney will no doubt call him Evil Incarnate and deem anything he has to say as unworthy of notice.
The interested reader is invited to follow the link and read the letter -- it's only six pages – barely a third of a percent of the Health Care Bill.

In sum:

Terry Karney's definition of "torture" is absurd, unworkable, and unsupported by any of the links he's offered as support.

Terry Karney does not have very good reading comprehension, and uses text as a pretext from which to launch a tirade, rather than a source of information.

Replies to Terry Karney from me are no longer accepted on his LiveJournal, so any defense against his charges of dishonesty and worse must be posted elsewhere. Like here.

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